Archive for the 'Quartet' Category

Yellow Rice

You know those packaged rice mixes you can buy with the foil bag of mystery spice? When you taste this rice, you’ll forget all about them. This is remarkably easy to make, once you’ve got achiote oil and sofrito on hand. Even if you’re starting from scratch without those two staples, you can still get this on the stove in fifteen minutes. I have never served this at a party without rave reviews. Guests have often said that they could eat just the rice and nothing else. I’m always delighted to tell them how easy it is, but encourage them not to pass on the beans or other accompaniments!

  • ½ cup Achiote Oil
  • ½ cup Sofrito
  • ½ cup alcaparrado (see below) or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups long grain white rice
  • Chicken Broth, homemade or canned as needed (about 4 cups)

Heat the achiote oil in a heavy 4- to 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Stir in the sofrito and cook until most of the water is evaporated. Add the alcaparrado or olives, salt, cumin, pepper, and bay leaves, stirring to combine. When the mixture is bubbling, add the rice, stirring to coat and to fix the color to the rice. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the rice by the width of two fingers. Bring to a boil and boil until the broth reaches the level of the rice.
Stir the rice once, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, without opening the pot or stirring.

Gently fluff the rice up by scooping the rice from the bottom to the top. Serve hot.

Daisy’s Pantry: Alcaparrado, a mixture of olives, pimientos and capers sold in bottles, is widely available. There are versions made with pitted and unpitted olives. Go for the unpittled version. If you can’t find it, substitute an equal amount of coarsely chopped olives stuffed with pimientos. Throw in a teaspoon of capers if you like.

Basic White Rice

When I was young, I always took “plain” white rice for granted because we ate it so often. But when I was a teenager and ate at friends’ houses I realized how awful rice can be if you don’t treat it right. There’s nothing easier and, in some ways, more satisfying than good white rice. Trust me on this one.
Makes 8 servings

  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 4 cups long grain white rice
  • Water or broth to cover the rice (about 5 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons salt

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, or a smaller vessel with a heavy bottom, over medium-high heat. Add the rice and salt, stirring to coat the rice with oil. When the rice starts to appear opaque and chalky, add enough cold water to cover the rice by the width of two fingers (about one inch). Bring to a rapid boil, and boil—without stirring!—until the water level reaches the level of the rice.
Stir the rice once and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes. Stir the rice gently from bottom to top to fluff it up and serve. Perfect rice!

Making Rice

I use long grain rice (like Carolina brand). Short grain rice has a different taste and texture; it is chewier. Some people rinse their rice one or more times before cooking it. I never do, and it seems to come out just fine. Storing rice is never an issue in our house; we go through it fast enough that it’s not a problem. If you’re keeping it, make sure it is in a cool place in a tightly covered container, like a large plastic storage container with a tight lid.
If you skim through these recipes, you’ll see different seasonings, but always the same techniques. Here they are in brief.
Cook the rice in oil over fairly high heat, with or without seasonings, until the rice turns chalky.
Pour in enough water or liquid to cover the rice by the width of two fingers (about 1 ¼ inches). I have never used the “two parts liquid to one part rice” rule and, until I wrote this book, never thought about it at all. The two finger rule always worked out. Turns out, when I started measuring things in the process of writing this book, I use a good deal less water than two times the amount of rice. I put quantities of water or broth in the recipes as a guideline only, the amount of liquid you will actually add depends on the size and shape of your pot. My favorite rice pot holds 6 quarts and measures about 10 inches wide by 4 inches high—yours can be any size, but it should hold the finished rice comfortably and should be wider than it is tall.
Bring the liquid to a boil and boil until the level of liquid meets the top of the rice.
Give the rice a big stir, lower the heat to low and cover the pot.
Set the timer to 20 minutes and walk away. Do not uncover, think about or, most definitely, stir the rice.
Uncover and fluff. You can leave the rice covered in a heavy pot and it will stay hot and in good shape for about an hour.
To reheat rice that’s been refrigerated I prefer the microwave. Put the rice in a bowl, sprinkle a little water over the top, cover the bowl with plastic and cook until hot. You may also reheat rice in a skillet with a tight fitting lid. Add a couple of tablespoons of liquid and cook over very low heat until hot.

Achiote Oil (Aceite de Achiote)

Annatto seeds, known as achiote in Spanish, are small irregularly shaped, deep reddish colored seeds about the size of a lentil. They grow in pods but are sold loose in jars in the spice aisle. (Or see the “Sources” section above.) Steeping annatto (achiote) seeds in hot olive oil for a few minutes will do more than give the oil a brilliant orange-gold color; it will infuse it with a nutty, delicate aroma and add a quick kick to whatever you use it in. This incredibly simple technique will become part of your repertoire, not just for the many dishes that call for it in this book, but any time you want a splash of color and a hint of annatto flavor.

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds

Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don’t overheat the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green. Once they’re sizzling away, pull the pan from the heat and let stand until the sizzling stops. Strain as much of the oil as you are going to use right away into the pan; store the rest for up to 4 days at room temperature in a jar with a tight fitting lid. In addition to using achiote oil to sauté onions, garlic and such, you can use it straight, painted onto fish and poultry headed for the grill or broiler.


There is no other recipe I could have chosen to open a chapter, let alone a book. This is the one indispensable, universal, un-live-withoutable recipe. Having said that, it is incredibly easy to make with ingredients you can find at the supermarket. And if you can’t find all the ingredients I list below see the note that follows for a very simple fix. What sofrito does is add freshness, herbal notes and zing to dishes—you can do that with the onion, garlic, bell pepper, cilantro and tomato alone. In my house, sofrito makes its way into everything from yellow rice, black bean soup, sauce for spaghetti and meatballs to braised chicken and sautéed shrimp. Not only that, it freezes beautifully, so in about In 10 minutes you can make enough sofrito to flavor a dozen dishes. I’m telling you, this stuff does everything but make the beds. Try out your first batch of sofrtio in the recipes you’ll find throughout this book, or add sofrito to some of your own favorite dishes that could use a little boost. You will change the way you cook. I guarantee it.

Makes about 4 cups

  • 2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
  • 3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
  • 16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, washed
  • 7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
  • 4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro
  • 3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks

Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully.

If you can’t find ajices dulces or culantro, don’t sweat. Up the amount of cilantro to 1 ½ bunches

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