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Food
Curried rice capitalizes on fresh, frozen vegetables

Thursday, October 11, 2001

By Suzanne Martinson, Food Editor, Post-Gazette

When we called Melinda Pietrusza of the North Side to tell her we'd selected her recipe as a Countdown to Dinner winner, she took a deep breath and paused. For good reason.

 

She said she had a baby in her arms, and "I happen to be watching a friend's 6 month-old today."

Add to that her own 2-year-old son, and some would say Melinda had her hands full. Still, she took time to talk to us about her Easy Curry Rice Bowl, which starts with ground beef and goes from there.

Truth is, we'd already tasted the dish that she calls "my version of Hamburger Helper" -- and liked it. We'd even enjoyed the leftovers for a lunch at work.

"It is just about as fast and easy as the numerous prepared packaged mixes, and it is healthier and more interesting," Melinda says.

We agree. There are plenty of variations, too, by using whatever fresh or frozen vegetables are on hand. "I also sometimes substitute a whole boneless chicken breast, cubed, or an eggplant, cubed, for the ground meat, sauteing either in olive oil before adding the other ingredients."

Initially, we worried that we wouldn't be able to come in under the 30-minute deadline, but we did. Barely. We cheated a little by taking time to chop only one pepper, instead of the two listed, but later realized we could have added the second one as the rice cooked.

Melinda developed the dish herself. She's originally from South Carolina and Virginia, and, growing up in the South, "we ate rice with almost anything. I love curry. At different times, I may use different spices."

Though she buys big bags of long-grain, raw rice, if your time is super-tight, you could use converted rice --it's partially cooked so it cooks a bit faster.

Melinda and her husband, Joe, have lived here for eight years, recently moving from Troy Hill to the Spring Hill area.

Growing up, she says, she moved many times with her family, "from Indiana to Texas, and all parts in between."

Her father was a troubleshooter in the hotel business. "The more successful he was in his job, the more we would move," she recalls. "I went to five high schools and four colleges."

It was a mixed blessing. "I met a lot of people, and I'm very easy-going and adaptable," she says. "But for my own children, I'd like to give more stability and a place that feels like home."

That place for 6-month-old Lidia and 2-year-old Linus, she believes, is here. "I love Pittsburgh -- it's a wonderful city."

Melinda's a full-time homemaker now, but she used to work in development at the Mattress Factory. "When Linus was a baby, I was allowed to take him to work there, but with two . . ."

EASY CURRY RICE BOWL

1 pound ground beef
2 bell peppers
1 small onion
1-pound bag frozen cauli- flower
2 teaspoons mild yellow
curry powder (more or less to taste)
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large lidded skillet, brown ground beef over medium high heat.

Place cauliflower in a dish and microwave on high for 2 minutes to defrost.

While meat is browning, dice peppers and onions, When meat is browned, add all vegetables, curry powder and rice to skillet. Stir while adding water. Continue stirring over high heat until mixture boils. Cover skillet and lower heat. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until rice is done. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional curry powder, if desired. We used 1 teaspoon of hot yellow curry. Serve in bowls. Serves 4 as main dish with salad.


Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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