So, the cast of characters in tonight's dining experience:
1c rice, uncooked (white or brown is fine, but brown will cook a LOT longer)
1/4 large onion
1 fatty carrot, or 2 small carrots
2 spears of celery
2 cloves garlic (I used 3 because these are tiny)
6 large spears asparagus
1/2c frozen peas
1 can chickpeas
1tsp consommé or 1 cup of stock for the rice
1T awesome sauce (more on that later) (No, it is not drugs)
some olive oil
a dash of stock for the vegetables
First, get the rice started. Get a little bit of olive oil the pan on medium heat--only a teaspoon or so--and coat the rice with it. Add 1tsp of consommé and coat the rice with that. Jack your heat up to high, add 1 and 3/4c water. If you're not using consommé, cook it with a cup a stock and 3/4 cup of water. You don't want an overpowering stock flavor in your rice, so aim for about half water, half flavoring. Once the liquid is boiling, turn the heat to a simmer, lid it, and let it go.
Get your vegetables prepped. Everything gets diced, except the asparagus. Save that for after you get the other stuff into the pan.
Get some olive oil into a skillet on medium heat and get your soffritto/mirepoix vegetables in to cook. Let those hang out and prep the asparagus.
I wanted slightly longer asparagus pieces. I guess for something different. Since asparagus cooks a lot faster than the other vegetables in the pan, put these in when you put in the frozen peas and the awesome sauce (I'll get to that, next paragraph, I promise!). So just cut the spears in half and then cut into thirds. Nothing too exciting, but something super delicious!
Now, for the awesome sauce. I don't really have any other name for it. It's this blend I made when I made Porky-Pine meatballs for Justin. I took 8oz of mushrooms, one red bell pepper (seeds removed), a couple of cloves of garlic, and a few tablespoons of mushroom stock and beef stock with salt and pepper and ran it through the food processor. See, I really like the flavor of both mushrooms and bell peppers, but I don't actually like eating them. It's a texture thing. So, I figured I could make this awesome sauce (see? See?) and it would have tons of delicious flavor and I could just use a little bit at a time, if I kept it in the freezer! So, that's what I do. I have a tub of it in the freezer and every now and then, I hack at it with a knife (next time I'll make ice cubes...) until I have as much as I want, and then I cook it into stuff. It makes pan sauces sing like angels, it enlivens blander grinds of meat, and it helps to bind and add moisture to any number of dishes. It's awesome sauce. You should make some. Anyway, I chipped out about a tablespoon of it and stuck it in a bowl with some peas.
When the rice was about done and the veggies were almost ready to eat, but not quite completely, I added a shot of stock (I had beef on hand, but anything will do), the awesome sauce, the asparagus, and the peas. I let it cook for another couple of minutes and had this:
Oh, yeah. That meal's looking FINE! I drained and rinsed a can of chickpeas and added them to the vegetables like so:
Gave it a few good stirs to let the chickpeas heat through and it was done! I tasted to adjust salt and pepper (always, always use pepper. It's not the King of Spices for nothing) The rice was fluffy and delicious, the vegetables soft but with a little bit of bite, and the chickpeas were creamy and delightful.
Plated up (well, bowled over would probably be the slightly more appropriate term) it was very nice and very, very tasty:
I added some pre-shredded Asiago cheese and some freshly grated Parmesan to the top and it was perfect. It was mild, but flavorful, and the awesome sauce adds so much with so little. There's a great blend of sweet and bitter with the carrots, peas, and asparagus, the onion and celery adds some heartiness to the dish, and the chickpeas have a nice creamy, slightly nutty flavor that is well balanced with the cheese. The rice adds a bit of a stick-to-your ribs quality and has a little shot of strong stock flavor from having been cooked in it. Best of all? It's a super, super easy meal. Fifteen or twenty minutes in the kitchen and you've got supper. Not a bad deal, I think.
P.S. Here's the frozen, chipped-out chunk of awesome sauce. It's really, really amazingly good. Trust me! But yeah... Definitely doing ice cubes next time...