Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rice is Nice

Growing up in the midwest in the '50's, the only rice I ever ate was in pudding. This was great stuff, made with sweetened condensed milk and raisins, but it hardly prepared me for the naked grain, which I met for the first time in Youngstown's only Chinese restaurant. I was maybe 12 - finally old enough to go out to dinner with my parents - and I remember trying the bland white stuff and thinking, "And the Chinese prefer this to bread???"

But that was then. Now, rice is an almost-daily part of my diet. I make it plain, sticky with sushi vinegar, simmered in coconut milk and garlic, as risotto, part of a long grain pilaf, with roasted sweet peppers, olive oil and mashed pignolis, in rice noodles, as rice flour, etc and ad nauseum. This is logical - rice is a great-tasting and versatile GF grain. What is perhaps less logical is how many rice choices there are today in even the blandest, most suburban supermarket. My hometown, which culturally hasn't changed much since I was growing up, has stores where a half-dozen types are easily obtainable.

The most unusual rice I've tried recently was bamboo infused rice. I found it on Purcell Mountain Farm's website, and made some last week. Skipping the tough-sounding instructions on the back of the bag, I simply boiled with water and added salt at the end. It's great - and made some interesting looking and tasting spring rolls.

Re-scrolling Purcell's site to find the bamboo rice page reminds me of how wildly this grain has proliferated - at least in availability. In my humble and rice-loving opinion, this is one of the wonders of modern life. Or, to paraphrase that old Donna Summers song: So Many Grains, So Little Time.

Here's a favorite rice recipe:

Red Rice


1 cup short grain brown rice
2 medium-sized sweet red peppers
4 cloves garlic
1/3 medium sized red onion
1/4 cup pignoli nuts
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup + 1 TBLS olive oil

Process: Roast the two peppers in a moderately hot oven until skin blisters. Add garlic cloves to peppers for the last 20+/- minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
Remove pepper stem and seeds, and skin if it is tough.
Pound pignoli nuts in a mortar and pestle until they are pasty. Mash garlic with them.
Place peppers, pignolis, garlic and sugar in a food processor. Process to a sauce, then drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil to make a fragrant paste.
Chop onion finely. Using a heavy saucepan, heat remaining Tbls of oil to just below the smoke point. Add onion and caramelize, about 3 - 5 min. Add rice. Stir and heat until all rice is very hot.
Measure pepper mix, and pour atop rice.
Working carefully because liquid will boil, measure enough water to make two cups total liquid (when adding pepper and water together), stir, cover, and lower heat to simmer.
Simmer rice 30 minutes, then taste-test. It should be chewy but not too crunchy. Cook longer if necessary or remove from heat, stir and replace lid. Salt to taste. Serve hot.
Freezes well.

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