The joys of rice

Be it wild, long-grain or basmati, you can make this starch a star in your kitchen.

The joys of rice (photo credit: Courtesy)
The joys of rice
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Most recipes that are made with rice or go with rice are healthy, simple and fun to cook, even for people who don’t know their way around a kitchen. I grew up with rice, fell in love with it and practically cannot live without it. Now I am passionate about spreading the joys of rice and sharing a variety of cooking methods for rice and the perfect pairings.
Cooking perfect rice may be tricky. The consistency is all-important, and each type of rice requires a different method of cooking. For basmati, for example, you want it to be light and fluffy, with each grain perfectly separated. In sushi, however, you want the grains to stick together nicely but not get overly sticky.
To get fluffy rice, the ratio of rice to water should be a little less than 1:2. In other words, if you are cooking 1 cup of rice, use 1- 3 ⁄ 4 cups of liquid.
I like using chicken broth when cooking rice; it adds flavor. You can use water, vegetable broth or beef stock if you like. It all depends on what you’re serving with the rice and the flavors you want to enhance.
Time the cooking carefully, follow the instructions on the package or in the recipe, and lift the lid of the pot as little as possible. Lifting the lid will disrupt the cooking process.
When the rice is cooked (tender to the bite), leave the cover on the pot, remove the pot from the heat, and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Then fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
If you still don’t have luck making fluffy rice with these tips, cook your rice like you cook pasta. Bring lots of water to a boil, add the rice, cook until just barely tender, then drain the rice in a colander.
Return to the hot pot and cover; let stand for a few minutes to steam.
Serves 4
Bypass plain rice boredom by adding a little chopped onion and cooking the rice in chicken broth. If you have any fresh herbs in the kitchen, stir some in before serving.
✔ 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
✔ 1 small onion, chopped
✔ 1 cup long-grain rice
✔ 2 cups boiling chicken broth
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Add onion and saute, stirring until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes or until the rice becomes opaque. Remove from the heat and add broth.
Cover tightly and reduce heat to low; continue cooking for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss the rice with a fork to allow the steam to be released.
Serves 4
✔ 3 Tbsp. oil, divided
✔ 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
✔ 1 ⁄ 2 cup onion, diced
✔ 1 ⁄ 2 cup bell pepper, diced
✔ 1 cup chopped cooked meat or poultry
✔ 1 ⁄ 2 cup frozen sweet green peas
✔ 3 cups cooked rice
✔ 1 ⁄ 4 cup soy sauce
✔ 1 tsp. chili-garlic sauce
✔ Sliced green onions (optional)
✔ Chopped almonds (optional)
✔ Salt to taste
✔ 1 ⁄ 4 tsp. pepper
✔ 2 1 ⁄ 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
✔ 1 ⁄ 2 cup golden raisins
✔ 1 ⁄ 3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
✔ Fresh rosemary sprigs (garnish) Snip apricots with kitchen shears into small slivers.
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion, rice, cardamom, salt and pep- per until rice is toasted, about 8 minutes.
Stir in broth, raisins, almonds and apricots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium- low. Cover and simmer until broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.
Tip Use 1 cup brown rice instead of jasmine rice. Sauté 1 chopped green bell pepper along with the rice and onion and use 2 tsp. fresh thyme and 1 tsp. fresh rosemary instead of the cardamom. Use 1 ⁄ 3 cup toasted chopped pecans in place of the raisins, almonds and apricots.
Health points Dried apricots are fat-free and full of nutrients that are good for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, such as potassium, lycopene, beta-carotene and pectin. Plus apricots are a particularly rich source of iron.
While the drying process com- promises the apricot’s store of vitamin C, many of the other nutrients are enhanced.
■ The JCI, Jerusalem Culinary Institute is the first and only kosher mehadrin culinary insti- tute of its kind, offering career training in culinary and pastry arts.