My book club has a tradition of celebrating big events together. Weddings, graduations, retirement, new babies…and decade birthdays. And it just so happens that I have a decade birthday coming up later this month.
So the other members of my book club put their heads together and made it a special evening. There were funny banners and little signs. There was a stern order to stay out of the kitchen while they got things ready. There was an awful lot of giggling and whispering in there. Then finally, I was escorted to a chair, given a glass of wine, and they made a hilarious little presentation starting with, “Since you like to take pictures of food more than you like to eat your food…” and paraded out of the kitchen in turn to present me with each course of my “meal”, which were actually pictures of food cut from magazines.
I was then presented with a gift card for Sur La Table. Could there be a better gift for a cook? I don’t think so. (And as a result, I am now the proud owner of my first piece of Le Creuset cookware—a luxury item that I have long coveted, but have never quite been able to bring myself to buy.)
Of course, the paper meal was followed up by a real dinner of homemade chicken tikka masala, vegetable korma, fragrant rice, and chocolate cheesecake. I do like taking pictures of my food, but the truth is that I enjoyed eating this awesome meal much more than photographing it.
It was a wonderful evening, one that reminded me yet again of just how rich I am, with clever, generous friends like these in my life.
All of Mechele’s food was good, but the fragrant basmati rice particularly stood out to me because it was so simple, and yet so perfect. Each grain was separate and infused with the subtle flavor of cumin seed. I eat a lot of rice at home, of the run-of-the-mill rice cooker variety. A little extra effort can produce restaurant quality rice that becomes the foundation for an exceptional meal.
If you are making rice for a dinner party, take an extra few minutes and make it special. It is the attention paid to simple things that can make a meal memorable.
Mechele’s Basmati Rice
- 2 1/2 cups basmati rice
- water (for soaking)
- 2 tablespoons neutrally flavored oil (I used canola)
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 cups water (for cooking)
Soak rice in a bowl of cold water for 1 hour. Rinse rice thoroughly in a colander, let drain dry.
In a medium saucepan (mine is 2 1/2 quarts), heat oil on medium heat. Add the salt and cumin seeds, allowing seeds to become a toasty brown (but not burnt). Add the rice and water to the pan (it will sputter a little, be careful!), bring up to a simmer, then cover, turn burner to low and set a timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off burner, but leave rice covered in pan, on the burner, for another 20 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and serve with your favorite Indian dish.