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There you are, peering at our common menu on paper or online. Let's get started.

Here are new questions and musings from a visitor to town. "Where can you buy Asian pears and sprouts like sunflower sprouts locally? And how can I make the most of gluten-free pasta in recipes? What is the best gluten-free pasta to buy, both in taste and in nutrition?"

We are still hot on the trail of more dishes with fewer than five ingredients, and have a repeat request for where to buy a good oyster stew at a local restaurant.

 

YELLOW RICE

Mr. and Mrs. Sunday advised, from their downtown test kitchen, on several recent topics.

We'll start with yellow rice.

"If you want your rice to be yellow, you need to add one or more strong yellow ingredients to the liquid you cook the rice in," they say. The usual suspects are:

* FD&C Yellow 5 (lemon yellow)

* FD&C Yellow 6 (sunset yellow)

* Mexican saffron (actually safflower petals)

* Annatto/achiote

* Turmeric

* Saffron

[Fun fact: FD&C colors are the synthetic dyes that are certified for use in foods, drugs and cosmetics by the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act of 1938.]

"Most of these have little to no flavor," the Sundays continue, "but saffron is exceptionally strong. It's also hideously expensive. We buy it by the ounce (last time was in 2017 at $115/ounce) but since you use it only a pinch at a time it can last years. If you've had an authentic paella or biryani, the underlying flavor is saffron. If you haven't, Bella Lisboa makes paella and Sitar makes biryani.

"Turmeric has a mild earthy taste and does a good job of adding color. You may grate or mince fresh turmeric or use dry powder. Hint: Fresh turmeric is REALLY good at staining things yellow. Whole Foods and Asian Food & Gifts on Hixson Pike often carry it.

"All the others are essentially flavorless. All of these colorants are derived from natural sources except the FD&C colors; those are 'azo' dyes derived originally from coal tar (now from petroleum).

"The FD&C colors are predictable but the rest, being natural, are subject to variation due to the source. If using a natural dye, it's best to get the water (or water-like fluid like stock) the color you want it and then cook the rice in it. In general, bring the water to a simmer, mix in the (crushed, powdered etc.) colorant and simmer a few minutes to develop color (like brewing tea). Add more if it isn't yellow enough. As we've said many times, sneak up on it the first few times.

"If you're using grated or chopped turmeric or safflower petals, put the colorant in a tea ball or cheesecloth sachet to keep fibrous bits out of the rice."

And the Sundays have recipes.

 

Saffron-Flavored Pilaf

Use this rice as a base for whatever vegetables and proteins need to be cleared out of the refrigerator. That includes caramelized onions. We use only a cup of liquid because we prefer a slight bit of tooth in our rice, rather than have it mushy. There's a slight risk of chalky rice if the rice is older and therefore more dry. The remedy is to add a tablespoon or two of liquid for the rest of that bag of rice. Or simply make rice the way you like it, and add saffron to taste according to the directions below.

1 cup broth/stock (see note)

Pinch saffron

1/4 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 cup jasmine or basmati rice (see note)

Bring liquid to a boil. Brew color as needed by adding a pinch of saffron, along with garlic powder. When liquid is the desired color, add rice, stir, return to bare simmer, and cover for 15 minutes. Take off heat for 5 minutes, fluff and serve.

* Stock note: If not using our own, we use Swanson cooking stock (chicken unsalted) fortified with Better Than Bouillon low-sodium chicken and sometimes a little gelatin.

* Rice note: We use Phoenix or Three Ladies brand when we can get it, but Super Lucky Elephant or Mahatma (both available at Walmart) work just fine.

 

Steamed Mussels With Saffron

"About every third time we make steamed mussels, we add a scant pinch of saffron to the broth. Use any recipe you're comfortable with, from strict white wine, garlic and olive oil only, to one with tomatoes, clam juice, onions, zucchini, Pernod/absinthe and the kitchen sink. Saffron will still shine through."

 

KIDDIE COOKBOOK

For days without saffron, there are always red beans and rice, as per your request. Mr. and Mrs. Sunday responded here as well.

"Kenji Lopez-Alt has a new children's book. 'Every Night Is Pizza Night,' with a recipe for Red Beans and Rice suitable for cooking with children. It's not the same as the one we use, but it's pretty close and a lot less trouble. Hint: We think the vinegar is critical to success here as we're firmly in the Pickled Pork camp. Here's the link: seriouseats.com/recipes/ 2020/09/food-lab-jr-red-beans-and-rice.html.

"The story plus recipe is part of Kenji's Food Lab Junior series in which he talks about cooking with his toddler daughter. The series is worth looking into if you have short ones around the house. Check out the book as well."

 

APPLE CAKE

Teri Purvis pronounced this autumn cake "wonderful." She covered it airtight for 24 hours before serving.

 

Granny Smith Apple Bundt Cake

This is a dense cake but very moist. The tartness of the apples, all the spices and the slight hint of citrus from the orange complement each other nicely. It has a slightly crisp outside, and the inside is moist and full of apples and pecans. The 2 cups of oil has always worked for me, but I have made it with less.

For a slightly different texture you may substitute the 2 cups of oil with half oil, half applesauce.

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 cups vegetable oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 orange (squeeze juice and save peel for zest)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored and cubed in small pieces

1 cup chopped pecans

Prepare Bundt pan (butter and flour or Baker's Joy), and heat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat together sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla and orange juice. Mix until smooth.

Then slowly add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, mixing as you go.

Fold in apples and pecans. The batter will be very thick and dense. Spoon batter into prepared pan evenly.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a tester comes clean. Allow cake to sit in the pan 10-15 minutes and then turn onto a cake plate. Allow to cool completely.

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 dash (or more) orange extract (optional)

1 tablespoon milk (depending on how thick you want your glaze)

Mix glaze to desired consistency.

Drizzle the cake with the glaze, and enjoy.

 

The invitation to enjoy is a fitting ending to Fare Exchange, today or any other day. So shall we depart to do just that, with joy in the glories and gifts of daily life?

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Jane Henegar
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