Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 220 - Rice Pilaf and Grapefruit Granita

This episode of Jeff and Martha still finds me in Virginia Beach, for my second and last cooking efforts Chez Paladini.

Rice Pilaf (p. 414)

Tracy was making her famous salmon (baked with thyme and garlic), so I thought I'd try this rice dish.

Rice Pilaf is a nice and easy way to "dress up" what can be typically boring rice on the side. It just requires a little extra work: mincing some onion, melting some butter, sauteeing the rice a bit, and then sticking it in the oven.

Here's the thing, though. If you're using your oven for another dish and it's set at a different temperature than the 350° you need to cook this pilaf, you're screwed. Luckily, Tracy's salmon happens to be cooked at 350°, which only left the issue of shelf height. Tracy's oven is quite compact, and one dish had to be placed top rack and the other dish had to bottom rack. Tracy says that everything burns on the bottom rack, but the rice (on the bottom) was cooked perfectly, as was the salmon above. Tracy, what were you so concerned about?

I'm going to say it was a hit, for two reasons. A) Tracy has been talking about making it again, herself. And B) Samantha, who is famously anti-rice, actually ate some without gagging. (Benny, photographed at right with forkful of Rice Pilaf, clearly has no rice issues.)

I thought it tasted just fine. It didn't change my life, but it was fine. I should mention that I made it with water (the recipe calls for chicken stock or water), and I'm guessing this would be even tastier cooked with the homemade chicken stock option.

Tracy was girding herself for unwanted chunks of onion but was fascinated that the onions were ultimately invisible. (After minutes of being sauteed, then simmered, then baked in the oven, I wasn't surprised. Let's not forget, they were minced to begin with!)

This is a nice, easy way to do rice, nothing flashy about it. It's probably not appropriate for every meal, but with baked salmon, it was a perfect fit.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Grapefruit Granita (p. 486)

After my gigantic hit with Grapefruit Sorbet, I was excited to try this granita thing. I wasn't really sure how the ice shaving part was going to go, but I just trusted that Martha would guide me through it, which is exactly what she did.

Making the "potion" is easy. Squeeze and strain a bunch of grapefruit juice, add some syrup, and freeze.

There's are two ways to freeze this: one where you stir it every hour, and the other where you just stick it in the freezer and forget about it. Guess which one I picked?

If you take the latter option, which I did, you just have to take the frozen pan out of the freezer to allow it to sit for 1o minutes before you start the shaving.

This is what the frozen potion looked like. Pretty, right? It had a kind of snowflake, chemistry-like pattern happening in multi-layers.

Once I started shaving, it was so easy - it naturally crumbled to a perfect texture for serving.

The Paladinis, junior and senior, gave this a big thumbs up. I thought it was just OK, but I think that's because I'd experienced the sorbet, which had a much richer grapefruit flavor. I think the grapefruits I used for the granita were sweeter, less tart, and that made for a less interesting, less complicated, ultimate flavor. It was almost too sweet. Luckily, that's not an issue for the Paladinis.

I reiterate my theory about sorbets (and granitas): the more acid in the fruit base, the better the result. (I wonder how Cider Vinegar Sorbet would taste....)

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Until we eat again....


  1. I could have sworn I've seen granita recipes with vinegar in them...particularly balsamic mixed with some fruits. Maybe even in one of Martha's books/magazines? I think mixing cider vinegar and a more tart apple juice could make a great granita.

    Regardless, sounds light and wonderful, though perhaps for a warmer time of year. When I see my breath, for some reason that means "pie season" to me.

    Would love to hear how the teaching went, though clearly this isn't the blog for that. :-) Unless food was involved.


  2. Hey Michael-
    Yes, pie season! Still haven't made the apple pie in the book! It's the only pie I have left. I'm running out of desserts! :-)
    The teaching went great! Thanks for asking.

  3. When you make the apple pie, can you save a slice for Charles? It's his favorite.

  4. Will do, unless I make it for Thanksgiving in FL. He probably wouldn't want it after it accompanied me on a day of air travel, security lines, being shoved around in the overhead compartment, etc. :-)