Cook's choice: the nutty taste, natural color of brown rice

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Brown rice is now so much in demand that a major packer has added a 24-ounce box to its product line. What are the reasons that per capita consumption has risen 111 percent in the past five years? Perhaps the increasing interest in natural foods and fiber is part of the answer, plus the misconception that brown rice is more nutritious.

This is not necessarily true, for since the 1950s the government has required nutritional fortification for all rice -- brown, polished, white, and converted -- so all contain approximately the same food value.

Brown rice has only the hull removed during milling, leaving intact the outer bran layer, which gives the pleasing texture and nutty flavor along with its natural color.

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Of course there was a time in this country when everyone ate brown rice, for it came to America in the late 17th century. It was either roasted in earthenware pots or boiled in a porridge.

Brown rice must be cooked 2 to 2 1/2 times as long as regular rice will need more liquid. One cup of raw brown rice will produce about 4 cups of cooked. Leftover brown rice combines with cooked vegetables; it makes delicious salads and stuffings and can be added to muffin and pancake batter. In one recipe, the rice gives a pleasing, crunchy texture to muffins. Brown Rice Risotto 1/2 cup chopped onions 1 cup uncooked brown rice 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 can, 4 ounces, sliced mushrooms, with liquid 1 3/4 cup beef broth 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook onions and rice in butter until golden. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Stir once or twice. Lower heat to simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff lightly with a fork. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, if desired. Chicken broth may be substituted for beef broth if rice is accompanying poultry or game. Brown Rice Fruit Muffins 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses 1 cup cold, not chilled, cooked brown rice 1/4cup butter or margarine, melted 2 eggs lightly beaten 2/3 cup milk 1/2 cup raisins, or chopped cooked prunes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add brown sugar or molasses, rice, butter or margarine, eggs, and milk. Add raisins or prunes. Spoon mixture into oiled and floured tins. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Makes 1 dozen medium-size muffins. German-style Brown Rice Salad 4 slices bacon 1 14 1/2-ounce can beef broth 3 tablespoons cider vinegar Water 1 cup brown rice, uncooked 1 medium onion, chopped 1/4 teaspoon celery seed 1/3 cup green pepper strips 12-ounce jar diced, drained pimiento.

Cook bacon crisp.Remove and drain on paper towel. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet. Combine beef broth and cider vinegar in large measuring cup. Add enough water to make 2 2/3 cups of liquid. Add to skillet and bring to a boil.

Stir in brown rice, chopped onion, and celery seed. Cover tightly and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir in green pepper strips. Cover and continue cooking until all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in crumbled bacon and diced, drained pimiento. Serve at once. Serves 6. Brown Rice and Chicken Oriental 4 tablespoons oil 1 cup raw brown rice, rinsed and drained 3 cups boiling chicken broth 2 ribs celery, chopped 2 onions, chopped 1 cup diced cooked chicken 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon finely ground unblanced almonds

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in saucepan and add rice. Cook until all grains are coated. Add broth. Cover and simmer gently until rice is almost tender, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil and saute celery and onions until tender. Add to rice along with chicken, soy sauce, and almonds and cook 5 minutes longer. Serves 4. Brown Rice and Nut Dressing 1cup uncooked brown rice 2 1/2 cups chicken broth 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup chopped onions 1 cup chopped celery 1 clove garlic, minced 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 teaspoon seasoned salt Dash black pepper 1 cup chopped nut meats

Combine rice, chicken broth, and salt. Heat to boiling. Stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Cook onion, celery, and garlic in butter until tender; stir into cooked rice. Add seasoned salt, pepper and nuts. Makes 6 servings. Use 1/4 cup less broth for a drier, fluffier rice. Fruited Rice Pilaf 1/2 cup raisins plumped in boiling water 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped, plumped in boiling water 2 3/4 cups water 2 cups brown rice 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup butter or margarine 2 garlic cloves, crushed

Combine all ingredients except butter and garlic in medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat. Stir rice once. More may make rice gummy. Cover and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Just before serving, melt butter with garlic and pour evenly over rice. Serves 6 to 8. Serve with curries, fish and fowl. Brown Rice-Cheddar Cheese Casserole 2 cups cooked brown rice 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 cups milk 3 eggs, lightly beaten 3 tablespoons chopped parsley 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine 1 onion, finely chopped

Blanched slivered almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients except almonds. Turn into an oiled casserole. Top with almonds, if desired. Bake 35 minutes or until set. Serves 4. Baked Brown Rice Pudding with Dates 1 quart milk 1/2 cup raw brown rice 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup chopped dates

Whipped cream or whipped topping

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine milk, rice, sugar, salt, and dates in a 1 1/2-quart buttered casserole or baking dish. Stir to mix. Bake until a light brown skin forms over the surface. Stir the skin into the pudding and bake until another skin forms and stir that in.

Continue stirring in the skins for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Bake without stirring, until rice is tender and top is well browned. Serve with whipped cream or whipped topping. Serves 4

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