Sunday, March 4, 2007

Like Faith, Like Love - Full of Contradictions?

We're nothing if not fancy here at Martini Central. You've guessed that already, haven't you, dear reader? And yet: we are full of apparent contradictions. A current issue of The Star next to this week's New Yorker? Beer in cans offered with the same enthusiasm as a Bombay Sapphire martini? We mix the high with the low. We love it. Love. It. When you, dear reader stop by and want some distraction, some cocktails, we're here for you.

You see: we have saffron in our cupboard.

You only need a few threads to add to a rice. Does it really do anything? It's like faith, or love: it colors the whole dish - and, like faith, or love, it perfumes but has an unusual, faint metallic edge - like blood from a bit cheek.

We digress.

We don't serve brown rice to our guests, but we like to make some at the beginning of the week to accompany our lunches. Brown rice is a whole grain and that, along with fresh veg and lean meats - in addition to daily constitutionals, are what keep us trim and fit. After a while, we have come to enjoy it: it's nutty and firm and filling. Brown rice also spoils easily. We keep ours in the freezer.

The saffron makes things special - when we take the lid off the rice and look down at it, it has a warm orangy glow. It smells wonderful. Eating brown rice shouldn't make one feel dreary, like an unshaven follower of some macrobiotic cult. It should be just as rewarding as opening up a fresh issue of a gossip magazine and getting updated on news that counts.

We've done well keeping to the directions on the package - brown rice takes a long time to cook. About 45 minutes to the 20 minutes that white rice takes. We've also noticed the domestic long-grain brown rice we get from the supermarket takes less water - we're assuming this is because it is fresher.

Our method? We saute the rice in butter, add salt and the saffron, then the water. Sauteing covers each grain with enough fat to keep the rice separate - it also removes the chill from the freezer and gives it a nice, toasted flavor.

Another thing we've learned? Using boiling water from our electric kettle makes the whole process go a little quicker.

Brown Rice with Saffron

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 or 4 threads saffron

1 cup brown rice

1 3/4 cups water

In a 1 1/2 -quart saucepan, melt a pat of butter over high heat. When the butter stops bubbling, add 1 cup of brown rice and saute until it loses its chill and becomes translucent. Add the salt and saffron, stir well.

Add the water. If your water is boiling hot, give it a stir, reduce the heat to low, and clamp on a tight-fitting lid. If not, wait until the water comes to a boil before the stir and lid.

Set a timer for 50 minutes and amuse yourself. After the time is up, remove the pot from the heat, and let things rest for another 10 minutes. Now you can remove the lid and - gently - fluff with a fork.

All done! Now...we did mention a martini, didn't we?