Monday, December 2, 2013

Spice It UP!!! Rice

Rice, along with corn and wheat, is a leading food source for humans.  According to World's Healthiest Foods, half of the population of the world gets half of their caloric intake from rice--WOW!  Rice is rich in vitamins and minerals.  Brown rice has more nutritional value because the process to make the rice white (removing layers of the rice and bleaching it) takes out most of the nutrients.  Whenever I make rice, it will be brown rice because of this main reason.

{Brown rice}

Rice originated in Asia, but it is now grown on every continent except Antarctica.  Rice requires a large amount of water, or a wet environment, to grow.  It is also one of the only crops that can be planted in the same plot, year after year, and most farmers can plant an average of 3 crops in one year!

Although there are several different varieties of rice, only a few are very well known.  Some of the most popular varieties of rice include:
  • Arborio: A round grain, starchy white rice, traditionally used to make the Italian dish risotto.
  • Basmati: An aromatic rice that has a nutlike fragrance, delicate flavor and light texture. 
  • Sweet rice: Almost translucent when it is cooked, this very sticky rice is traditionally used to make sushi and mochi. 
  • Jasmine: A soft-textured long grain aromatic rice that is available in both brown and white varieties. 
  • Bhutanese red rice: Grown in the Himalayas, this red colored rice has a nutty, earthy taste. 
  • Forbidden rice: A black colored rice that turns purple upon cooking and has a sweet taste and sticky texture.

When buying rice, especially brown rice that is pre-packaged, check the use by date as brown rice can go rancid because of the natural oils found on the rice.  Brown rice should be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.  Cooked rice is more controversial; some say just make enough for the day, but others say it will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.  I haven't had issues with storing cooked rice in the fridge for several days; I usually cook a big batch and grab from it during the week to save time!

To cook rice, a 1:2:3 ratio is typically used (e.g. 1 cup rice to 2 cups water/broth makes 3 cups cooked rice).  I have always had to add more water/broth, especially with brown rice, but that ratio is a great starting point.  A trick I like to use when cooking rice is to soak rice for at least 8 hours prior to cooking.  This softens the grain which cuts cooking time in half!

Sources:  World's Healthiest Food, Cambridge World History of Rice, and International Rice Research Institute

Now the good stuff--recipes!!!  Here are some recipes that have rice in them:

Beef Curry
Butter Chicken
Cauliflower Rice
Chicken Vindaloo
Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken
Jamaican Beans and Rice
Red Beans and Rice
Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Sauce

I'm really getting into using rice noodles instead of traditional pasta because it's gluten free and easy to make.  All rice noodles need are a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes!  Love it!  Plus, I can now find it in the Asian section of my local grocery store.

Do you use rice?  It's much cheaper and more nutritious than pasta so you bet that I use it more often than pasta!

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