Rice is a mainstay of the diet for over half of the world’s population, and for some it is the only source of protein.
Most of the nutrients in rice are in the bran layer that surrounds each kernel. Unfortunately it is eaten too frequently in a highly refined, less-nourishing state.
Rice is easily digested, contains very little fat or sodium and, since it has no gluten, it is ideal for those on a gluten-free diet. When it is eaten in its less-refined forms, it is also a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, which makes brown rice the most nutritious form to select. Brown rice will also have the most flavor.
It is helpful to know some of the basics of cooking with rice.
The varieties of rice can be divided into long-, medium-, and short-grain. The primary difference between these three types is in how they behave when they are cooked.
- Long-grain rice: When cooked, the grains are fairly dry and fluffy and separate well from one another. Therefore it is best when used in soups, pilafs, or salads, whenever you want the grains to be distinct.
- Short-grain rice: When cooked will stick together, making it a good choice for dishes to be eaten with chopsticks and is often used for sushi.
- Medium-grain rice: This rice is more tender than long-grain and shares some of the sticky qualities of short-grain. It is often used when a creamy consistency is desired, such as for puddings and custards.
Within those categories of rice there are many varieties.
- Basmati rice: This long-grain rice is grown mainly in parts of India and Pakistan and has a somewhat sweet flavor and aroma.
- Texmati rice: This rice, which is grown in Texas, is a cross between a domestic North American long-grain rice and basmati rice.
- Arborio rice: This is a pearly short-grain Italian rice that has a creamy texture when cooked.
- Wild rice: This is not a true rice but rather the seeds of a North American aquatic grass. Because it is rather difficult to grow and harvest, it tends to be expensive. Wild rice is very good for you since it is never refined.
When choosing the type of rice to be used in a dish, consider what characteristics the finished dish should have. When preparing the rice, follow the cooking directions on the package, since the amount of water used and the cooking time will vary with the type of rice used. To save time when cooking time is short, rice can be cooked in advance and kept in the freezer.
New Orleans Stroganoff
Stroganoff doesn’t have to be made using beef with mushrooms and served over noodles. This recipe is a different take on the traditional dish and is made with pork chops seasoned with a Creole seasoning and combined with rice rather than noodles.
Prepare the rice with chicken broth rather than water for additional flavor.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound boneless pork loin chops, cut into ¼-inch strips
1 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
¾ cup chicken broth
½ cup sour cream
3 cups cooked rice
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Sprinkle Creole seasoning over pork. Add pork to skillet. Cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until pork begins to brown. Remove pork from skillet.
Add onions; cook and stir until onions begin to soften and brown.
Return pork to skillet along with broth. Simmer 2-3 minutes, or until liquid is slightly reduced. Reduce heat to low, and stir in sour cream until blended. Add rice, and cook 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with parsley.
Source: “Quick Tips,” USA Rice Federation Brochure.
Quick Skillet Supper
You can have dinner on the table in no time with this hearty steak and rice dish made using a rice mix. Begin cooking the rice before starting the steak, since it will take longer to cook.
Cook the rice in beef broth for additional flavor.
1 pound top round or sirloin steak, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup chopped green onions
1 package (4.3 to 6.25 oz.) long grain and wild rice mix, prepared to package directions
1 (7 oz.) can whole kernel corn
1 (16 oz.) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
Brown beef in oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook one minute longer. Add rice, corn, and tomatoes. Cook until thoroughly heated, about 2-3 minutes.
Source: “Rice ‘N Ready”, USA Rice Federation Brochure.
Summer Garden Rice Salad
Spring is coming, and along with it fresh garden produce. Toss fresh garden vegetables in with cooked rice and enjoy this lovely main-course dish this summer. It is best tossed together just before serving. Vary the ingredients as desired. Add cooked chicken or seafood if you wish.
Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish.
For the salad:
2 cups cooked rice, preferably brown
1 small zucchini, diced attractively
1 small yellow summer squash, diced attractively
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1 cup string beans, steamed briefly and cut in ½-inch pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, steamed briefly if desired
1 small red bell pepper, cored and diced
Kernels from 1 steamed ear of sweet corn
Several fresh basil leaves
2 ripe tomatoes, diced, or 10 cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Assorted salad greens to line serving plate
½ cup black olives
¼ pound mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons herb vinegar, preferably basil or thyme
4 tablespoons olive oil
Combine all the ingredients listed from the rice through the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.
Mix the dressing by dissolving the mustard in the vinegar, and then adding the olive oil. Add to the rice mixture to taste; season with salt and pepper.
Make a bed of salad greens on a large platter and arrange the rice mixture on it. Garnish with the olives and mozzarella.
Source: “Grains and Pasta, Food Essentials” by Carol Spier.
Stir-ins for rice
If you enjoy creating your own recipes, try any of the following suggested stir-ins to the hot cooked rice as idea starters for creating your own flavorful dishes.
- Butter and Parmesan cheese
- Peas and freshly chopped mint
- Crushed pineapple and green bell pepper slices
- Garbanzo beans, shredded carrots, ripe olives, parsley, and ricotta cheese
- Black beans, minced red onion, chopped bell pepper, chopped cilantro, and vinaigrette
- Sauteed mushrooms, snow peas, and sliced water chestnuts
- Fresh avocado, tomato chunks, fresh cilantro, and lemon juice
- Scrambled eggs, sausage, and green onions
- Yogurt and fresh fruit
- Sliced apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, chopped nuts, and vanilla yogurt
Source: “Rice 101 Everything you Need to Know about Cooking with Rice.” USA Rice Federation Brochure.