The Produce Bible includes tips on selecting, storing and preparing fruits and vegetables plus recipes like Belgian Endive with Olives, Anchovies, and Caperberries, Black Sticky Rice with Taro, and Poached Tamarillo with Vanilla Bean Cream Pots.
Vegetables: Roots and Tubers
Season: Available Year-Round
Taro is an old, old food plant, having been cultivated for longer than wheat or barley and predating rice as the starch of choice in parts of China and Southeast Asia. Taro is often sold as dasheen, a corruption of the French, de la Chine, meaning "from China." Taro is inedible raw; it contains the toxin calcium oxalate, present as crystals; these are destroyed by cooking. There is only one species but hundreds of varieties. All taro corms are either large, at 3 pounds 5 ounces, or tiny at about 2 ounces—these smaller corms cluster around the "mother" corm.
Small corms are blander in flavor and moister than the large ones. They are more suitable for plain boiling and steaming. Larger taro can be fibrous, dry, and mealy when cooked, with a nutty sweetness. Expect their flesh to be cream-colored or gray or lilac and, sometimes, flecked with purple or brown fibers.
Selection and Storage
Choose corms that are heavy for their size and check closely for blemishes, signs of mold, or wrinkling; they should smell pleasantly fresh. As taro do not store well, use them quickly once purchased, and store in the refrigerator for no longer than 2 days.
Put the black rice in a bowl and pour in enough cold water to come 2 inches above the rice. Soak for at least 3 hours or overnight if possible.
Drain the rice and add clean water. Scoop the rice through your fingers four or five times to clean it, then drain. Repeat two or three times with clean water to remove the unwanted starch. (The water will never be completely clear when using black rice, even when all the unwanted starch has gone.) Put the rice in a saucepan and add 2-1/2 cups cold water.
Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring the rice frequently as it reaches boiling point. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed. The rice should be very moist, but with hardly any water remaining in the bottom of the saucepan. Taste a few grains to check whether the rice is cooked.
Meanwhile, drain the taro, spread it on a plate, then transfer it to a steamer. Taking care not to burn your hands, set the steamer over a saucepan of boiling water over high heat. Cover and steam for 8-10 minutes or until the taro is tender.
When the rice is cooked, add the jaggery and gently stir until the jaggery has dissolved. Add the taro and gently mix.
Mix the salt into the coconut milk. Divide the black sticky rice among individual bowls and drizzle coconut milk on top. Serve warm.
This page created May 2007
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