Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How To Make Really Good Rice

Rice.

It's plain. Starchy. Brown or white usually, but sometimes red, black, and purple. Goes with a lot of things. Often swept under meat or vegetables. About as exciting as, well, rice.

But guess what? For over half of the world's population, rice is a staple food. Twenty percent of the world's dietary energy supply comes from rice (wheat rings in at 19%). Rice has given us something like 12,000 years of it's time, so let's give it just a few minutes of ours.

How To Make Rice
Lots of people use a rice cooker. I've never understood that. To me, rice cookers are another one of those single-purpose gadgets like a strawberry huller or a banana slicer. It takes up much less drawer space to just eat around strawberry leaves.

To make a basic pot of rice, you need only three things: a pot, rice, and water - 1 part rice to 2 parts water. Put the rice and water in the pot and bring it to a boil. Simmer the mixture, fluff it (a fancy word for "stir") once in a while with a fork, and when there is no more water your rice is done.

How To Make Slightly Better Rice
There are a few simple things you can do improve upon this basic pot of rice.
1. Add a dollop of oil to the pot before you start to boil it. This gives your finished pot of rice a nice texture.
2. Use good rice. Forget about Uncle Ben and his 90-second plastic pouches. My favorite type of rice is Basmati, literally "the fragrant one". It's a long-grain rice that is used in a lot of Indian cooking. Basmati comes in brown and white varieties and I think both are equally tasty. White basmati takes about 20 minutes to cook, while the slightly more nutritious brown basmati takes 30-40 minutes.
3. Try boiling your rice in vegetable broth instead of water. The 2-to-1 rule still holds, and it's a tasty alternative!

How To Make Really Good Rice
Dan and I recently enjoyed this Pea, Potato, and Lentil Curry. Rather than making plain rice or even Slightly Better Rice to go along with it, I decided to try this Sidelicious recipe that sounded like it would come close to emulating the rice at our favorite Indian restaurant. As you may have guessed, the end result was Really Good Rice.
Ingredients
1.5 cups basmati rice (we used white, but I think brown would turn out just as good)
4 garlic cloves
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
2-3 cups vegetable broth (save veggie scraps to make your own!)

Directions
Heat the coconut oil in a pot that will be big enough for your rice. Add the onion and saute on medium heat until it's transparent, just a few minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes (4-5). To this, add the rice and cumin seed and fry it all together for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Next, add the turmeric and mix it in until everything is yellow. Add 2 cups of your broth.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer with the lid of the pot on but tilted to allow steam to escape. Keep an eye on it, and give it a stir once in a while. If all of the liquid gets absorbed but your rice isn't soft enough, add a bit more until it is. For white basmati, it should take about 20 minutes; brown will take longer.

I think what really made this rice turn out well is that I made it about 2 hours before dinner (because that's when I had time) and we let it sit in the pot, lid on and burner off, until we were ready to eat it. Because of the spices in this recipe, I think this rice would be best eaten either by itself or with an Indian-inspired curry or masala. Our curry and rice combo turned out so well it's one of my new favorite dinners.

For more real food recipes and healthy lifestyle ideas, visit Real Food Wednesday.

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