When Scott and I first met, I used to come over to his place fairly often for breakfast before we ventured off for the day. Considering we were both in college at the time and had very limited budgets, our morning meal together was usually oatmeal, pancakes, or sometimes scrambled eggs with toast. One morning Scott offered up that we should make some Cream of Wheat.
Now I know lots of people like Cream of Wheat and even today it conjures up memories of old commercials where happy children come inside after playing in the snow to a warm bowl of the stuff. You know the one, right? Well, I knew I didn't like the stuff, but our relationship was still young and I hadn't tried it in a long time, so I decided to give it a go.
He cooked it up, I filled my bowl and put a little brown sugar and milk on top, just like I would my oatmeal. I sat down at the table and really tried hard to like it, but after my third bite I gave up. Then I looked at Scott's bowl. He had scooped so much brown sugar and milk on top, that I might as well have asked "would you like some Cream of Wheat with you brown sugar." His defense was that it made it taste good. Case in point, he didn't really like the stuff either.
So when I saw the recipe for Semolina "risotto" and it said you could replace the semolina with Cream of Wheat, I had to think about it for a moment. Was I going to enjoy this? Would it bring me back to that fateful morning when I couldn't even finish my meal? But the idea of rosemary, mustard seeds, and potatoes won me over and I decided to try it, although I still went with the semolina instead of Cream of Wheat.
I'm so glad I did. It's meant to be a side dish, but I turned it into a meal itself by adding a bed of lightly cooked kale and a fried egg on top. Oh, I now crave this meal. I could eat it for breakfast lunch, or dinner. I'm contemplating having it served at Thanksgiving next year to replace stuffing (another item of food I can easily go without, sorry stuffing lovers out there, more on this another time). The potato and seasoning are what make it stand out, imagine your favorite potatoes roasted with rosemary and salt and pepper, now add the semolina, the result is an added light and fluffy texture, that is satisfying and filling.
A little history; this dish comes from India and is there version of an Italian risotto, but instead of using rice and dairy, they use semolina and water or vegetable stock, and they call it "uppama."
Semolina "Risotto" with Potato and Rosemary
Adapted from World Vegetarian
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons blanched almond slivers
1 medium boiled potato (4-5 ounces) cooled, then cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crushed
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (6 ounces) semolina or Cream of Wheat (the kind that takes 10 minutes to cook)
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
Put about 1 3/4 cups or a few tablespoons more water in a kettle and bring to a boil.
Put the oil in a large, heavy, nonstick frying pan and set to medium heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, add the almonds. Stir and fry until the almonds barely turn golden.
Now add the potato. Stir and fry until the pieces have browned on all sides. Add the rosemary and black pepper and stir once.
Now add the semolina or Cream of Wheat and salt. Stir and fry it for 4-5 minutes, or until the granules are golden. Turn the heat down to low. Slowly add boiling water, a little at a time, stirring it until it is absorbed before adding more. Keep doing this until you have used up the 1 3/4 cups water. Take about 5 minutes to do this. If all the granules are not moistened, add another tablespoon or two of boiling water. Now keep stirring and cooking on low heat for another 10 minutes, or until each grain is light and fluffy.
Serve hot. In the summer, this dish may be served at room temperature.