Friday, August 20, 2010

Foolproof Fried Rice

When you forage through your 'fridge in hopes of finding enough ingredients to assemble a meal, what do you find?

In our household, eggs are a given. And I can always count on those "baby" carrots that we buy but seldom eat. Some kind of leftover meat - ham, Canadian bacon or leftover chicken - is usually lurking. I can unearth wilted green onions and half of a forgotten red pepper. And I'm never without peas in the freezer and garlic in the pantry.

I have the fixings for one of my favorite go-to meals - fried rice. It's easy, delicious, nutritious and a great way to use up the bits and pieces in your fridge.

The trick is to have cold, leftover rice on hand. You can bring home the uneaten rice from an Asian restaurant. Or you can make extra rice and chill. Both are good options, but aren't always available when the urge for fried rice strikes.

So I'll share with you a little secret to ensure that you always have all the fixings for fried rice on hand: brown rice from the freezer section at Trader Joe's.

No need to defrost. Just dump a bag of the frozen grains into your sizzling wok or fry pan. And, believe it or not, the results are superior to the leftover Japanese short-grained brown rice that I sometimes use. The TJ's frozen rice produces beautiful, separate grains, and that's the secret to a great, mush-free meal.

The young adults in my household thumb their noses at plain brown rice, but when it's fried with meat, veggies and egg, they gobble it down. Even my one-year-old grandson can't get enough. And, best of all, we never get bored because the variations are endless.

  • Go to Wandering Chopsticks for several fried rice recipes, including this one with Chinese sausage, frozen vegetables and egg. I credit her for teaching me to make fried rice.
  • Some fried rice recipes call for cooking the egg separately and adding it in later. Another technique (my favorite) is to saute the meat and veggies, push them to the side and cook the egg in the well in the center.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More Than One Way to Brew a Cup of Coffee: Roaster Family Coffee

I had hoped to meet my morning caffeine quota with jasmine tea from Lunasia (my current favorite non-cart dim sum restaurant). But when I learned the wait for tea and dim sum was 45 minutes, I dragged my un-caffeinated self across the street for a quick cup of java at Roaster Family Coffee.

I expected the barista to serve a cup from a pot or urn. Instead, she measured and ground fresh beans. Just for me. What came next was even more surprising. I was familiar with percolating, pressing and dripping methods for brewing coffee. Roaster Family Coffee uses a siphon brewing method. Invented in 1840, the brewing contraption looks like something from an antebellum mad scientist's lab.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Grind beans. 2) Place beans in vessel over pot of water. 3) Water vapor forces hot (but not boiling) water from the pot into the vessel. 4) See how the vessel is filling up? Alchemy or physics?

1) A quick stir 2) Physics in action again: When heat is turned off, coffee returns to pot. 3) Fresh siphon-brewed coffee 4) Elegant service in a china cup for just $1.80.

The brewing method might be so two centuries ago, but the heating method - a halogen burning system - is 21st century.

The decor is a lot like the brewing system - a mix of the old and new.

How was the coffee? Strong and rich without a trace of acidity or bitterness. Come for the show, but stay for the coffee.

Roaster Family Coffee
521 W Main St.
, CA 91801
626. 282.8879

713 W Duarte Rd.
Suite F

Arcadia, CA 91007

For more information about syphon-brewed coffee, visit the Coffee Geek or the New York Times.

Coffee on FoodistaCoffee