Friday, September 17, 2010

Fennel Rice

~ Word Association ~

When Tom Turkey and his wives and several youngins (fourteen gobblers in all) take a leisurely stroll across my front yard, my mind drifts to fall foods.  I am by no means a hunter, nor is HotDog, but the word association can not be denied.  Besides, these yard birds don't look like prime Thanksgiving Day centerpiece specimens.  They look lean and mean as if they go jogging every day, taunting me with their disciplined exercise regimen.  They are not at all like the plump and juicy couch potato turkeys one finds in the frozen meats section of the grocery store.

As I was saying... word association.  It went something like this:  live turkeys, jogging turkeys, couch potato turkeys, freezer section, chilly weather, blankets, sofa, tv, human couch potatoes, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, roasted turkeys, cranberries.  Cranberries.  And this is how I was reminded to get busy with my blog-in-waiting, which shows these crans cast in a role other than their supporting-actor annual appearance.

This side dish was the result of cooking dinner for dear friends with diet restrictions, among them being butter.  Help me, Rhonda!  My first thought was "How on earth am I going to make an entire dinner without butter?!?!"  And not only butter, but all things dairy?

Although I do not have diet restrictions, I should.  Dairy foods are my illegal substance.  Impossible to resist, and in the moment of temptation the high always seems worth the impending hangover.  In the throes of the dairy wreaking its fierce havoc on my sinuses, I make silent vows to myself to quit cold turkey.  Hey!  I wonder why "cold turkey" didn't make it in my word association stream, somewhere around "freezer section".  As usual, I digress.  Anyway, after years of this dairy-hangover-vows cycle, I have not yet mustered the willpower to quit.

Just a couple weeks ago, my wonderful sister-in-law and I lamented on the evils of the udder vice-grip and subsequent suffering we endure.  How long until the FDA approves a dairy patch or electronic cheese sticks or ice cream gum to help wean folks like us from our addiction?  I mean, shoot, I'm already conjuring up catchy names in my head. "Cow-kick the Habit" or "Milkshake Your Addiction" or "Churn the Other Cheek".  Wow.  I should end right here on this high note.  Okay, so it's a low note, but that doesn't stop me from basking in the glow of corniness.

With that I give you the recipe.  It tastes like each grain of rice was bathed in a stick of pure butter, but it contains not one drop of dairy.  Or gluten for that matter.  And the dinner was a rockin' success!

Fennel Rice with Cranberries and White Raisins
2 medium onions
1/3 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/3 cup white/golden raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
3 cups water

Chop the onions.  Slightly crush the fennel seeds with a rolling pin.  About three or four times, I stirred them around on the cutting board a bit and rolled in different directions.  Very low-tech and worked out well.

Over medium heat, saute onion, cranberries, raisins, crushed fennel seeds, salt, and pepper in the olive oil in a medium (about six quart) saucepan for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the rice and stir for one minute.

Add water and turn heat to high until it comes to a rapid boil.  I'll admit this part doesn't look too appetizing, but trust that you are on your way to a tasty creation.

Turn heat to lowest setting, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook about 22 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Don't stir or lift the lid while the rice cooks.  Remove from heat and let stand with the lid slightly ajar for 10-15 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

Serve hot.  You should get about six servings.