Mothers of Invention

Donna Goldman Issue: Section:

“As long as you have a pot with a top, we’re gonna make rice”


My friend Fern who’s moniker, The Mother of Invention, I never let her live down called sometime after 9PM the other night to say she had a bag full of her Delaware garden grown oversized zucchini, various hot peppers and tomatoes that needed to be cooked up. Fern lives quite the Recipe$ 4 Survival lifestyle. She’s married, living in Delaware while also continuing to work and maintain her E. Village apartment that she’s had for nearly 20 years.

Because my apartment is in complete disarray looking a bit like a Salvation Army due to the paint job that began just after the 4th of July, I jumped at the chance to cook and get out of my place. I think it came as a surprise to Fern that I’d be coming over there, because we’ve never cooked at her place. I explained my situation, I heard her inhale and then she suggested a tomato & zucchini over pasta kinda thing. I pictured watery slices of zucchini and tomatoes in a skillet and spaghetti boiling in a pot. Not a vision I was thrilled with at all. I said, “No, Let’s do a rice dish. I’ve got some gorgeous rice”. While still on the phone I began packing up one of these new hip “I used to be a plastic bottle bag” with a plastic bag of organic sushi rice I bought in bulk, one of my good knives and a hunk of Parmesan as I heard The Mother of Invention herself saying “I’ve never made rice”, I was out the door.

When I got to Fern’s place on the lower edges of the E.Village, she had swiped such worldly contents as her revered Day of the Dead artifacts, various other cards and shells, miniature geodes ashtrays, jump drives, cough drops, matches, pony tail holders and barrettes aside leaving about half of her kitchen table pretty clear for workspace. While we figured out where we’d each prep our ingredients, Fern confessed (again) that she was never successful making rice. I explained that a lot of what has to do with the success of making rice has to do with what kind of rice you’re using. I wasn’t going to let this sway the idea I had in mind, especially once I saw the ingredients she had. “As long as you have a pot with a top, we’re gonna make rice.”

The pot and top we found had nothing to do with each other but I knew it would make do. I measured out one mug full of the organic sushi rice I’d brought over, washed that until the water ran clear and added the same mug of water and a little bit more, maybe a 1/4 cup. NO salt and got that up on a back burner. Rice is cooked by bringing the rice to a boil for about 5 minutes. After that the heat is turned down to a simmer and the rice steams for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Depending of course on what rice you’re cooking.

Even before I knew Fern had a ‘tomato knife’ I was going to take care of the tomatoes. I got to work on a small wooden cutting board near the sink. Fern would be on the zucchini. My intention was to cook the rice and fold the prepped tomatoes into the rice at the end of its steaming stage, put the top back on the pot, turn the heat off and let the tomatoes and rice rest and cook up together.

Now on the other side of the room, just before Fern took knife to zucchini, I don’t know where the flash of genius came from, but I got one and thought – GRATE the zucchini. I was channeling The Mother of Invention for this meal. Fern was on it, grating away onto a plate. She would also slice up some garlic.

I quartered the tomatoes, removed the seeds, cut the tough pulp out and cut what was left of the tomato into a medium sized dice. I used about 4 good sized tomatoes. I had the diced tomatoes in a bowl, I pinched a beautiful salt Fern had over them and sprinkled them with olive oil and tossed them in the bowl. No utensil. I let this sit while I minced up one medium sized Fern grown jalapeno and added this to the marinating medium diced tomato pieces.

We got a cast iron skillet hot and coated the bottom with olive oil, tossed in the garlic, infused the oil in just about that amount of time…two – three minutes then tossed in the grated zucchini, sprinkle with some salt, sauté for about five - seven minutes or until the zucchini is tender to your liking.

Next I got into plating our meal. I filled the mug I used to measure the rice out in the first place with the steamed rice, tomato & jalapeno, turned this upside down in a bowl and surrounded the rice with the sautéed, grated zucchini, topped with two whole basil leaves and freshly grated Parmesan.

OH right, a bottle of fine red wine, vodka lemonade and a Rothman for D.ssert.

So for a meal that could have gone south or nowhere really we made a meal we’ll both remember fondly I think because we learned a lot.

Here’s to Mothers of Invention living strong.

Garden grown TOMATOES - seeded and cut into medium dice

Garden grown ZUCCHINI - grated

Short grain RICE - steamed

Optional - Jalapeno - small minced  

wine & friend recommended

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