Until recently, I thought of mochi, a Japanese glutinous rice cake, as an ingredient best suited to dessert. Whether served atop tart frozen yogurt or wrapped around green tea ice cream, this irresistibly chewy, slightly sweet ingredient seemed squarely in the realm of sweets. That is, until I started noticing slabs of the brown-rice version nestled up next to tofu, miso, and other Asian delights in my supermarket. Curious as to what to do with this mysterious ingredient, I snapped up a package and flipped through our office's collection of cookbooks until I found an enticing contender.
Firm and unyielding to pressure, the mochi remained mysterious until sliced into cubes (tip: use a sturdy, sharp chef's knife) and heated through. After a turn in the oven, the cubes puffed up as if by magic, their tender, chewy innards exposed between layers of crackly crust. Sliced open and stuffed with savory sesame-glazed vegetables, these puffy bites made for a satisfying dinner that I'll be turning to when looking for a fast and easy meal.