Sure, bulgur is nifty and quinoa is cool, but rice remains our No. 1 grain—the daily staple for more than half the world’s population (can you imagine Mexican or Chinese food without it?).
And while “serve over rice” may be the most overused phrase in any cookbook, rice is a lot more than a neutral go-with. From baking it into a fast, fat-free quiche crust to puréeing it into a creamy soup, this is one versatile grain. But with so many varieties available these days, choosing rice can be a bit daunting.
This guide makes grabbing the right kind as easy as boiling water.
LONG-GRAIN Cooks up light and fluffy with distinct grains
TRY: Fragrant jasmine, basmati, Texmati (basmati crossed with American long-grain), or hearty, nutty Wehani
BEST IN: Pilafs, fried rice, Indian recipes, steamed side dishes
MEDIUM-GRAIN Shorter and softer than long-grain; sticky when cool
TRY: Spanish paella rice and Chinese black or “forbidden” rice
BEST IN: Rice and beans, casseroles and Mediterranean dishes
SHORT-GRAIN Soft, creamy and sticky when cooked (chopstick friendly!)
TRY: Arborio or risotto rice, sushi rice and Bhutanese red rice
BEST IN: Rice pudding, risotto, sushi and stir-fry sides
THAI RICE PANCAKES
Serves 8 (makes 16 4-inch pancakes)
30 minutes or fewer
Why haul out a wok when you can get all the exotic flavors of Thai fried rice in these little pancakes? Make them with any kind of leftover rice, and serve them as an appetizer—garnished with grated carrots or mango slices—or for a light lunch with a green salad dressed in a sesame-ginger vinaigrette. Sriracha is a Southeast Asian hot chile sauce, available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets.
1 2 large eggs
1/4 cup low-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbs. minced ginger
2 cups cooked rice
1 bunch green onions, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. sriracha chile sauce or other hot sauce, optional
1. Whisk together eggs and coconut milk in large bowl. Stir in cilantro and ginger. Add rice, green onions, peanuts, flour and hot sauce, if desired, and mix well. Add a dash of salt and a grating of fresh black pepper, if desired.
2. Heat large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Drop 1/4-cup dollops of batter onto hot skillet. Smooth batter into flat rounds with spatula. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown. Flip pancakes, and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, or until both sides are browned and crispy. Remove pancakes to warm plate, and repeat with remaining batter.
PER SERVING: 134 CAL; 5G PROT; 5.5G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT. FAT); 16G CARB; 53MG
TURKISH RICE PILAU WITH EGGPLANT AND CHICKPEAS
Serves 8 ? Vegan
This fragrant dish was inspired by the Turkish method for making pilaf. Try it with Cucumber Raita.
3 medium-sized eggplants, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
11/2 cups basmati rice
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 24-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup currants
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Place colander in sink or bowl. Place eggplant cubes in colander, and sprinkle generously with salt. Toss to combine, and let sit 1/2 hour. Drain on paper towel–lined plate.
2. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, and cook 10 minutes, or until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer eggplant to plate lined with paper towels to drain.
3. Add 2 Tbs. oil to skillet; reduce heat to medium. Stir in onions and pine nuts; cook 5 minutes, stirring, or until onions are translucent. Add rice, and cook 5 minutes, or until pine nuts begin to brown. Stir in allspice and cinnamon; cook 1 minute. Add eggplant, tomatoes, chickpeas, currants, bay leaf and 3 cups water. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low; cover, and simmer 20 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat, and let sit, covered, 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.
PER SERVING: 347 CAL; 9G PROT; 12G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT. FAT); 54G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 326 MG SOD; 11G FIBER; 14G SUGARS
CREAMY MUSHROOM TART WITH BROWN RICE CRUST
Cooked brown rice makes an excellent quick—and gluten-free—press-in crust for savory pies and tarts. If you can’t find manchego, a mild, semi-firm Spanish cheese that melts well, just substitute Swiss or Monterey Jack.
Brown Rice Crust
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 large egg whites
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 medium-sized onion, halved and thinly sliced (about 11/2 cups)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/3 cup reduced-fat milk
1/3 cup grated manchego cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 8-inch pie dish with cooking spray.
2. To make Brown Rice Crust: Combine rice and egg whites in small bowl. Press mixture into pie dish. Bake 10 minutes.
3. To make Mushroom Filling: Heat 1 Tbs. butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add all mushrooms, onion, thyme and rosemary, and sauté 15 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated. Transfer to bowl using slotted spoon; remove rosemary and thyme sprigs.
4. Heat remaining 1 Tbs. butter in same skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and fold into mushroom mixture; add cheese.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Pour filling into crust. Bake 30 minutes, or until top of tart is browned. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
PER SERVING: 182 CAL; 7G PROT; 6.5G TOTAL FAT (3.5G SAT. FAT); 26G CARB; 15MG CHOL; 120MG SOD; 3G FIBER; 5G SUGARS
CHAI RICE PUDDING
Serves 8 ? Vegan
If you like chai tea, you’ll love this creamy, comforting dessert studded with apples and raisins. For the best flavor, choose a strong, spicy chai tea; we used Tazo’s chai tea bags.
31/2 cups unsweetened soymilk or low-fat milk
4 black chai tea bags
1 cup short- or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 medium-sized apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup dark raisins whipped cream for garnish, optional cinnamon for garnish, optional
1. Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup soymilk to a boil in large saucepan. Remove from heat, and add teabags. Cover, and steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing out any liquid.
2. Stir rice, sugar and salt into tea mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add remaining 21/2 cups soymilk, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, or until rice is soft. Stir in apple and raisins; remove from heat. Cover pot, and let sit 10 minutes.
3. Spoon pudding into 2-quart heatproof dish. Serve warm or cold, with whipped cream and cinnamon, if desired.
PER SERVING: 208 CAL; 5G PROT; 2G TOTAL FAT (0G SAT. FAT); 43G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 75MG SOD; 1G FIBER; 20G SUGARS
“CREAM” OF ASPARAGUS SOUP
Serves 8 ? Vegan
Puréeing an aromatic rice (such as basmati or jasmine) adds delicate flavor and creates a creamy, non-dairy soup base when blended with broth and veggies (in this case, asparagus) until smooth. This recipe also works well with 2 lb. broccoli—just reserve 1 cup florets to stir in at the end, the same way you add the asparagus tips.
2 lb. asparagus
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
2/3 cup uncooked basmati or jasmine rice
2 low-sodium vegetable bouillon cubes
2 sprigs thyme
1. Trim ends from asparagus, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, reserving tips. Set asparagus aside.
2. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions, and sauté 5 minutes, or until soft. Stir in asparagus pieces, rice, bouillon cubes, thyme and 8 cups water. Reduce heat, cover and cook 30 to 35 minutes, or until rice is very tender. Remove thyme sprigs.
3. Transfer soup to blender or food processor in 2 batches (or use an immersion blender), and purée until smooth. Return soup to pot, and add asparagus tips. Simmer 1 to 2 minutes over low heat, or until asparagus tips are bright green and crisp-tender. Ladle soup into bowls, and serve immediately.
PER SERVING: 117 CAL; 4G PROT; 4G TOTAL FAT (0.5G SAT. FAT); 18G CARB; 0MG
One of freelance writer Mary Margaret Chappell’s favorite possessions now is the stovetop South Carolina rice steamer a good friend gave her for her birthday. Even though she swore she didn’t need it then, it proved to be indispensable for this article!
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