Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cooking Lessons

My friend Maryam called and said "I have your dinner - come by and get it."

As she is a fabulous cook and a commanding presence, I hopped in my car and zoomed over.  She was standing by the stove, with a huge pile of rice and a thick round-bottomed saucepan next to her.  

"I have Cioppino for you, but you must have it with garlic bread..." check.  "...and Persian rice.  Nobody ever makes this right, so I have started it for you." Okay.  My favorite recipes have been handed down hands-on.  

"I melted about two tablespoons of butter in this pan, and I added two tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of saffron.  Use really good saffron, the best you can find.

"Now you put in the rice" and she scooped about four cups of cooked rice on top of the melted butter and oil.

"Then you add dried Persian cranberries.  You have to get them at the Persian store, you can't use those American ones."  I tasted one - they were tiny, like dried pomegranate seeds, and quite tart.

"You just mix them into the top of the rice, you don't want to disturb the part that is in the butter and oil.  When you cook it, put it over high heat until it starts to sizzle, then turn the heat down to medium-low, add a tablespoon of water and another tablespoon of butter, just put them on top of the rice.  Then put three paper towels over the top of the pan, put the lid on, and cook it for 45 minutes.  When it's done take off the lid, put a plate upside-down over the top of the pan and flip it over onto the plate."

I did as she said. I must confess I folded the edges of the paper towel in a bit so they wouldn't hang over and catch fire - I once nearly set my friend Cathy's kitchen ablaze. As it was cooking the most wonderful nutty smell filled the kitchen.

When we cut into it, it was crispy and creamy, sweet and crunchy where the rice had crisped, and tart where the cranberries were lurking.

The next day I took her this photo...
...and she laughed with delight.  "You did it perfectly!" she said.  "Even my grand-daughter has to call when she's making it!"  She did of course start it for me, so I suppose that's cheating.  But I'm making it again, and soon. With chicken, with salmon, with  shrimp in garlic butter...come for dinner!

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