Ode to a rice cooker

Rice cooker

My culinary workhorse.

I hate to admit this, but I have a thing for kitchen gadgets. I like to talk a big game about how I don’t really care about owning a lot of “stuff,” that it’s experiences that matter to me, but… as soon as I step into the kitchen, my hippy-ish anti-materialistic philosophy kinda flies out the window. My sous-vide circulator, my pressure cooker, my Vitamix, my bullet smoker—they all bring me a lot of joy. And, hell, I’d argue they help me create experiences—delicious dining experiences—and don’t just sit there looking pretty and collecting dust.

The gadget I use the most in my kitchen—once or twice a day!—isn’t as sleekly powerful as the Vitamix or as geekily futuristic as the sous-vide machine. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common kitchen appliances in the world.

It’s my rice cooker.

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RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Cold Peanut Soba Noodles

Cold soba peanut noodles

Cold comfort. (Literally.)

I recently had a bad noodle experience. It was a bummer. But in the spirit of “getting back on the horse,” I decided I had to immediately wipe the quinoa-wheat pasta fiasco from my mind. And since it’s still stiflingly hot where I live, I decided the time was right for a cold noodle dish, with a refreshing green smoothie on the side.

Soba noodles are typically made with buckwheat, but beware: most are actually made with a blend of buckwheat and regular wheat. You can find buckwheat-only versions, but make sure you check the package carefully. I like them with peanut sauce, a splash of sesame oil, some chopped green onion tops, shredded carrot, some toasted sesame seeds and a squirt of Sriracha (which contains garlic, so be mindful if you have trouble tolerating it.)

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RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Migas, for Breakfast or Lunch

Low FODMAP breakfast or lunch migas

Scrambled plus.

Eggs. I’m a little obsessed with them, even if I (as I’ve mentioned before) so often mess them up. Still—poached, scrambled, omelette-ed, I love them all. And while I eat steel-cut oats for breakfast basically every day of my life (more, much more, on that soon), I’ve found that eggs often form a great basis for my new sandwich-less lunch lifestyle. I’ve talked before about the Feta Double Heada I sometimes have as a treat on weekends, and today I want to introduce another favorite. It’s a breakfast/lunch (there must be a word for that) with a Tex-Mex twist, but I’m not talking about huevos rancheros, as delicious as they are. No, today I’m talking migas.

Migas are basically scrambled eggs plus, and the “plus” I’m talking about here are crispy strips of corn tortillas. They’re fast and easy to make, endlessly customizable, and they go perfectly with a splash of your favorite hot sauce (I’m personally addicted to Frank’s, but Tabasco, Valentine, heck, even Sriracha* will do the job, though mind the garlic). A tomato salad on the side balances out the meal nicely and adds some brightness.

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RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

A pot of low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

One (delicious) pot.*

One of the saddest goodbyes I had to make as I embarked on the low-FODMAP journey was to one of my dearest old friends, spaghetti with red sauce. Spaghetti and meatballs was my all-time favorite meal as a kids, and I never really outgrew it. Sure, I discovered the joys of Marcella Hazan’s simple, sweet marinara, and got myself tangled up  in various  elaborate bolognese and ragù recipes, but that core love of pasta, tomatoes and ground meat never really changed—for better or worse.

In fact, spaghetti was one of the reasons it took me so long to come around to the low-FODMAP diet. I knew I always felt sick the day after eating it, but I always thought it had something to do with the acidity of the tomatoes. I never suspected that it could be the onions and garlic flavouring the tomato sauce—and the very pasta I poured it over—that was the source of the problem.

But not only did I just love eating spaghetti bolognese because it tasted so delicious, but it was also such a convenient meal as well. I could cook up a big ragù on Sunday night and eat it through the week, or freeze it; I could even, on a lazy evening, just pick up a good bottle of meat sauce from a local gourmet grocer that would do the trick almost as well.

So, in starting out on this new diet, I was hungry for meals that could bring back some of that one-pot convenience, while hitting all the starchy, tomato-y, meaty flavor notes I was craving. A friend sent me a link to a recipe that Food52 community blogger NWB called Moorish Paella, and I knew I was in love. As is, the recipe contains some FODMAP warning signs, but I knew I could create a “recipe translation” that I could happily eat, digest and, importantly, not feel like I was compromising on by enjoying. And it’s the ultimate one-pot meal!

Make sure you use low-FODMAP chicken stock to cook the rice. And while the original recipe contains a healthy portion of onions and garlic; you can use the “fry” method to impart flavor to the cooking oil, add garlic-infused oil or just drop them completely. It’ll be delicious either way!

Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

Parsley optional.

Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

Ingredients

4-6 chicken thighs (I prefer to use bone-in, skin-on, but when I can’t find them I go boneless/skinless and it works out just fine)
2 links of merguez sausage (or other spicy sausage)
1 tsp ground caraway seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tablespoon harissa (may contain a small amount of garlic; if you malabsorb, replace with a hot sauce that doesn’t cause problems)
2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice
3/4 can tomato paste OR 1 cup low-FODMAP tomato sauce
3 cups Delicious Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock
OPTIONAL: 1 small onion, quartered
OPTIONAL: 2 garlic cloves, halved OR 1 tbsp garlic-infused oil
1/2 cup red or white wine (I use a splash of port, myself—wine vinegar will do in a pinch)

Instructions

1. If you can, toss the chicken thighs in a plastic bag early in the day or the night before with a tbsp or so of kosher salt (don’t worry if you forget/skip this step).

2. Slice the sausage into disks (or diagonal chunks and stick them in the bottom of your saucepan (I use a 26L Creuset) while cold. Turn the heat on low and let them slowly render out their fat and brown in their juices. Brown both sides, then remove them with a slotted spoon to a drain on some paper towels resting on a plate. While they’re browning, combine and mix the spices together with a teaspoon of kosher salt.

3. Turn the heat up to medium. While the pan heats up, pat chicken dry on both sides (important step!). Then, in batches if need be, brown chicken on both sides in the rendered sausage fat, about 5 minutes a side. When they’ve got some colour on both sides, stick ’em on some more paper towels to dry.

4. If using onions and garlic, add to pan (splash in some olive oil if it’s dry—it probably won’t be) and let them fry away for a couple of minutes. Once they start to get golden brown on all sides, remove them with a slotted spoon and toss ’em out. (If not using onions and garlic, or using oil, skip this step.)

5. Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape all the good fond-y bits off the bottom. Spoon a good portion of the spice mixture into the pan. Before it completely dries out, add the harissa or hot sauce and re-introduce the sausage, then give it a good stir. Add the tomato paste or sauce and another big spoonful of the spice. Let it all simmer down for about 5 minutes, but if it seems to be drying out too fast, proceed to the next step immediately.

6. Add the rice and mix it in with the sauce and sausage bits, then distribute it evenly across the bottom of the ban. Stick the chicken parts on top (again, evenly). Pour in the stock. Stir in the rest of the spice mixture. Cover.

7. Bring the pot to a boil (this should happen quickly) and then immediately reduce to lowest heat. Let cook away, lid still on—remember the BBQ rule, if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!—for about 20 minutes, then check on it. If the rice seems tender and most of the liquid is gone, you’re golden. If not, cover again and wait a few more minutes. (It can theoretically take up to 30, but mine is usually done on the earlier side.)

8. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, and enjoy!

And as always, drop me a line in the comments below if you have any questions, or if you made the recipe and have something—good or bad—to say about it!

* Check out the super-cool “Nonna Spoon” from bottledBrooklyn, a wedding present (and not a paid endorsement—I really love it!)

 

BREAKFAST: Feta Double Heada Omelette

Toast? Who needs toast?

If you’ve read my Day in the Low-FODMAP Life post, you know I eat oatmeal for breakfast almost every single day. It’s easy to make, super-filling (and it lasts—I don’t get hungry an hour later), inexpensive, and with the right modifications (cinnamon! maple syrup! bananas!) it tastes great.

But there are mornings—usually weekend mornings—when I want something a little different. A treat. And when I do, I turn to eggs, despite my absolutely limited facilities in making them. (I love eggs and I cook them all the time, but I always manage to screw them up somehow—bits of shell in the pan, broken yokes, poorly-peeled hard-boiled ones—they’re sort of the great tragic relationship of my life). I used to think eggs absolutely had to be served with toast or a bagel, but I realized pretty early into my low-FODMAP adventure that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

Now one of my go-to special weekend meals is a big ol’ omelette, cut in half (the other half goes to my wife) and filled with something savory. I don’t get too fancy because I don’t like my omelettes overstuffed or too wet, so for this meal I just added crumbled feta cheese near the end. Now, feta doesn’t melt as nicely as cheddar or Emmental (it doesn’t melt at all, in fact), but I’m willing to make that sacrifice because next to parmesan cheese, good Greek feta cheese may be my favorite substance on Earth. (I can’t overstate my relief when I saw they were on the low-FODMAP list. Seriously. Can’t live without them. I don’t like adding watery tomatoes to the omelette itself, so we dice them up and serve them on the side with some fresh basil.

Now, you may have noticed a couple of other guests on the plate. It was initially hard to imagine eating eggs without bagels or toast alongside them, but corn crackers make a satisfying substitution. I shmear ’em with kopanisti, a feta (hence the double header) and red pepper spread I find pretty addictive. Kopanisti is often made with garlic (the kind I get is not), so you can always make your own by following a good, simple recipe and removing it entirely or substituting it with a dash of garlic oil. It’ll add a little spice to your breakfast, and is great for snacking on as well.

What’s your favorite omelette? Let me know in the comments below.