I was recently intrigued by one of Heidi Swanson’s recipes (from the wonderful blog 101 Cookbooks) that involves cooking rice under a fig leaf. It sounded mysterious and exotic, and I imagined it to be fragrant, nutty and delicious. And convenient, since our neighbors have not one, but two fig trees.
They also have an avocado tree so large that it looks unreal. It is threatening to take over the alley, but that is another story. Suffice it to say that the plant beasts were so overtaking the garage, busting holes in windows and walls and uprooting concrete floor and composition roof, that the City had to come in and condemn it . . . the garage, that is. So now the garage is gone, but the beastly yard grows wilder and wilder every day. They also have a sprawling lemon tree. Often the neighborhood squirrels will bring us “presents” of half-eaten avocados, gently placed at our back door step. I’ve even startled a squirrel or two by mistake as he was peacefully eviscerating an avocado on our back door stairway railing. I think on the “other” side of the neighbor’s yard, there is actually a dying banana tree, as well as vestiges of palm trees.
So, back to the fig leaf. I gathered from our neighbors several large fig leaves, let a few of them dry, thinking they might make a nice crispy “sprinkle” on top of the rice, and cooked the rice with a fresh leaf. Oh, the aroma in the house was dreamy! The smell was of coconut, butter, nuts and just a hint of green vegetable.
Since I was in foraging mode, I also picked some dandelion from the back . . . I want to say yard but it’s just not a yard, it’s concrete. Again, another story. I had the idea to create dandelion “chips” like the ubiquitous kale chips we see around every corner these days. They turned out fragile and slightly bitter, a perfect accompaniment to the nutty, buttery rice.
I also paired the rice with a bamboo shoot I had hacked down last week and blanched for 20 minutes, a handful of hijiki seaweek, some sliced scallions, a preserved egg yolk (tastes like parmesan), a shot of sriracha, and a pinch of Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese “seven flavor chile pepper” mix that also has sesame seeds in it).
Wow, guys, this was very tasty and hard to stop eating. Try it with the vegetables, seasonings and other personal touches you have on hand, or eat it plain with a hit of tamari or soy.