Rice is a staple food in many kitchens around the world. One of the oldest grains to grace our palettes, it’s quite often under appreciated and overlooked. Well, we think it might be time to give rice it’s due credit…
Rice is a cereal grain and one of the most important staple foods for a large part of the world’s population. Humans worldwide get more than one fifth of their nutrition and calories from rice on a daily basis, and comes only second in consumption after corn. Rice may seem bland and boring at first glance, but it contains over 15 vitamins and minerals and is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. Some varieties contain high quality proteins and all eight essential amino acids. Rice is a very important part of many kitchens, including in Brazil where we love our rice!
Can you believe that there are more than 40,000 different varieties of rice? Basically, we’re most familiar with the long, medium and short rice, brown rice, wild rice, arborio rice and some aromatics varieties. They all have very different cooking caracteristics.
Long Grain Rice: is long and slender – used for paella, pilafs, stir fry, and salads.
Medium and Short Grain Rice: has a shorter , wider kernel, and when cooked has a tendency to cling together.
Waxy Rice: is the US sweet rice – short and plump.
Black Rice: has a black grain when raw but turns into deep purple when cooked, with a deep nutty flavor.
Aromatic Rice: has a a flavor and aroma similar to roasted nuts or popcorn. The better known aromatics are Basmati and Jasmine.
Arborio Rice: is a medium-length round rice that has a characteristic white dot at the center of the grain. With high startch content, it has an exceptional ability to absorb flavors and is used primarily in risottos.
Other varieties include Asian, Aldo, Bamboo, Bomba, and Botan rice… just to name a few.
You’ll find very different forms of rice in your local markets as well. Brown rice is one in which only the hull has been removed. When cooked it has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. It contains a lot of B complex vitamins.
The regular milled white rice is the one more often referred as the white or polished rice – the outer husk is removed and the layers of bran are milled until the grain is white. Parboiled is a variety which has gone through a steam pressure process before milling, ensuring more firm and separate cooked grains.
Rice was one of the first dishes that I learned to cook as a child. Every day we had rice for lunch, paired with Brazilian Black Beans. My method of preparing rice is very simple…
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups rice
- 4 cups broiling water
Rinse the rice and drain very well.
Saute the onion in the heated oil until translucent. Add the rice and stir for about 3 minutes. Add salt to taste. Pour the hot water into the pan and turn down the heat to low. Cover and let it cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the grains are soft.The key is not to lift the lid during cooking!
For an even simpler way to make rice, consider a rice cooker. There are some great brands on the market. My youngest daughter loves rice (she’d have it for breakfast if she could) and her favorite cooker is the “Oster” brand, which costs around $25.00.
Although there’s nothing better than plain white rice, sometimes it’s fun to dress things up. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is a recipe the crowd really enjoys…
Holiday Rice Salad
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 pound small pearl onions, blanched and peeled
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups wild rice
- 1 1/2 cups long rice
- 2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1/2 cup small dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Melt the butter and saute the pearl onions until golden. Set aside and reserve. Yes, Paula Dean would be proud, I do use all the butter… it gives a great taste to the rice and after all… it is only on special occasions!
Next we cook the rice in chicken broth until all the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender. I tend to cook the rices together. Saute the onion in oil. add the wild rice and broth. Cook for about 30min and then add the long grain and cook for another 15 to 20min until the broth is completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper, thyme and vinegar, and let it rest at room temperature until ready to serve. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. When it comes time to serve, toss gently with the fruits and nuts until well combined.