Rice and Veggies

vegetables and riceI was talking to a young woman recently who had been cooking for years, but didn’t feel confident making a good pot of rice. I remember how many years it took me to get rice right and now it has become a comfort food. When I feel out of sorts or off balance, I go back to rice and veggies. Here are several different ways to enjoy this hearty combination.

1. Some people like to eat long grain rice in the summer and short grain rice in the winter, but I prefer organic short grain brown rice all year round. You can save money by buying rice in bulk from your local natural grocery story. A 25-pound bag will keep a long time. The basic proportion to remember in making rice is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice. One cup of rice will feed 1 to 2 people. To break the hull a bit, you can roast the rice first in a dry cast iron frying pan.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Use a pan with a glass lid, if you have one.
While the water is rapidly boiling, add 1 ½ cups brown rice.
Immediately cover and turn the heat down to medium low.
Steam rice at this temperature for 50 to 55 minutes.
You can turn the heat off for the last ten minutes, but do not take the lid off. This will release the steam and slow the cooking process and can affect the quality of the rice.
Garnish your bowl of rice with a bit of butter, soy sauce, roasted pumpkin seeds, gomasio (a sesame seed, salt combination), chopped almonds, and a dash of chili powder.

2. I also love jasmine rice, white rice that is aromatic and has a wonderful nutty, almost sweet taste. It takes much less time to cook, but may not be as nutritious as brown rice. Rinse the jasmine rice several times in water until the water runs somewhat clear.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
Add 1 ½ cups jasmine rice.
Immediately cover, lower temperature to medium low and steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
Rice is done when all the water is absorbed.
Learn to notice the smells of rice cooking (and burning). Your nose will tell you when it’s done. Jasmine rice is sticky.
Serve with a big dollop of butter and salt and pepper.

1. The first rice and veggies dish I learned to make is a combination of onions (sliced in crescents), tomatoes (in wedges), mushrooms (sliced), and green peppers (sliced in crescents).

Chop or cut all vegetables.
You probably need 1 onion, 2 to 3 tomatoes, two generous handfuls of mushrooms, and 1 green pepper.
Sauté the vegetables in butter or oil and salt and pepper the vegetable mixture.
Once the vegetables are soft, turn off the heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sour cream.
Mix well and heat through, but make sure the mixture doesn’t boil.
Scoop some of the sour-cream vegetable mixture over each bowl of rice.
Garnish with paprika.

2. I love to stir fry vegetables. I have a cast iron wok with a flat bottom that was inexpensive and heats up quickly. Prepare your favorite vegetables beforehand. Slice or chop thinly. Here’s where you can try some unfamiliar greens.

Try onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and spinach, Swiss chard or kale.
Or, onions, garlic, celery, peas, and carrots.
Or, onions, garlic, grated fresh ginger and several different kinds of greens.

All of these combinations can be served either over or beside the rice and can be garnished with seeds or nuts. Try adding cashews, or almonds to a stir-fry at the end.

The trick to stir frying vegetables is to stagger the vegetables, keep them moving constantly and not to cook them too long. It’s hard to believe how quickly they cook. You can tell that the vegetables are done when they change color to a sharp, bright color. After that, they will wilt and darken in color.

To begin, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wok.
Wait until the oil begins to bubble and almost smoke.
Add the vegetables in the sequence of their cooking time. Begin with the vegetables that take longest to cook.
Cook each for just 1 to 3 minutes.
Move it to the side of the pan and add the next until you have added all the vegetables.
Add the greens last. Cook just until they wilt.
Continue to stir and mix the keep the vegetables moving until they are done.
You may need to add a bit more oil along the way. To do this, drizzle a tablespoon at a time down the side of the pan so it heats up quickly.
Remove vegetables promptly from the heat when they’re done and serve on top of the rice.

3. Steamed vegetables are easy and full of nutrients. It’s worth it to buy a special pan for steaming.
Steam onion slices, zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots.

Layer the vegetables in the pan with the slowest cooking at the bottom and the greens at the top.
Steam 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the vegetables you choose.
You can steam baby carrots, yellow patty pan squash, broccoli flowerets and small cauliflowers whole.
Serve them drizzled with butter or a hollandaise sauce.

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