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Liz Kleinman's Forbidden Rice

Photo by Eric Wolfinger. Mixing bowl from SHED.

In the February issue of 7x7, we pulled off a boar hunt and feast of epic proportions in Healdsburg ("The Omnivore's Delight," p. 44). Our lovely guests contributed to a beautiful potluck, and they've generously shared the recipes for some of our favorite dishes. They're proportioned for a crowd, so get the gang together for a delicious winter fête, and enjoy!

Liz Kleinman of Liz Kleinman Events & Culinary Arts is a jane of all trades when it comes to the food world. Not only is she a trained chef, but she's fostered a mad passion for the industry since growing up in Davis and working for CUESA, and she knows how to make any event a stunner with quirky touches of personality. Plus, she's downright delightful. For this recipe, she recommends roasting the three vegetables separately but at the same time for efficiency's sake. The entire thing can be done a day or two in advance, if need be—just combine the prepared ingredients right before serving. And while it works at any temperature—room, hot, or chilled—for a winter soiree, she assures that warm will certainly hit the spot.

Forbidden Rice with roasted kabocha squash, Meyer lemon fennel, balsamic onions

Serves 6 to 8

Forbidden rice:

1 1/3 cups rice (4 cups cooked rice)

Roasted fennel:

1 Meyer lemon (or regular lemon), zest and juice

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1 fennel bulb (cored and cut into half moons about ¼-inch thick)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup white wine (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Roasted balsamic onions:

1 medium to large purple onion cut in half moons about ¼ inch thick

1 to 2 cups balsamic vinegar (enough to nearly cover sliced onions)

Roasted squash:

1 medium size kabocha squash (about 2 pounds)

Dressing:

2 teaspoons high quality extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon cooking liquid from fennel

1 teaspoon grainy mustard

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

salt, pepper, and ground red pepper to taste 

1.    Cook the rice: Follow package instructions and cook in a saucepan or rice cooker with a pinch of salt.
2.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3.    Combine Meyer lemon zest and juice with ginger, fennel, olive oil, white wine (optional), and salt and pepper in roasting pan with lip (Pyrex dish, baking dish, or Dutch oven with lid off).
4.    Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. You want the fennel to still have a little crunch. You can brown under the broiler at the end.
5.    Drain off extra liquid, retaining 1 tablespoon for the dressing.
6.    Whirl roasted fennel in a food processor to chop finely and set aside.
7.    Combine purple onion and balsamic vinegar (enough to nearly cover sliced onions) in in roasting pan with lip.
8.    Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes. The onions will absorb the vinegar and get rather sweet.
9.    Drain off extra liquid, and whirl in a food processor to chop finely and set aside.

10. Wash and cut kabocha squash in half and roast for about 40 minutes on a cookie sheet or in a Pyrex pan with about a ½-inch of water.

11. After about 30 minutes, check the squash. Depending on how long ago it was harvested, it may take up to 50 minutes to cook. You want to be able to insert a fork still want some texture, so that it can hold it’s shape.

12. Remove and let cool so that you can comfortably work with it.

13. Scoop out seeds and pulp, discard, and cut into ½-inch cubes. The skin is terrific, has tons of nutrients, and great texture, so you can leave it on, discarding any funny squash bumps. Set aside.

14. For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients and put in a pan to warm in the oven. Can also be served at room temperature or chilled.

15. Combine rice with roasted fennel, onions, and squash, and toss with dressing. Serve warm.

Bonus: Make a topping of breadcrumbs, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and nuts (pecan, almond, and hazelnuts all work well). Just whirl everything together in a food processor, press on top of the dish, and bake or broil and serve. It adds a delightful crunch.