Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Splice your life with rice

I wish I had a romantic story about rice and how I went on a special journey to its origin in South East Asia learning the time honored tradition of harvesting and that it was there my love for rice really took place. Alas, that’s not my story and that’s not where my affinity for rice began. It was merely around a kitchen table. My family and I gathered every night and enjoyed the simple pleasures of good wholesome food. The simple shape, size and consistency of the grain captivated me instantly. Rice became a household favorite.

Now you find that brown rice has become more and more prevalent in homes because of its higher content of nutrients compared to its plain white counter-part that has been hulled and polished to the extreme. Though I’ve changed the type, I’m still reminded of my childhood memories as it cooks in my house. The delightful smell creates a familiar aroma.

For more than 8,000 years the world has been consuming rice. It’s one of the most versatile and widely used grains across the board. It can be used in almost any style of cooking by adding seasonings, broths or ingredients. Rice can become a perfect side dish, main course or stuffing. It just depends on your preference.

Rice comes in three sizes; long, medium and short grain. Long grain rice is very meaty and is the most universal It tends to become sticky upon over cooking. Medium grained rice is a cross between long and short, but is best eaten hot because otherwise it becomes sticky and slightly mushy. Short grain rice is used in paellas or risottos and takes more time, energy and patience to cook properly.

All types of rice are a good source of magnesium. It’s great to reduce diarrhea and relieve hypertension. By thinking outside the box you can make rice into a dessert, breakfast cereal or even a fried cake (sweet or savory).

A few other varieties include wild and perfumed rice. Wild rice is very common and found in many restaurants across the country. Its flavor is a bit nutty and the consistency can be a slightly crunchy. Perfumed rice is more prevalent in ethnic cuisine. The floral scent is overpowering at first bite, but after a few tries the sensual flavor overwhelms the senses in a refreshing way.

The most important part of cooking rice is the preparation. It’s so important that Japanese chefs spend years learning how to clean and handle rice before they can move on to the fish. The preparation is a series of long rinses to remove the grit on the outside of the grain to prevent the rice from becoming gelatinous.

Grains are an essential part of our daily diet and it’s best to eat brown rice versus the processed white, but as I always say, “life in moderation”. We all need to feel like we can eat what we want, so we actually eat what we should.

Cooking Ratios:

Wild Rice- 1 part rice to 4-5 parts water

Basmati/Jasmine Rice- 1 part rice to 1 ½ part water

Long Grain Rice- 1 part rice to 2 parts water

Brown Rice- 1 part rice to 2-3 parts water

Arborio Rice- 1 part rice to 3 parts liquid (substitute water for stock)

Happy Cooking!

Chef Mary

Sign up for Hail Mary Food of Grace Thursday Newsletter.