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Rice is a versatile accompaniment to almost any meal. It’s easy to store and is always ready to use; no washing, no peeling and no chopping is required.
All varieties of rice can be grouped into three basic categories: long grain, medium grain and short grain.
Long grain rice, slender and four to five times as long as it is wide, cooks into fluffy, separate grains and is most often used in entrées, soups and pilafs or even as a side dish.
Medium grain rice, wider and shorter than long grain rice, has a moister and stickier consistency when cooked than long grain rice. It is generally used for risottos, desserts and puddings.
Short grain rice looks almost round in appearance. It becomes kind of sticky and starchy when cooked, absorbing less water than long grain rice. This is the perfect grain when making sushi.
Once the package is opened, the rice should be stored in an airtight container. The more common white rice can be kept conveniently on a shelf. Brown rice should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to help preserve the freshness of the oil that is contained in the bran layer. Once cooked, rice can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week or in the freezer for six months.
Spinach Feta Rice
Long grain rice is blended with onions, mushrooms, spinach and feta cheese for a flavorful accompaniment with fried fish, such as tilapia or catfish, or fried chicken breasts.
1 pkg. (7 oz.) Zatarain’s Long Grain and Wild Rice
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
3/4 cup chopped green onion, white and green parts
1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
8 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In medium saucepan, combine rice, broth and water. Bring to boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
In large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook onion, mushrooms and garlic. Stir in lemon juice and oregano. Add spinach, cooked wild rice and feta cheese; pepper to taste. Toss lightly until blended. Makes 6 servings.
Red Beans and Sausage over Rice
Traditionally, Cajuns serve the beans and sausage over the rice, which is the way this dish is prepared. Others prefer to cook the rice with the bean and sausage mixture.
1 pound red kidney beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound Andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 ham bone, with some meat on it
1 bay leaf
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
In a large Dutch oven or cast iron pot, add the kidney beans and cover in cold water; soak overnight. When ready to cook, add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf and ham-bone. Add enough additional water to cover the beans at least three inches. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
In the last 30 minutes of cooking, mash some of the beans to thicken the gravy. Add sausage and season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Increase the heat to evaporate any excess water or add water to make more gravy. Be sure to stir to prevent sticking. Serve over steamed rice. Makes 6-8 servings.
Baked Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan cheese
Baked? Traditionally, the preparation of Risotto requires about 30 minutes of constant stirring over a hot stove. With this easy version, the stirring is replaced with 30 minutes of baking.
2 Tbsps. butter
4 cups assorted wild mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, oyster, chantrelle), chopped
1/4 tsp. each: salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 cups short grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
In heavy ovenproof saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper, onions and garlic; cook until mushrooms are golden and onions are tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in rice until well coated. Add wine and stock; bring to boil. Transfer pan to 350-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender but firm in the center, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in Parmesan and parsley; garnish with shaved Parmesan. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Rum Rice Pudding
3 cups milk
1 large cinnamon stick
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked short or medium grain rice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 orange or lemon
1/2 cup each: granulated sugar and raisins
2 Tbsp. dark rum or 2 tsp. rum extract
Grated orange zest for garnish
Ground cinnamon for garnish
In small saucepan, heat milk and cinnamon over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
In a large heavy saucepan, combine water, rice and salt. Using a vegetable peeler, remove orange peel in large strips and place on top of the rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is almost tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove and discard orange zest.
Remove cinnamon stick from milk; stir milk into cooked rice. Stir in sugar. Return mixture to a boil; reduce heat and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in raisins and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in rum.
Serve hot. Garnish each serving with grated orange zest and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Makes about 6 servings.
Note: To reheat, add a little milk to restore the creamy texture and heat gently or microwave.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.