By Freya Bellin
This pilaf proves that a simple grain like rice can be transformed into something pretty complex, without too much work on your part. The Spanish flavors of this dish come through strongly—especially the smoky pimentón, which is a great contrast to the overall sweetness of the dish. I personally found myself digging through the bowl for even more apricots, so you may want to chop up and toss in a few more than the recipe suggests. You could experiment with other dried fruits here as well, like golden raisins.
While most of the cook-time in this recipe is hands-off, brown rice can require some attention. I added more water a few times throughout the simmering process, as the pot was starting to dry out, but the rice was still crunchy. The couscous variation would certainly be useful if you’re in a time-bind or if you want to multi-task. The wonderful thing about a recipe like this is that, thanks to the protein from almonds and chickpeas, it can be a meal in and of itself. I served it with beets to squeeze in some vegetables, but it’s completely filling and satisfying on its own. Plus, any recipe that calls for ½ cup of wine leaves you with most of a bottle left for drinking, which is never a bad thing. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
One-Hour Vegetable Stock
Makes: about 1 quart
Time: 1 hour, somewhat unattended
For this stock, you cut the vegetables into small pieces, which extracts greater flavor; you pan-cook them first, which browns them at least a bit and makes the flavor more complex; and you add a couple more flavorful ingredients (the mushrooms make a difference, as you’ll quickly see, as does the soy sauce). If you have more time for simmering, use it.
Double the quantities here if you want to make enough stock to freeze. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
Thank you to everyone who has read the Minimalist column. It has been thirteen wonderful years of cooking and thinking about food. Here’s to many, many more (and some champagne for the road.)
My friend and colleague Gabe Johnson has shot and produced every single Minimalist video (more than 200.) Here he describes his favorite one to shoot (and more importantly to eat.)
Today I’m bidding farewell to The Minimalist. It’s been thirteen wonderful years (almost 700 columns.) I may be leaving the Dining section (there might be some return appearances,) but I’m not travelling far. Starting next week I’ll be writing in The Times opinion pages (and in a new blog there as well,) and beginning in March in The Times Magazine (plenty of recipes, most Sundays.) Check back throughout the day for some bonus links.
By Freya Bellin
Beets happen to be delicious simply roasted on their own, but the spice mixture in this recipe really livens them up. It’s hot and citrusy and goes quite well with the natural sweetness of the beets. The headnote below mentions that you’ll have extra spice mixture, and you most certainly will. Sprinkle on a small amount at a time to cover the beets and add more as needed; it was much spicier than I expected it to be. I also highly recommend trying out the honeyed walnuts mentioned in the variation. The honey downplays the spice of the seasoning a bit, and the nuts add a nice crunch.
If there’s one thing I learned from cooking this dish, it’s that peppercorns and sesame seeds are nearly impossible to grind by hand. A spice or coffee grinder help tremendously. Your hands will thank you. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes, plus time to cool
To me, the best and simplest potato salad is made of just-boiled potatoes dressed in a freshly made vinaigrette. If you’re in a hurry, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, then just add the potatoes. Parsley and chopped onion are easy, flavorful additions. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.