Local Israeli, Jewish and Chinese groups recently celebrated the conclusion of the Israel China Cultural Festival 2012 with a banquet featuring vegetarian Chinese specialties and Israeli wines and desserts.
The festival and banquet were sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce and other area Jewish and Chinese organizations to highlight the many connections between Israel and the People’s Republic of China.
One of the courses was a light and tasty fried rice, seasoned with salt and pepper and filled with colorful bits of vegetables. The Israeli dessert was a platter of halvah, a sesame seed paste confection, and dates, prunes and raisins. These dishes inspired the recipes below.
The Brisket Fried Rice relies on flavorful brisket or pot roast (or even barbecued brisket) leftovers. Four Treasure Rice Pudding is my take on the Chinese Eight Treasure Rice. Halvah is available in Jewish, Middle Eastern and other specialty stores as well as in some supermarkets. I used the marble variety (plain mixed with cocoa).
Both of these dishes use cooked rice. Cool leftover rice in a single layer on baking sheets and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.
Brisket Fried Rice
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1⁄2 tsp. minced ginger
2 tsp. minced garlic
1⁄2 cup diced carrots (cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces)
1⁄2 cup diced celery (cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces)
1⁄2 cup diced snow pea or sugar snap pea pods (cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces)
2 cups shredded or slivered cooked brisket or pot roast
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1⁄2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1⁄4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1⁄4 cup very thinly sliced scallions (include white, light green and tender dark green parts)
1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
2 Tbs. minced cilantro
Heat oil in a large fry pan. Add ginger and garlic; sauté until golden. Add carrots and celery; sauté for 3 minutes. Add diced pea pods, sauté for a minute, then add shredded beef. Mix well and sauté until hot. Add in rice, mix well, breaking up any clumps and sauté until heated through. Mix in salt, pepper and scallions. Taste and correct seasonings if needed. Serve hot, drizzling a quarter of the sesame oil and a quarter of the cilantro on each serving.
Four Treasure Rice Pudding
2 Tbs. coconut oil or vegetable oil
4 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1-14 oz. can of coconut milk
1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. roughly chopped raisins
1⁄2 cup roughly chopped pitted dates
1⁄2 cup roughly chopped pitted prunes
3⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbs. crumbled marble halvah
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint
Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat, stir in rice to coat. Add can of coconut milk. Fill can with water, add water to rice mixture, stir well. Bring to a simmer. Add 1⁄4 cup sugar and salt. Cook uncovered, keeping at simmer, lowering heat if needed and stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened considerably but is still very creamy but not at all soupy. Mix 1 cup of raisins, dates and prunes with 2 Tbs. of sugar. Stir into rice. Simmer an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until dried fruit has begun to soften. Remove from heat. Stir in 3⁄4 cup of halvah. Spoon into serving bowl or individual dishes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with remaining 2 Tbs. raisins, 2 Tbs. crumbled halvah and the mint.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.