You wouldn’t believe all the things that can be made in a rice cooker.
My freshman year of college, I lived in half of a room on the third floor of a dormitory called “Complex A.”
I exaggerate only slightly when I say that from the outside, one could easily mistake the building for an abandoned housing unit in an inner city project. Dark, damp, and pathetic in comparison to the newly-built, freshman-exclusive dormitory across the road. All you had to do to earn a room there was write a 500 word essay. I however, neglected to do any research whatsoever on living arrangements before arriving at school, and thus was totally unaware that this building, complete with laundry units and kitchens on every floor, existed.
So I spent my year in the Complex. With a roommate who had the exact same name as me.
And to be honest, I really didn’t mind it. I have no idea how, because if today I had to live in a 10′ x 12′ space with another person, share a shower stall down the hall with eight other girls, and have zero access to kitchen facilities, I would lose my mind in no time. Hell, I almost lost it at a conference in the UK last summer not being able to brew my own coffee.
I was content in my little half of a room, but that’s not to say I didn’t get resourceful. Like every self-respecting college freshman, I had a mini fridge, as well as a miniature Keurig coffee maker. Then there was the contraband rice cooker. It was one of those things on the “do not pack” list, and it would have been confiscated had an RA found it. So I stowed it in a pillowcase in the back of my half-of-a-closet.
This was still back in my vegan days, so eating in the school’s cafeterias was a struggle. I kept cereal in my room for breakfast, and lunch and dinner were a whole lot of salads, veggie wraps, and vegetable stir fry’s from the stir fry station. I ate so much stir fry that I became great friends with the “stir fry man.” We still text each other every now and then. He came to all my performances, and once helped me move a full-sized upright piano from a storage unit 2o minutes drive away, all the way to the living room of my second floor apartment.
But that is a story for another day. Like I said, so much stir fry.
By mid year I was getting very sick of what the cafeterias offered, and obviously missed cooking. So I started smuggling “ingredients” from the salad bar in tupperware containers. I got busted so many times, but my question is, what difference does it make if I eat the food in the cafeteria or in my room? Apparently a big difference as far as school employees were concerned.
I would take the veggies and legumes and whatever else back to my room, and make meals out of them in my rice cooker. That thing was my all purpose vessel for sautéing, searing, toasting, and baking. But if you know how rice cookers work, they stay heated based on the weight of the rice, and automatically turn off when they sense the rice is done. Clearly I don’t really know the science behind it, but what I do know is if you put things in the rice cooker other than rice, the “on” button doesn’t stay down and therefore you have to hold it down yourself.
So this was me, nearly every night: seated on the floor, holding the “on” button down with my big toe, while I used my hands to sauté tofu and broccoli together in the bowl of my rice cooker, to serve over the soba noodles I’d also managed to boil in the rice cooker.
Sad vegan existence it was, but that rice cooker kept me from being hungry for the entire year. However I can’t say I’ve ever used a rice cooker since. No, that’d be too traumatic.
This Kale, Spinach, and Chickpea Rice Pilaf with Goat Cheese is made in a damn pot, because I have my own damn kitchen now in my own damn apartment. How liberating.
Everyone loves spinach & artichoke together in dip form, so why not swap the spinach for hearty kale, mix it with rice, and have yourself an amazing one-pot vegetarian entree? It’s so simple to prepare, comes together quickly, and makes great leftovers. The chickpeas add fiber and protein, and the cheese, while totally optional, make this pilaf worthy of a meal. I used goat cheese this time around, but feta would also be wonderful with the subtly Mediterranean flavors of lemon and dill. I also topped my bowl with a fried egg, because that’s the thing to do in San Francisco. Fried eggs on everything.
This rice also makes a great side dish. I’m thinking it would be a very welcome accompaniment to roasted chicken, or even lamb chops. Feel free to half the recipe, if you go this route. If you do as I did and add an egg, then it could definitely qualify as brunch food as well.
Lastly, if anyone attempts to make this recipe in a rice cooker, know you have my full support and admiration.
Kale, Artichoke, & Chickpea Rice Pilaf with Goat Cheese
Yields 6-8 servings
Hearty greens come together with Mediterranean flavors and textures to make a delicious one-pot vegetarian meal.
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. dried dill
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 3/4 tsp salt, to taste
- Black pepper
- 1 cup long grain white rice*
- 2 cups (3oz) roughly chopped kale, packed*
- 1 3/4-2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 (14oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
- 1 (14oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 5oz soft goat cheese, crumbled*
Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Stir in the garlic, dill, lemon, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute until fragrant.
Add the rice and kale* to the pot, and stir to mix with the onions and spices. Slowly pour 1 3/4 cup of vegetable broth in. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down so that the rice is simmering.
Cook, covered and undisturbed for 13-15 minutes. Remove the lid to check the rice. At this point it should be almost done cooking. If it still seems quite undone, replace the lid and cook an additional 3-5 minutes before checking again.
Stir the artichokes and chickpeas into the pot. If the mixture seems dry, add an additional 1/4 cup of broth. Cover once more and cook for 3-5 minutes longer.
Turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes in the pot.
To serve, spoon the pilaf into large bowl, then divide the goat cheese evenly over each serving.
*Rice is starchy, and can sometimes be difficult to cook properly. For best results, I recommended placing the raw rice in a fine-meshed sieve and running it under cold water until the water runs clear before cooking. This removes the starch that can make it clump together or become “gummy.” Often I’ll even soak the rice in cold water for a few hours beforehand.
*Long grain brown rice may be used instead of white, but you will need to cook it longer, likely 32-35 minutes instead of 13-15, and you may need to add even more broth than is indicated.
*I like my greens to be very tender. If you prefer them crisper and brighter, add the kale along with the artichokes and chickpeas, instead of with the rice.
*Feta instead of goat cheese is also great. For vegan, omit the cheese entirely.