Rice is the third most produced cereal in the world and the first cereal consumed by humans. Almost all of the rice comes from Asia. This gluten-free seed can be ground into flour and made into drinks or noodles. About a third of US consumption is used to make beer. Because rice is an incomplete protein, you have to combine it with beans, nuts, other seeds, or meat.
The length of a grain of rice is important because it often determines its stickiness and, therefore, its use in particular dishes. Longer grains are less sticky and good in curries. Medium and short grains are stickier, used to hold sushi together, and are good in pilaf, paella, and casseroles. Short grain rice is used for puddings and cereals.
Soaking and rinsing the rice before cooking is generally not recommended. Soaking turns it into a more complete protein and reduces its stickiness, but at a cost. This makes the starch release faster and the rice does not thicken. The exception is with brown rice. You can soak it overnight and cut the cooking time by ten minutes. For the rinsing, the exception concerns the varieties of basmati rice or sushi. If in doubt, read the instructions.
When selecting rice, more color usually means more nutrients. So, brown rice, red or black rice, and wild Minnesota rice (related, but different from Asian rice) are better for you than regular white rice. You can store brown rice in the refrigerator for about 6 months.
If you can’t find anything other than white rice, which is mostly starch, look for the word “parboiled” on the packaging for the most nutrients. The second choice would be “converted” rice, which has been precooked. The “polished” rice has had many nutrients removed. While instant rice is quick and easy to stir-fry, it dissolves and won’t fit in a slow cooker, soup, or casserole dish. White rice will last one to three years and does not need to be refrigerated.
Long grain rice includes jasmine from Thailand and Vietnam, basmati from India, texmati from Texas, wild pecan rice from Louisiana, wehani from California (developed from basmati and similar flavor), and dear Patna from India. Medium grain rice includes sona masuri rice from India, carnaroli rice used in slow cooking Italian dishes like risotto, red rice from Bhutan, sticky rice from Thailand, wild rice from Minnesota and black rice from China, purple in color with a nutty taste. Short-grain rice includes Calrose and Sushi rice (a semi-polished white rice) and Valencia rice (bomba) or paella, which absorbs a lot of moisture without breaking down and is often used as a substitute for medium Arborio rice. Sweet or sticky rice is used for deserts. In this case, gooey means “sticky like glue.” Rice has no gluten.
Read the package instructions for cooking. If you are buying from a bulk bin, use 1 cup of rice per 2 cups of water plus ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cover with a tight fitting lid, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for an hour or until the water is absorbed. Do not lift the lid as it can dry it out and interfere with the cooking process. Remove the pan from the burner and let stand, still covered, another ten minutes before serving.
Bring out more flavor and shorten the cooking time by 10 minutes by dry roasting the rice in a skillet over high heat (before cooking in water) until the grains are golden brown. Stir or shake the rice to avoid scorching. You can also use a pressure cooker. Rice does not separate as well and it is not as chewy, but it will retain nutrients, flavor and moisture better than boiling.
For the curry rice, use 2 cups of cooked basmati rice, 2 tablespoons of butter or canola oil, a chopped onion, a teaspoon of curry powder, ½ cup of raisins and 1 cup of peas . For the Pilaf, sauté 1 cup of uncooked brown rice in a little oil, add chopped onion, garlic and carrots and simmer in 2½ cups of water for 45 minutes. Finish by adding peas and parsley. For a summer salad, mix 2 cups of cooked brown rice or red wehani rice with ¼ cup of toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans, 2 tablespoons of canola oil and white vinegar, ½ cup of chopped green onions, 1 diced yellow or orange pepper for coloring and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Add cilantro for more color and flavor.
Add toasted sesame seeds to any rice dish. Wild rice is often used in stuffing, but it makes a great side dish and holds well in a slow cooker. Spice up the wild rice with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and raisins. Its earthy flavor also pairs well with mushrooms. Add some heat to any rice dish by grinding Szechuan peppers. Any sweet vegetable will go well with rice, especially carrots, corn, peas and tomatoes. Black beans and lentils are a good choice with rice for robust winter stews.