Brown rice (Recipe: vegetable fried rice)
I know what you're thinking.
Good grief, three quarts of brown rice!
What is she doing with so much rice?
Mortaring a brick patio? Filling a sandbox? Making a bean bag chair?
Blind-baking a year's worth of pies???
None of the above. This brown Nishiki rice, perfect for the rice cooker to which I am unrepentantly addicted, isn't all that easy to find in the grocery store, and the smallest package in my favorite Asian market happens to be five pounds. But I'm glad to have it in my pantry.
Though more than half the world's population gets more than half its daily calories from rice, the rice they prefer is, overwhelmingly, white rice, such as arborio, basmati, long-grain and sweet. Yet there is no doubt that brown rice packs the greater nutritional wallop, with more than three times the dietary fiber of white rice, along with beneficial doses of many vitamins and magnesium.
Brown rice is white rice that hasn't been stripped of all of its layers. Only the outermost layer, the hull, is removed in processing, leaving behind the bran and germ layers where most of the nutrients reside. Because there are more layers for liquid to penetrate, brown rice takes longer to cook than its white counterpart. Rice cookers make this foolproof, as long as you start with enough liquid in the cooker.
You can find brown versions of many types of rice -- brown basmati, brown long-grain, brown Nishiki, etc. -- in supermarkets and ethnic groceries. Store your rice in an airtight container, where it will stay fresh (and critter-free). Be sure to cut out the cooking directions on the package and stick them in with the rice. That way, you'll remember what type of rice you have, and the proportion of rice to water that you'll need to cook it. For the brown Nishiki rice, the proportions are 1 cup rice to 2-1/2 cups water on the stovetop; 1 cup rice to 3 cups of water in the rice cooker. Either way, you end up with 3 cups of cooked rice.
And if you should find yourself in the grocery store, facing the five-pound bag of rice, don't worry about what you'll do with it; you'll be happily making stuffed tofu and Indian dosa, rice with cashews and rice with green beans, rice porridge and rice pudding.
Vegetable fried rice
Years ago, Jae Chung, owner of several restaurants in Boston and western Massachusetts, shared this recipe with me. It's a great way to use leftover rice (cook according to package directions, depending on the variety) and vegetables, and it cooks in just two minutes. Add a Thai bird chile, or a drop of chile oil, if you like it hot. Serves 1; can be doubled.
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly scrambled
1/4 cup diced mixed vegetables -- onion, green and red pepper
1/4 cup broccoli florets, blanched for 1 minute in boiling water or stock
Thai bird chile, left whole (optional -- these are very hot)
1 cup cooked brown rice, any variety, chilled
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Fresh sliced vegetables (red and green peppers), for garnish
Heat the oil in a wok over highest heat, and add the egg. Stir quickly! Immediately add the vegetables, and continue to stir. Add rice, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and salt and pepper, and stir for 1 minute; the sauce should be absorbed and the rice grains should be separate. Add the sesame oil, toss, and serve hot, garnished with fresh vegetables.