Welcome to my world! It’s quite the tasty place, where dreams of sugarplum fairies actually become raspberry tartlets with sweet lemongrass crème patissiere in real life. The fragrances wafting from a beachfront restaurant shack can fall together like puzzle pieces in this chef’s nose and lead to inspiration for a new dish or an entirely new menu. The urge to get better at the craft of cooking, to make more delicious, more beautiful, and more beneficial-to-your-body dishes drives me to never stop learning. Laurels (bay leaves to most of us…) are for seasoning, not for resting upon.
This is why I love being a chef. It started with a genetic passion for entertaining gifted from my parents, but with each new experience fueled my vocational needs to both nurture and create. I love that each of my five senses gets a workout when I’ve got 3 trays in the oven and four pans on the stove (not to mention the sixth sense that whispers in my ear when it’s time to take those soufflés out!). I love collecting the information about my clients’ needs and appetites and shaping them into a delicious collection of dishes that embodies satiety and engenders delicious conversation. I love the silence that befalls a chatty and happy table of guests when tasting and enjoying suddenly becomes much more desirable than speaking, because what I’ve made is THAT. DAMN. GOOD.
Yes, there’s a bit of an ego thing involved, but is it such a bad thing that making my clients happy in turn makes ME happy? It is my pleasure to feed your leisure, to make your life easier, your day more scrumptious, and your holidays less stressful, whether it be with action or knowledge.
With this blog, I aim to share the knowledge. Let’s start with those laurels!
My first experience with this easy vegan & gluten-free side dish came from my dearly departed Cape Verdean Uncle Bob. MAN, could he cook! And as far as founts of wisdom, I dare say that I have yet to meet a person on this earth who was more skilled at dispensing it! One of my favorite gems –
“Money may not be everything, but it’s right up there with air.”
I lived for his and my Aunt Nancy’s parties, clambakes, and feasts. And I know that he would love that I’m sharing this recipe, though it has been adapted to suit my own style. Healthy, delicious, equal opportunity eating every time.
- 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 2-3 dried bay leaves, 1-2 fresh (so lucky to have these at the NorCal farmer’s markets!)
- ½ c of finely diced/minced onion
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups long grain white or brown rice
- 4 c water
- 10 oz bag frozen lima beans (best), peas (amazing), mixed vegetables (not traditional, but the family will still love it) OR 8 oz fresh prepared fava beans (YUM!!)
- Salt to taste
- In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium high heat until it runs freely around the pan. Add the bay leaves and sauté, stirring through the oil for 2 minutes. Add minced onion and pinch of salt* and stir until onions start to become translucent, about 2 more minutes. Add rice and mix thoroughly with oil & onions, so that each grain is coated, less than 1 minute. You do not want to toast the outside of the rice.
- *COOKING TIP: A pinch of salt helps onions caramelize without burning quickly because it draws out the liquid.
- At this point, add all of your water and keep at the medium-high to high heat uncovered until the water begins to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes with the top partially on to release the steam. The lid should be open to about ½ – 1”.
- Once the rice looks just about done but is still a touch al dente (firm to the bite), add your package of frozen beans/peas/veggies (even chopped spinach for green Jag!) or fresh favas and cover completely over the low heat for 5 more minutes. Turn off or remove pan from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Uncover, fluff to mix ingredients through, and salt to taste.
- Enjoy in good health!
Other interesting factoids:
Did you know that bay leaves also help regulate blood sugar for diabetics, can combat digestive challenges, and promote better sleep?