Dinner

Damon is working his way through his third serving of dinner. He’s heard it before, but I doubt he really knows how it gives me a glow when he treats my cooking like it’s made his lucky day.

It was a good night in the kitchen. We’d had a light snack of a vat of cheesy popcorn (thanks Tsalino!) so I opted to go light. I made a big pot of blackberry congee and a beet salad. It was so pretty — all red, white and green like the Italian flag. I’m so in love with pasta, olive oil, cheese and company that sometimes I’m chagrined by my neutral-palate meals. But not tonight.

This was my first foray into sweet congee. For those who don’t know, congee is Asian comfort food. You take white rice, add about ten times more water than rice and then cook, cook, cook until you’ve got a thick porridge. Add a little salt and then pick your seasoning. Congee’s nature is simple, so you don’t want to go crazy. First decide if you’re going sweet or savory. In congee and all other things, I almost always go savory myself. Good savory additions are scallions or butter and salt or peas. The list goes on. For sweet, fruit is the way you go. Pears are, I think, the best. But I think ripe melon is a nice choice. I’d stay away from anything that doesn’t want to mush (say, pineapple) but otherwise the fruity sky is the limit. Tonight we learned that blackberry is tasty and lovely to look at.

If you’re ever sick (if it’s your stomach, stick with savory) or cold or sad, a bowl of congee will fix you. I was none of those things tonight, but now I feel fortified.

Beet salad is, you know, beet salad. I made a tangy dressing and marninated the beets while the congee cooked. Goat cheese is really nice with beets, but I didn’t have any. Instead I poured them over lettuce and then dressed them with a little ranch dressing for the dairy component. It came out pretty well. It would have come out better if I’d had goat cheese (and onions for the dressing) but it was still much better than merely edible.

I’m awfully pleased with myself in this post. I know.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Damn, that sounds good…! And when I first read “blackberry congee” I thought that was some kind of Viet Cong deathtrap involving a fruited pit with sharp sticks and I’m thinking – why’s he want extra helpings of that?

    Reply

  2. Is congee similar to rice pudding then?

    Reply

  3. Mmmmm..I want me some congee…

    Reply

  4. I *think* so. I’ve actually never had rice pudding. But if my impression is correct then I’m guessing that congee is a little thicker, but not a lot. And it’s hot, and I think rice pudding is cold. Rice pudding also might be sweeter, but I may just be thinking that because it has ‘pudding’ in the name.

    Reply

  5. It’s so easy. And I’ll bet Roan would enjoy picking what goes in the congee. Let me know if you want more specific cooking directions.

    Reply

  6. rice pudding is generally rice with milk and eggs so its a bit custard like. It can be sweet or it can be savory. Sweet is definitely the most traditional though. It is most often served cold, but I personally can’t stand it cold. 🙂 I’ll give you my rice pudding recipe if you give me your congee recipe. 🙂
    (boil rice in minimum amount of water, adding water as needed. add sugar when its close to done and almost out of water. Mix an egg in some milk and add to the sugar rice bring to almost boil. place uncovered in the oven and cook until set and slightly brown on top. Cheat with the broiler if you have to.)

    Reply

  7. Nice, that sounds wonderful.
    Here’s how you make congee:
    Take 1/2 C of short grain (or arborio) white rice. Pour it into a pot and run cold water over it. Rake it with your fingers and then dump the rice in a colander. If your colander holes are too big, line it with a a paper towel.
    Rinse out the pot and then put the rice back in.
    Add five cups of water and a 1/2 tsp. of salt.
    Bring the mixture to a boil and then partial cover and turn the heat to low. Leave it there for 45 minutes, stirring periodically.
    While it cooks, dice up whatever you want to add for seasoning.
    At 45 minutes, stir the seasoning in and cook for another 10 minutes.
    Now you’ve got about three hearty servings of congee!
    I find this process really enjoyable.
    If you make it, let me know how you like it.

    Reply

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