We are just returning from a family vacation to Quebec City. With wind chills in the sub-zero range, I have never been so cold and yet so warm in my entire life. Finding refuge from the winter weather at the famed Château Frontenac, we were well taken care of during our entire stay. Shopkeepers invited us in to browse without pressure to buy. Restauranteurs went out of their way to make us comfortable—serving us bowls heaped with mussels steamed in garlic and wine, puffs of fresh bread with balls of sweet butter, platters of creamy local cheeses, and glass after glass of the most remarkable amber-colored cider. It was an enchanted vacation.
Once home, with so many rich meals under our belts, I hungered for light fare. Still, I was inspired to create meals that emulated the elegance of those we had just indulged in on vacation. I came across this dish of Stewed Carrots with Rice and Spice in a cookbook by Elizabeth David. With the ingredients list and instructions incredibly simple, I was intrigued. Colorful carrots are heated in fruity olive oil and spices, then stewed in a bath of Jasmine rice covered only by a bit of water. Stewing the carrots releases their juices and natural sugars into the fragrant rice. The vegetables are tender while the rice turns out crunchy and sweet. Topped with fresh herbs just before serving, this dish is nothing short of remarkable. I thought it was perfect straight out of the pan. Still, I had the leftovers for lunch today with a fried egg on top. It was a satisfying meal on a cold winter day. I hope you'll try it—let me know what you think.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
CARROTS STEWED WITH RICE AND SPICE
Yield: 4 Servings
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 lb. carrots, peeled and rinsed
- 1 t. coriander seeds
- ¼ t. cayenne pepper
- ¼ t. ground ginger
- ¼ t. ground chili pepper
- ¼ t. ground and dried spearmint
- ¼ cup Jasmine rice
- Handful each of fresh chives and fresh mint, rinsed and dried
- 4 large eggs, fried or poached (optional)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Cover the bottom of a large, thick bottomed pan with olive oil. Heat the oil. When it begins to sizzle, add the carrots to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, toss the carrots gently in the oil so they are evenly coated. Add the dried spices and toss the carrots again so that they are coated with the spices. Add the Jasmine rice to the pan. Cover everything with water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until the carrots are tender, the rice is cooked, and most of the liquid evaporated from the pan. This should take about 25 minutes.
- Allow the carrots and rice to cool slightly, then divide them equally between 4 dinner plates. Garnish with fresh chives and mint. Add one cooked egg to each plate, if you like. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve and enjoy.