Cooking with Rice

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PHOTOS: AMY REICHMAN/ENVISION
A tasty wild rice salad is just one of the healthy recipes you can make with rice.

It will come as no surprise to any member of my family that
I’m writing about rice, one of my favorite foods. I was the
“Queen of Rice” growing up, never tiring of ol’ “Uncle
Ben.” I despised eggs for breakfast, and preferred a bowl
of hot rice and milk topped with butter and cinnamon-sugar.
My mother seldom had the time for special orders, so I
looked forward to overnight visits at my grandparents who
would spoil me with my breakfast treat.

While I was obsessing over rice, my baby brother was
“Prince of Pasta,” throwing a fit if he missed his daily
fix of noodles or spaghetti. Young children seem to develop
carbohydrate addictions, perhaps because children listen to
their body’s needs over its desires. I’ve never had a
preschooler approach me with, “Boy, I sure could go for a
16-ounce steak!” It’ll take a few years of fast food
conditioning before a child’s desires turn to beef.

Young (and old) bodies need a diet rich in complex,
unrefined carbohydrates. Our American diets have, however,
have given us an overabundance of protein; only
vegetarians, body builders, and pregnant women should be
overly concerned about their protein intake. Instead we
could benefit by consuming more grains such as rice, which
is the staple food of over half of the world’s people.

Grains were once the dieter’s forbidden food. (No starchy
foods allowed!) However, we are now finding that because
whole grains are rich in fiber and low in fat, they are
excellent foods for weight watchers. Carbohydrates burn
more calories than protein because up to one-third of the
carbohydrates aren’t digested and are excreted, unabsorbed.
So some of the carbohydrate calories that you eat don’t
count. Complex carbohydrates are also high in fiber which
fills you up so you eat less–not to mention the
nutritional benefits of whole grains. Rice bran has been
shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect similar to oat
bran.

With all of the choices of different types of rice, and so
many interesting and flavorful varieties available on the
market, we don’t have to get stuck in a rice rut with plain
old white rice anymore.

Types of Rice

BROWN RICE

Brown rice is the whole unpolished rice grain with only the
outer hull removed and the rice bran and germ remaining. It
has a slightly nutty flavor and chewier texture than white
rice. It is also the only form of rice containing vitamin E
and substantial dietary fiber. (The quick-cooking variety,
although lower in nutrients, is still superior to white
rice–if saving 20 minutes is important to you.)

WHITE RICE

Converted : Of all white rices, converted is the
most nutritious one to buy. This is because the process of
steaming converted rice before milling forces about 70
percent of the nutrients back into the grain. There is some
protein loss and almost all of the fiber is lost.

Enriched : Some of the nutrients that are lost in
the polishing process are partially replaced in the
“enriched” brands by spraying them on the surface of the
rice. (Don’t wash “enriched” rice before cooking it.)

Instant : This rice is partially cooked and then
dehydrated, a process by which most of the nutrients are
lost. (Therefore I don’t recommend this type unless you are
in a real hurry.)

Popular Varieties of Rice

Long Grain
Either white or brown, long grain rice has the largest
kernels. After cooking, the grains remain fluffy and
separate, making it perfect for pilafs, salads, and poultry
stuffing.

Medium and Short Grain

Brown or white, these shorter grains have a cohesive
quality so they produce a stickier rice.

Arborio This is a short grain rice from
Italy used in risotto. When cooked, it produces a creamy
product with an al dente, chewy texture since it has the
ability to consume large amounts of liquid.

Basmati
White or brown, basmati is an aromatic long grain rice with
a nutty flavor grown in Iran or India.

Wehani
It is a brown, long grain aromatic rice which can be used
instead of wild rice and is much less expensive.

Wild Rice Wild rice is not truly a rice, but
the seed of an aquatic plant usually hand-picked in the
Great Lakes region.

Rice Recipes

Jambalaya

The Wishbone restaurant in Chicago serves delicious,
southern-style home cooking at affordable prices. One of my
favorites is their Jambalaya. Chef/owner Joel Nickson,
adjusted his recipe for us to prepare at home.

1 3 to 4 pound chicken fryer, poached
1 teaspoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup cajun spice (see below)
½ teaspoon saffron (1 ounce envelope) or 1 teaspoon
turmeric
3 cups hot chicken broth (saved from the chicken)
l½ cup uncooked white rice (do not use brown
rice)
2 medium red peppers, sliced into ¼-inch
strips
2 medium green peppers, sliced into ¼
inch-strips
¾ pound. Andouille* sausage or smoked sausage,
sliced into thin circles
Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional)
Shrimp
(optional):
7 to 8 medium shrimp in the shell
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cajun spice

Poach chicken in three cups water in covered pot on low
heat for about one hour. Preheat oven to 350° F. After
saving broth, de-bone and tear into bite-size pieces. Next,
sauté garlic and onion until soft. Stir in cajun
spice and saffron, then add hot broth, rice, peppers,
chicken, and sausage. Transfer ingredients into a deep
oven-proof casserole with a lid. Cover and bake for
approximately 40 minutes, or until rice is thoroughly
cooked. Taste to see if you prefer it any hotter. If taste
is too bland, add a few drops of hot sauce, such as
“Louisiana Hot Sauce.”

