Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cranberry rice and book clubs

Cranberry rice
Are you part of a book club?

I joined my first book club in 1991, just after graduating from college. This was pre-Oprah, so the concept was new to me. Get together with other book lovers to read and discuss books? Oh, happy day: it was like college lit class without the term papers.

I was hooked.
Even though we move around a lot (every five to six years, historically), I have been in one book club or another almost continuously since that first one.  Right now, I'm in two clubs: one physical, one virtual.

I joined the From Scratch Club's virtual book club at its inception last year. The first book we read and discussed was Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal.  While we all enjoyed the book and Adler's gorgeous prose, the book club members were ultimately more interested in a "cookalong" type of book and format. The second book we tackled was Alana Chernila's Homemade Pantry; every two weeks we read and cooked recipes from two chapters in the book and shared our stories and creations through Good Reads and Facebook. It was great fun, made even more enjoyable by the author's participation in the discussions and willingness to give feedback and answer questions.

We're now into the third book: Liana Krissoff's Whole Grains for a New Generation; again, we're fortunate enough to have the author joining us our journey. This book will be bit of a challenge for me, as I'm fairly grain-ignorant. Because of the nature of the book, instead of cooking by chapter, we are cooking by grain type.

This week, it's rice -- a nice, easy introduction to the world of grains.

As I paged through the book (which has beautiful photos by Rinne Allen, by the way), one recipe caught my eye and I knew it would be the one I would make for the book club discussion: fresh cranberry rice. I think you can see, based on my photo in this post, why I was drawn to it. What a gorgeous color!

And the flavor did not disappoint. The tangy cranberries combined with the soft starchiness of the rice reminded me so much of the flavors of Thanksgiving -- cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing -- all rolled into one. I served it with a simple roasted chicken and kale salad.

I have already decided that this dish will become a regular on my Thanksgiving table each November. It's that good.

Better yet, it's simple to make and can practically be made ahead, if you cook and cool the rice as a separate first step. Liana's tip? Once the rice is cooked, spread it out on a large plate (I used a parchment-coated baking sheet) and store it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Perfect!

Given my aforementioned unfamiliarity with a lot of grains, I'm already looking forward to our next "assignment", especially because Liana offers several different methods for cooking each type of grain. If you want to cook along, there's still time to join our book club.

What is your book club reading this month? Does your club ever include cookbooks? The Ninj wants to know.

Cranberry Rice (from Liana Krissoff's Whole Grains for a New Generation)
You can use whatever kind of cooked rice you like in this dish: I chose brown rice. I also think it would make a phenomenal one-dish dinner by substituting Israeli couscous and adding some cooked chicken.

8 ounces whole cranberries (I used frozen; no need to thaw)
1 orange, to give you
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (a microplane grater is perfect for this)
  • thin zest strips for garnish
2-3 tablespoons honey (to balance the tartness of the cranberries)
2 tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups (thereabouts) cooked rice (I used brown)
1 teaspoon chopped dill

In a pan, combine all the ingredients except for the rice, dill and zest garnish strips. Cook over medium heat, as you would with cranberry sauce, until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is slightly thickened (this took about 5 minutes for me). Fold in the rice and dill, cook on low until heated through. Garnish with zest strips.


  1. Julianne,
    I saw your blog in the recent SDVT article, and had to come by for a visit. So glad to know about your site. I think a cooking book club is one I may actually be able to deal with. I was in a book club for a while, but was too stressed by reading the book in time, and keeping up with all of my subscriptions. One focused on cooking, food and eating... I'd make time to read that book in time! I love this recipe idea. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Katie -- thanks for stopping by! I look forward to checking out your blog: not only do we have a lot in common, we're also neighbors. Nice to meet you!

  2. I can't wait to watch you work your way through some grains.

  3. That cranberry rice looks beautiful! So glad you are cooking along with us again for this round of the book club :)