I have the worst sense of time. I’m a dawdler. I think five-hour tasks will take five minutes. I’m great at caramelizing onions because I forget all about them, and in my absence their sugars get a chance to develop. In college, our 1 o’clock classes started at 1:07pm, and I blame that schedule for irrevocably messing with my sense of punctuality. If there were still seven minutes of official dawdling time at the beginning of every hour, the world would make more sense to me.
Besides caramelizing onions, my time blindness rarely affects dinner. But back in the autumn days of 2013, when 55°F felt nippy, and we all left our houses to hang out, I let an afternoon get away from me even though I had invited some friends to dinner. Earlier, Alex and I had planned and shopped for most of the menu and sketched out the prep we’d need to do. I had tomatillos and tomatoes from the CSA, and since I was in the middle of an obsession with Pati Jinich’s Pati’s Mexican Table, dinner would be chicken tinga, refried beans, and plenty of guac on tostadas. I’d prepped the tinga sauce, bought a rotisserie chicken, and chopped everything for the guac, which meant I could afford my kitchen truancy. I stretched out the the afternoon in the park, our frisbee sailing back and forth until the sun set behind the trees and we couldn’t see the disc even when we squinted.
When I got home, we had about an hour on the clock to crisp tortillas and assemble. No big deal. Then another guest confirmed, then another. Then I started worrying about quantity. And then I decided we’d better supplement our main course. I opened up Jinich’s book and scanned her recipe for green rice. It looked good but a tad complicated. Time was passing too quickly. I picked out the essentials–cilantro, jalapeño, lime, rice–shut the book, and improvised.
Basically, you whirl cilantro, lime, garlic, and jalapeño in the mini food processor until it’s liquid, then use that to supplement the water in which you’d normally cook rice. By sautéing onions first, you add another layer of flavor.
We eat a lot of rice, not just when we’re trying to bulk out dinner with cheap carbs without our guests noticing. In the chilly months since September frisbee was a thing, we’ve made this flavorful rice tons of times, sometimes topping a bowl simply with refried beans and some sour cream, sometimes using the rice as a base for the lunchtime burrito bowls I’ll be sharing next week. I think it barely takes longer to cook than plain rice, though I’m not really the one to ask.
Yields about 4 cups
Adapted from Pati’s Mexican Table
2 cups long-grain or jasmine rice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
1 medium bunch cilantro, washed, dried, bottom of stems trimmed and the rest coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
Juice from 1/2 a lime (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like safflower or vegetable
1/2 a white onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
Place the rice in a pot or bowl (like the pot you’ll cook it in) and cover with water. Soak for 5 minutes, then drain in a fine-mesh sieve, rinsing until the water runs clear. Set aside to drain.
Place the jalapeno, ½ cup water, cilantro, garlic, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the lime juice, then transfer to a liquid measuring cup, and pour in enough water so that the total amount of liquid is 4 cups.
In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until slightly softened, then add the rice. Cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes or so, until the rice grains have turned opaque.
Add the green liquid and bring to a boil (you can raise the heat). Then cover the pot and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook for 15 to 18 minutes, until the rice is tender. Turn off the heat but keep the pan covered and let it rest for 5 more minutes. Fluff the rice and serve.
Photos by Carly Diaz