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Top Five Lickety Split Side Starches in No Particular Order

May 24, 2010

At the moment I only want things that are fast and easy to do. In terms of starch, I am cutting corners. Cutting corners like I am cutting corners with this blog post, just making a list of top 5 starches! At the end, give me a list of your own.

The contenders:

Uncle Ben’s Instant Brown Rice

I did not grow up eating rice, and in fact mistook it for the worst possible shape of pasta. I like it now, though. I really do: as long as I don’t have to cook it.

A friend with a fabulous kitchen has a machine that says NEURO FUZZY. It’s a kooky Japanese rice cooker but she told me that even the N/F takes like 40 or 50 minutes to do brown rice. We don’t even HAVE a neurofuzzy, so we go through a lot of instant brown rice. I can even assert that we would never manage to eat brown rice if it weren’t for this.

A chef friend suggests that I parcook a huge batch of brown rice myself early in the week, and then do the finishing as needed. But I’d have to plan and store the rice, and I just can’t, even if that means I am a bad person. The orange box, I can manage.

Couscous

Boil broth or water or a combo with a bit of salt in it. Maybe butter. Add couscous, turn off the heat, cover, and wait 5 minutes. “Fluff with a fork.”

Serve with anything, though preferably something with a soupy quality, so you don’t feel like you’re somewhere in the UAE, choking in a sandstorm. Though come to think of it I actually serve it most with a roasted shrimp and broccoli recipe, which is wholly unsoupy, and one of our favorite go tos. (I’m all for cutting corners but do try to use whole cumin and coriander seeds: it’s worth it. And you can switch carrots in for the broccoli or supplement the broccoli to good effect.)

Polenta

I have made the sort from scratch that Bill Buford talks about in Heat, stirring and stirring, to no great acclaim, and in fact, to a request that we expunge polenta from the roster. However, I gave up recently and bought the sort in a pressure-packed tube. You know, the sort that pops like a Pillsbury thing when you open it? Thuk.

Then you just cook it in a pan in butter or oil or a combo and add what: cheese? sauce? mushrooms? salt? nothing? It’s really pretty good, and really pretty popular. Even the baby will deign to eat the little golden frisbees.

What makes me laugh is the suggestion on the package that you can use tubed polenta in lasagna. Like I want to make lasagna, which is ridiculously easy, difficult by cutting a tube of short round stuff into regulation size of flat noodles. No, please. No no no. That is the very definition of what I do not want to do.

Beer Batter Bread

“Yeast frightens me,” my sister once confessed. What else do you buy at the grocery store that is actually alive? Maybe yogurt, but still. Yeast is dormant in a package, waiting to be “activated.” Waiting to take over your whole house!

I can’t bother to keep it around but I do usually have a bottle of beer, or a spouse who is willing to pick some up. Making bread with a bottle of beer tastes slightly malty but it will definitely do in a pinch! And if it’s snowing and you have nothing to eat your butter on, you could just make some. This recipe is good because you can even mix it in the pan you will cook it in.

Wait, if you did a bit of advance planning, or had a servant, you could probably do all of this from the couch. Or from bed.

It does yield a bread that’s good with savory rather than good with sweet. Great with soup or chili or a roast chicken.

Pasta

Duh, it’s one of the best treats around. I take any chunky shape at all and toss with an artichoke or truffle or walnut sauce that I keep in the door of the fridge, or oil and garlic and pepper or butter and grated cheese — whatever will complement whatever else is on the roster.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2010 1:20 pm

    yay for this post!
    I shop at Costco cause I live in one of those places, but maybe you have access to this product that I could not live without. First it was the uncooked white flour tortillas, which you just throw in a pan (or on your cute little comal, if you have one) and cook for a bit on one side, then flip and cook on the other. So yummy and so easy. But now they have the same thing except healthier, and it’s called Uncooked Whole Wheat Roti or something like that, and the package gives directions the same that I just described as for the tortillas, but it also says if you are making a lot of them you can just turn on the broiler and throw some of the roti on the top rack and that’s my favorite, especially because one time I caught one on fire that way.

  2. Becca V. permalink
    May 27, 2010 10:12 pm

    Meredith, have I already told you that i am a very committed devotee of your blog? And have I already told you that we are near neighbors (we’re in Windsor T.)? But– what I really wanted to tell you is that i made the roasted shrimp and broccoli over couscous tonight, on your recommendation, and sure enough–it took ten minutes to make and was a huge hit.

    hope you’re hanging in there with all your trials, tribulations and adventures…

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