Basic Rice And Veggies Recipe Pattern
This is an outline of the steps involved in those recipes that involve a grain mixed and cooked with sauteed vegetables and spices. I call this a recipe pattern because, once you understand it, you can use it to create as many different recipes as you want by varying basic ingredients and seasonings.
Preliminary Step: Choose Grain, Spice Pattern and Main Ingredients
The main categories of ingredients are
- the grain
- the spice pattern
- the oil
- main vegetables
- complement (bean, mock duck, tofu or tempeh)
- garnishes (nuts, light greens)
Step One: Heat the Oil
Turn the flame under your skillet to a comfortable medium-low heat, add the oil and let it heat a bit before adding anything else. Avoid heating the oil to smoke point.
Step Two (Optional): First Group of Condiments
Add the condiments that you want to pre-cook in the oil. These include brown mustard seeds or cumin seeds, and dried or fresh chilies. Garlic and ginger also go in at this step, right after the seeds if you use them.
Step Three: Chop and add Veggies, Salt and Spices
If I am using onions they always go in before the other main veggies, and I saute them until they are starting to turn transparent before adding anything else. I add salt and spices at this step and stir before adding anything else.
I like to add condiment veggies like celery or bell peppers next so their taste permeates the oil.
Next come slower cooking root vegetables like potatoes or carrots. If I am making a wet dish, I add water or canned diced tomatoes after the root vegetables are in to help their cooking. Slow cooking root vegetables like potatoes need a low flame and occasional stirring to cook through without burning.
Near the end of cooking time I add quick cooking vegetables like zucchini, eggplant or mushrooms.
Step Four (Optional): Add the Complement
This can be cooked beans, or tofu, tempeh or mock duck. I usually add the complement when most of the vegetables are pretty much cooked, usually around the same time as the quick cooking vegetables. Stir thoroughly and get them completely heated through.
Step Five (Optional): Stir in the Rice or Other Grain and Heat
You can stir your cooked rice or grain in with the cooked veggies at this point. Or, you can keep the two separate and serve the veggies to be spooned over the rice as a sauce or stew.
Step Six (Optional): Final Condiments and Garnishes
At the very end, just before serving, is when I add the final garnishes, stirring them in right before carrying the dish to the table to serve. These include parsley or cilantro, or scallions. Nuts or seeds are last-minute additions also.
If I am going to use lemon juice or rice vinegar, I add them near the end also. With Oriental cooking I usually add the soy sauce near the end, after the rice is in, since good quality soy sauce has nutrients that are lost with long cooking. Let the dish sit on a very low flame for 3 to 5 minutes to let the flavors blend before adding your final garnish and serving.