When I get hold of a new cookbook, I like to skim through it page by page until I find something I haven't seen before. There's a lot of new in Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, but the recipe that stopped me in my tracks was Edamame and Sweet Rice Salad with Salty Seeds. I need salty seeds in my life. And sweet rice salad. But what really got my brain spinning was that the rice and edamame are cooked in the microwave. Calling Barbara Kafka!
I love/hate/mostly hate my microwave, but I appreciate writers who have the guts to admit to cooking with theirs -- and I find clever uses of the microwave irrationally gratifying. I learned from Nigella Lawson to melt chocolate in the microwave, and from pastry chef Pichet Ong to make custards in it with quick snippets on high. And, now, I can use it to make sticky rice, thanks to our friends Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern, the authors of Gluten-Free Girl Every Day.
Last week, Shauna and Danny came by our office to show me how to make the sweet rice salad. This is the kind of dish for which you'll want to measure out everything in advance. The prep is mostly measuring, with a tiny bit of slicing and smashing. No sighing! You'll thank me later when the recipe comes together in just a few minutes. See above -- now doesn't that look nice? All ready for mixing.
"I love sticky rice," Shauna told me, "But it's hard not to have it be a gloppy ball." That's why they started making it in the microwave. After soaking the rice for a bit, they cover it with cold water and put it in the microwave on high for 2 minutes at a time, giving the rice a stir in between, and cooking it until it's fluffy and tender. If you need to add more water, you can, and if you've added too much, you can drain off a little. You're the rice's boss when you microwave.
Meanwhile we whisked together the sweet and tangy dressing, made with brown rice miso, maple syrup, plum vinegar, sesame seeds, and ginger.
Still, the main event was ahead. The inspiration for the salty seeds came from Shauna and Danny's friend, Christina Choi, the chef at Nettletown in Seattle, who passed away last year. "She had these salty seeds on every table," Shauna said. "They're addictive and you can put them in everything." And you will want to. They reminded me of a savory version of saunf, the Indian candied fennel, served at the end of a meal. Shauna and Danny make theirs by toasting pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, cumin, coriander, and fennel in a sauté pan, and then, once the pan is off the heat, tossing the seeds and spices with salt. You might want to double the batch so you have leftovers for sprinkling on an open-face avocado sandwich.
Finally, Danny brought it all together for us, adding edamame to the sticky rice, pouring in some dressing, and showering the dish with the salty seeds. We ate the rice warm, but it's also good cooled to room temperature. You may notice that our version looks like a beet wandered through the rice. Our sticky rice contained some rogue red grains, which turned the whole dish purple -- and which, with the green edamame, no Instagram filter could improve. We devoured the dish anyway.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.