Rice With Stuff

Rice came to the table only as pudding when we lived in Potato Land. A little spaghetti drifted in on the sidelines, but rice seemed exotic, difficult to cook and not a dish to bring sighs of joy to the round oak family table.

Rice-curious nevertheless, I found Minute Rice tasteless and turned to Uncle Ben’s Converted, which was foolproof but still seemed like cheat’s rice. As I ventured into the culinary kingdoms both South and East, my shelves filled with Jasmine, Basmati, Arborio, sticky, brown, black and red rice—until rice became a pantry staple

To keep things simple, start with two types of rice: white and brown. For me that means Basmati and round organic brown rice. A rice cooker makes the preparation child’s play, but a heavy pot with a tight-fitting cover will suffice. Lately as I’ve been trying to incorporate more brown rice while quieting the “We want white” plaint, I’ve been blending the two. Since brown rice takes much longer to cook, I keep a bowl of chilled cooked brown rice and add it to white rice dishes halfway through the cooking cycle.

When leftovers seem to be taking over the fridge, make a rice and vegetable centerpiece for your meal and surround it with the remainders of roast chicken, spare sausage, baked eggplant, or flaked fish. This rice mixture, based on a pilaf model, can fit any season and can include almost any assortment of veg on hand. Here I’m using peppers and corn, but it works with carrots, celery and frozen peas; mushrooms and spinach; tomatoes and cooked lentils; roasted poblanos and Swiss chard. The possibilities are endless: once you begin with your base of sautéed onion, you’ll find comfort in the rice cookery that connects you to the global community.

Please note that the cinnamon stick used in rice should be Ceylon Cinnamon and not Cassia. Ceylon Cinnamon, usually known as Canela, is available wherever Latin products are sold. If “apple pie” cinnamon stick or Cassia is all you can get, use only a matchstick-size piece to keep the flavor in balance.

Rice With Stuff

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shards Ceylon Cinnamon, Canela

8 oz. onion chopped (2 cups)

4 oz. green pepper chopped (1 cup; 1 medium pepper)

4 oz. red pepper chopped (1 cup; ½ large pepper)

2-4 cloves garlic chopped

few slices hot green chili or pinch crushed red pepper (optional)

handful herbs, chopped (basil, marjoram, thyme, parsley)

l cup Basmati rice

1 1/3-1/2 cups water

1 cup corn kernels (cut from 2 cobs, or frozen or canned corn)

1 cup cooked brown rice

salt to taste

In a heavy saucepan with tight-fitting lid warm the cinnamon in olive oil. Add chopped onion and pepper; sauté until limp. Add garlic, chile, herbs and sauté until fragrant. Add Basmati rice, salt and sauté two minutes longer. Add water. (Use minimal amount if vegetables are juicy.) Cover and simmer 5 min.

Uncover; add corn and brown rice. Recover and cook another 5 min. Turn off heat and allow to stand 5 min. Uncover, fluff with fork, taste for seasonings and garnish sprinkling of fresh parsley. Serves 4.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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