The rice cooker was a lifesaver when making sushi in culinary school (and that’s about the only time we were allowed to use a household appliance). I found it to be useful because cooking rice perfectly on the stove is not as easy as one would think (and I’m not talking about the boil-in-bag kind). Outside of class, those cookers are convenient if you eat rice frequently, but never suited my personal cooking needs, or piqued my interest. Until I was shown the way, at least.

I was scrolling through my Google feeds — packed with various food blog posts — and stumbled upon an article about rice cookers from the New York Times. What’s this?! Not only can it cook perfect rice, but it can steam, bake, saute, braise, simmer, poach and more?

Turns out, you can make a whole meal in this contraption, and it doesn’t even have to include rice! Of course, you can make rice-based dishes such as pilafs, Italian risotto, Indian biriyani, Thai curry dishes, Chinese fried rice, rice pudding, etc. But you can also cook other grains and legumes — barley, oats, quinoa, lentils, beans — great bases for soups and one-pot meals. If you simply switch the machine to “cook” and let it heat up, you can also saute and braise. For example, to braise baby back ribs: add your liquid and ingredients of choice, close the lid and switch it to “cook.” It’ll be done in less than an hour.


As the temperature starts to rise (at least in this part of the country), its time for some refreshing and simple dishes for those hotter days, like my Asian-inspired cold soba noodle salad. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour and have a heartier, more substantial texture than regular pasta noodles. In Japan, they’re used in a variety of ways throughout the year: cold in the summer in a salad (like this one) or hot in a soup or broth in the winter months, and in a multitude of variations. Surprisingly enough, soba noodles are now more widely available now bring in the ethnic aisle many grocery stores. Or you could take a culinary adventure to your local Asian market and pick up other interesting ingredients to play with.