Bulk Cajun spice:

1 cup paprika (Hungarian preferred)
½ cup salt
1/8 cup (3 tablespoons) cayenne pepper
1½ tablespoons white pepper
1/8 cup (3 tablespoons) garlic powder (not garlic
salt)
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Shrimp preparation: In a skillet, heat oil and
sauté shrimp (in shell), garlic, and cajun spices
until shrimp is done. Serve placed on top of
Jambalaya.

*A creole sausage found at butchers or gourmet grocers.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto
This entree is at its best when prepared with fresh porcini
or shitake mushrooms. Since these mushrooms are expensive,
I buy a few ounces to add to regular mushrooms. Dried
mushrooms may also be used if fresh porcini or shitake are
unavailable.

½ cup pancetta (Italian bacon), diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound package arborio rice
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ pound mushrooms, chopped (porcini, shitake,
button)
½ cup pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese,
grated
1/2 cup parsley, chopped freshly ground pepper

In a small non-stick skillet, fry pancetta until brown; set
aside. In a large soup kettle, sauté garlic and
onion. Add rice and cook on medium heat for a minute or
two, stirring so rice doesn’t stick or burn. Never put a
lid on the pan. Add wine and cook for five minutes,
stirring occasionally. When rice becomes dry, add one cup
of chicken broth; cook for 10 minutes, stirring
occasionally. Add other cup of broth and cook for 10 more
minutes. Add water, cayenne, and mushrooms, cooking until
rice begins to stick and isn’t soupy. Stir in parsley and
cheese. Add seasonings and ground pepper. Serve topped with
extra parsley and grated cheese. Serves six.

Tomato-Pesto Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1½ cups arborio rice
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, chopped. Save
juice.
½ cup water
salt (optional)
freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
1/3 cup pesto sauce, homemade or bottled

In large pot, heat olive oil; add garlic and onions.
Sauté but don’t brown. Add rice and stir for one
minute. Add broth and cook on medium heat (uncovered) for
five minutes, stirring occasionally. When rice begins to
stick, add tomatoes and juice. Cook for about 10 minutes
until rice begins to stick again. Add seasonings, cheese,
and pesto. Serve immediately topped with grated cheese.

Pesto
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves (or substitute cilantro or
parsley)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil (or more if dry)
dash cayenne and salt
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

In food processor or by hand, chop garlic and nuts. Add
basil and chop. Add rest of ingredients and blend. Serve
immediately or freeze in plastic wrap–the pesto turns
brown quickly.

Broccoli-Cheese Pie
Crust:
2 cups cooked, warm rice
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Filling:
1 teaspoon oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 eggs
½ cup low-fat milk
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg freshly ground pepper
1½ cups low-fat cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a nine-inch pie pan, mix
rice, butter, oil. Pat on bottom and sides. Bake for five
minutes and remove. Sauté onion for about one minute
in a small skillet or in the microwave. Place onion and
broccoli on top of crust. In a blender or food processor,
mix eggs, milk, pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over
broccoli and onions. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Bake 30
to 35 minutes until a knife placed in the center of pie
comes out clean. (Don’t over-bake or broccoli will be
overcooked.)

Southwestern Salad

2 cups long-grain, cooked brown rice (works best cooked
at least one day before and refrigerated)
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 15 ounce can of small red beans (kidney or black beans
can be used instead)
1 green or red pepper, chopped
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
½ cup cilantro (or parsley), chopped

DRESSING:
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 small hot pepper, minced or ¼ teaspoons cayenne
pepper juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoon chili powder pinch of sugar salt to
serve

Stir dressing into salad and chill for an hour or so before
serving.

Creamy Rice Pudding
This is a simple no-bake rice pudding to make with your
children. It’s good even for breakfast.

2 egg yolks
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups low-fat milk
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup golden raisins (optional)

In a blender put yolks, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon,
nutmeg, and milk. Blend until foamy. Pour into saucepan and
add rice. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until
pudding thickens slightly (about 20 minutes). It will
continue to thicken as it chills. Stir in vanilla and
raisins. Serve chilled, sprinkled with cinnamon.

Here are a few MOTHER tips for you from Lil Carry that
will add some sass to ordinary white rice. First, wash rice
with cold water twice. Then cover rice with an inch of
water. If you intend to eat the rice with fish or fowl, add
four chicken bouillon cubes before bringing the water to a
boil. If you plan to eat the rice with beef, drop in four
beef bouillon cubes.