Not Just Tofu

Article: Rice is Exciting

In Cooking Tips, Editorial, Recipe, sides on January 27, 2011 at 1:11 am

Coming from a West Indian family, rice is served almost everyday.  We eat white rice, but we also eat “Rice and Peas” which could be made with small red beans, pigeon peas, coconut milk and thyme.  If you get the right cook making your West Indian “Rice and Peas”, you can eat it all on its own.  Now as an adult, I see that rice is not just something you put on the side; Rice can make or break a meal, especially if you are a vegetarian.

So are you eating rice?  How often?  Are you eating the same rice with every dish.  Here are just a few tips on how to use rice to enhance your meal.

Jasmine Rice: This is the rice you get when you eat Asian food, be it Chinese, Thai or Japanese.  It has a floral fragrance with light grains and slightly sticky texture.  Don’t cook it like you would regular long grain rice because you will over cook it.  Instead of 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice, use 1 1/2 cups of rice for 1 cup of rice.  It taste great with anything containing soy or Asian-style curries which have coconut milk. Next time you make rice pudding, try using Jasmine rice instead of long grain, you won’t believe the difference.

Basmati Rice: This is the rice you get when you eat at Indian restaurants.  It has earthy fragrance, firm grain and nutty taste which some people like or don’t; I personally love this rice.  Cook it as you would cook long grain rice but over a lower flame.  Basmati rice comes in both white and brown.  This rice goes well with all things Indian and curried.

Wild Rice: This form of rice is high in protein.  It is nutty and earthy in fragrance and taste.  It is also the most costly of  the rice family because of where it grows and how it is harvested.  Like brown rice, it can take 2 to 3 times the amount of time to cook it verses long grain white rice.  If you have the patience, you can serve it wherever you would serve long grain rice.  I like to call this an entertaining rice because it looks so sophisticated on the plate.  If you want to add another note of flavor, cook the rice in vegetable broth instead of water.

Brown Rice:  This rice is the new popular favorite in rice (still not one of mine). Brown rice is nutty and has a different texture from white rice all together.  When making the change to brown rice, be ready to for the change.  Unfortunately, it takes an average of 30-40 minutes to cook.  Thankfully companies have created instant brown rice, which can get from the stove to the table in 12 minutes.  I prefer “Uncle Ben” because the grains are not mushy.  High in protein, sturdy in texture, it is a great way to add protein to your meal. With a few vegetables you can create a great rice salad.

Long Grain Rice: This is the rice you grew up with.  It can be easily converted into fried rice, rice and peas and Spanish rice because of its neutral flavor.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t have protein like its sibling.  The best way to give this rice a nutritional kick is by combining  it with vegetables and broth. 

Rice Mixes: DO NOT USE!  I know you want to change-up dinner but it is a health no-no.  First, they are high in sodium which is no good for your blood pressure.  Secondly, most of them contain MSG which has been linked to cancer.  Lastly, they are laced with chicken fat or chicken byproduct which is not what you want to do.  When you want to change-up rice, the easiest way is to boil the rice in vegetable stock or season with spices like paprika and Mrs. Dash. 

So the next time you are going to cook dinner, think about which rice should you use to take your meal to the next level.  You could use the rice you grew up with or you could use one that is being used on the other side of the world. 

Recipe: Rice Pilaf

  • 1/4 cup of Orzo (rice shaped pasta)
  • 1 cup of rice (brown or white)
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  1. Melt butter in medium sauce pan
  2. Quickly stir in Orzo and cook till lightly brown
  3. Mix in Rice
  4. Add vegetable stock, salt and pepper
  5. Cook rice according to package (15 for white, 30 for brown)
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