Friday, June 4, 2010

There seems no plan because all is plan.

The Sufis probably didn't know they were talking about my refrigerator when they came up with the title of today's post, or perhaps they did. Anyhow, it illustrates one of my Your Italian Grandmother commandments: Use what you buy. As usual,  I shopped earlier in the week for those vegetables I found to be the freshest, ones I haven't bought in awhile and ones that were cheap. By doing so, I believe I also bought food that was local reasoning that food produced far from where I live costs more because of shipping. I always read those little stickies they put on fruit and vegetables- they usually reveal where the food was grown. So to finish up what I have in my fridge, I usually  make a frittata  or some other dish that allows me to mix a variety of vegies. Owing to the fact that we have been experiencing a lot of uncharacteristically hot weather in New York, I decided on one of my favorite summer dishes, rice salad. Aside from the weather, my other inspiration was the fact that I had corn on the cob in my vegetable bin. I can't remember where the idea for this dish came from originally (probably from one of the Italian cooking shows I used to watch) but for as long as I've been preparing this dish, I have always loved putting corn together with the rice I use as the base of my salad. This time, I also needed to use up some mushrooms and a tomato I had on the counter (I NEVER refrigerate tomatoes). So, I began by boiling some plain abborio rice in water and a little salt (2 to 1 water to rice ratio) for 15 minutes or so until the water is absorbed . You need to cover the rice while it's cooking. This isn't risotto. When it's done, I add a little vinegar to the rice and lay it out on a towel to cool and dry. Meanwhile, I shuck the corn and boil it in salted water for 5 minutes. I also sauteed a little onion and a piece of bell pepper I found in the crisper till the onion was  translucent, then added the sliced mushrooms. When they were almost done, I added some frozen baby peas and a little water to the skillet letting them steam for 3 minutes. When everything was cooler, I cut the corn from the cob and added it with the mushroom mix to the rice with a little olive oil. I then plated the rice in the serving dish leaving room around the side and in the middle.

Now, I could let that rest and turn my attention to the other elements of the salad. I cut up the tomato and mixed it with fresh basil, some marinated artichoke hearts I also found in the fridge, olives which I always have, more onion, and capers (another standard pantry item). I opened a can of tuna in olive oil, drained it and replaced it with my good olive oil and let that all sit for the 10-15 minutes it took for the wife to come in the door. I also cut up some cheese to place around the top of the salad. This is how the whole thing looked dressed and ready for serving.

Dessert also followed the plan/no plan rule. I bought some blueberries, black berries and strawberries earlier in the week with no particular plan -again, they looked beautiful and they were cheap. So while out the morning before putting together the above, I found a small angel food cake and a light went off in my head. Again, turning to my pantry, I found some blueberry jam. I took a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and squeezed a whole lemon over it mixing to make a glaze/sauce for the berries. Then, it was just layering everything together.

Cut the cake into 3 layers. Spread down some blueberry jam and top the first layer with blueberries. Lay the second layer over it, spread more jam and top with blackberries.

Put on the top layer, decorate with a few strawberry halves, and drizzle with the lemon glaze.

Dinner with no plan.


  1. Love rice, love salad, never thought of putting them together. Good idea! An even better idea was that cake!!

  2. These desserts look so delicious! I love blueberries, especially with gelato :-), but I am going to bookmark this recipe, sounds good..the angel food cake seem to be an italian "pan di spagna"...isn't it?

  3. Not exactly Anna- although angel food cake is similar to a sponge cake, it is made with egg whites alone (no yolks).

  4. Hi Joe! You mentioned on my blog that you made an Italian rice artichoke salad. This must be it and it looks beautiful with wonderful ingredients. I will look forward to trying it. You already know I'm a sucker for anything berries and cream!

    We laughed yesterday about our friend in Woodside who says, "The kitchen's closed, June to September!" The heat and humidity are miserable. There's got to be a happy medium between our two places. Have a good one!

  5. The dishes you create are always so beautiful Joe!

  6. I'll bet you're dangerous when you plan a meal :-). This was fantastic. I serve rice salad in the summer too. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  7. Actually Mary, I think I do better with the "no plan" approach, at least in terms of obsessive behavior.Thank you for the blessings, as always.

  8. thanks for the information Joe! I'll try the angel cake..