In a Jam – Brown Rice & Papaya

May 6th, 2011 / Comments 0

“If you’re ever in a jam, here I am,” is a line from the song “Friendship” written by Cole Porter. I know he wasn’t thinking about jams or jelly when he wrote that line but I have been. My most uncomfortable jelly moment occurred at a chic, cocktail party in Washington, DC. Waiters passed trays of hors d’oeuvres, conversations were peppered with dropped names, it was a party for ‘the movers and shakers’ on the political scene.

grapes In a Jam   Brown Rice & Papaya

Grapes - watercolor painting by Carol Egbert

There was caviar, pate, platters of unfamiliar cheeses and even an oyster bar. I was twenty-five years old and impressed. In the midst of this exotic spread, there was a chafing dish filled with sweet and sour meatballs that were irresistible. I asked a fellow meatball-spearing guest if she knew how the meatballs had been prepared. “Oh,” she said, “these are always served at Peter’s parties. He’s related to the Welch’s, the grape people, and this is his favorite way to eat grape jelly.” Trying to keep up my side of clever party banter I added, “Yes, of course, and the meat balls are filled with peanut butter.” With an un-amused shake of her head she said, “Actually, the sauce is made by combining equal portions of Heinz chili sauce and Welch’s grape jelly, the culinary merger of two important families,” and walked off.

Jam unexpectedly came to my rescue when I was a passenger on a Russian train traveling from Mongolia to Siberia in the mid 1980’s. I was weary and homesick and craved a pot of freshly brewed tea flavored with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sugar. I went to the dining car and asked the waiter, chef and busboy (all the same person), for a pot of tea.

The tea came in a small, dented metal teapot, along with a chipped mug, a spoon and a small pot of strawberry jam. I asked why he had brought me a pot of jam when there was nothing to spread it on. He explained that there were no lemons on the train or probably anywhere else in Siberia and, more importantly, real Russian tea was flavored and sweetened with jam rather than with lemon and sugar. I put half a teaspoon of jam into the mug, he shook his head, took the spoon and added a very rounded spoonful of jam to the mug, filled it with tea, stirred it vigorously, handed the mug to me with an expectant smile and hovered as I sipped. The tea was very strong and quite smoky, the addition of the strawberry jam made it palatable and a few hours later we parted as friends when the train pulled into the station in Irkutsk.

It was a jar of peach jam in my pantry that saved the day last summer when I was preparing the dressing for a brown rice and papaya salad for a potluck picnic. I had forgotten to buy a jar of mango chutney and had no time to make a trip to the market but I did have a jar a peach jam in the pantry. Combined with spices, vinegar and oil, it provided the sweet note that made the salad sing. Since then I always use peach jam rather than mango chutney when I make this salad. Here’s how I did it:

Brown Rice and Papaya Salad

I began by preparing the rice. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees, heated two and a half cups of water, one tablespoon of unsalted butter and one tablespoon of kosher salt in a saucepan. I put one and a half cups of short-grain brown rice into an eight-inch square, ceramic baking dish. When the water was boiling, I poured it over the rice, covered the dish tightly with aluminum foil and baked it for one hour. I uncovered the rice and fluffed it with a fork and set it aside to cool.

I cut a peeled and de-seeded large, ripe papaya into one-inch chunks. I put the chunks into a large salad bowl. I cut one medium red onion into quarter inch dice and put it into a small bowl of salted, cold water to eliminate the raw onion tang. I added one large red pepper cut into half-inch chunks, one finely minced jalapeno pepper, half a cup of walnuts, half a cup of raisins, the leaves from a bunch of cilantro, the rinsed and drained onion and the cooled rice to the papaya chunks.

For the dressing, I blended together two teaspoons of ground cumin, one teaspoon of ground coriander, one minced clove of garlic, three tablespoons of red wine vinegar, three tablespoons of olive oil and half a cup of peach jam. I stirred the dressing into the rice and papaya mixture and headed to the picnic that was jam packed with friends.

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In a Jam – Brown Rice & Papaya at Vermont food from a country kitchen – Carol

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