Saturday, August 30, 2008

5 ways to spice up your white rice

Does the Mendon Foodie serve plain white rice? Yes! I serve it with most stir fry dishes I make. There is nothing quite as good for sopping up a great Eggplant in Garlic sauce or Kung Pao chicken. But if I am stuck for a quick side dish for a more mundane meal, I might use one of the following ideas:

1. Add chopped green onion and cilantro, squeeze a lime over it if you are serving with anything southwestern flavor, or sprinkle with a VERY small amount of soy sauce if it is with anything asian.
2. Use chicken stock instead of water
3. Add sliced almonds.
4. Serve Cuban style, with black beans mixed in. Top with grilled pineapple,
5. Turn leftover white rice into fried rice: Saute any leftover veggies n two tablespoons oil with some chopped garlic and ginger. Add rice and cook until grains separate. Add 3 T soy sauce. Move rice to edges of pan and cook 1- 2 beaten eggs in the center of pan until set. Mix in rice and serve.

I also like to make risotto. I do use arborio rice, but any short grain rice (think asian rice, not regular rice) will do. Try to keep several different kinds of rice around for different uses. I keep it in the freezer to maintain freshness; it is not necessary to thaw it before using. In my freezer you will find the following rices (is that the plural of rice? Not sure): long-grain, jasmine, arborio, short grain Nishiki brand, and basmati. I am ready to whip up any number of rice dishes without much forethought. And I do, because a lot of times I don't really think ahead about what I am going to make.

So, the basic way to make risotto is this: start by sauteing some diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add some chopped garlic and about a cup of arborio rice. Saute the rice for a minute or two, making sure all the grains are coated. Throw in a 1/2 cup of white wine and let it bubble until absorbed. Add chicken broth a half a cup at a time and stir frequently. Do not add more broth until ALL the previous half a cup is absorbed. Continue adding broth, stirring frequently, and cooking until rice is tender, about thirty minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup Parmesan (remember, if you use cheese in a can you should probably be taken out back and tied to an anthill.)

Now, don't whine at me about it being too difficult or complicated: IT IS REALLY EASY TO MAKE!!! Just try it. And once you are comfortable with that, you can vary it with other add-ins: fresh steamed asparagus at the end, butternut squash and sage ( cook it ahead of time, puree some and keep some in small chunks.) Add the puree towards the beginning of the process and the chunks at the end. Peas and prosciutto can turn the dish into a meal. Porcini mushrooms are sublime; use the soaking liquid for part of the broth. Although this dish is called "Breakfast Risotto" we like it as a main dish for dinner. It is one of our favorites! Risotto is one of those things you can get really creative with, as long as you follow the basic method. SO JUST TRY IT, DAMMIT! I'll even let you use canned chicken broth if you are too lazy to make your own. (Which of course I am not, most of the time!)

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