ice is an excellent heart healthy food that is easy to cook and can be used in a variety of ways to good effect. Even though it is a grain, because of it's place as a major staple food for much of the worlds population it deserves it's own page. As with many other natural products, brown, unpolished, rice is nutrient rich while being relatively low in calorie content; so eating larger quantities doesn’t impact your weight as would a similar quantity of more calorie rich food. Rice is also an excellent source of complex carbohydrate, which is our bodies preferred source of energy food.
While Westerners think of breads and pastas made primarily from wheat as being a staple, in much of the world rice holds that place in the diet. With globalization and the movement of people from all parts of the world to all parts of the world, rice can be found about anywhere you travel.
One of the big advantages of rice is that it is easy to cook, very easy to digest, and while we know of many people allergic to wheat, oats and other grains, we have never met anyone allergic to rice.
In the polishing process of white rice most of the valuable vitamins are milled away with the bran, as with other grains like wheat. As with whole wheat flour versus white refined flour, the brown rice in much more nutritious in the essential vitamins and minerals. As polishing rice became common, many countries mandated enriching the rice with some B vitamins to combat the serious deficiency diseases like beriberi and pellagra, but this enrichment is not nearly as healthy as just using the lesser refined product with the natural vitamins and bran left with the food.
As with white refined flour, white rice was considered to be the food of the higher classes, and its common use became a cultural trend all over the world. The best nutritional results are obtained by using the natural, vitamin and mineral rich, foods. The natural fibre in the foods is also extremely important to the best health.
Brown rice has a delicious flavour all of its own. Once a person gets used to the full bodied flavour, they usually find white rice tasteless and unsatisfying.
Rice served with legumes, like rice and beans in Mexican cooking, rice and dhal in Indian cooking, or rice with soy bean curd (tofu) in oriental cooking, provides high quality amino acids, providing the body with what it needs to produce the protein our bodies needs to build and repair. Getting enough high quality proteins to keep at our best is no problem while eating a good variety of unrefined foods.
Cooking rice is fairly easy, and people usually develop their preferred method. Generally you just need to cover the rice with about two to three times as much water as rice, and bring to a boil. It takes about twenty minutes of simmering, and the key to good rice is to take it off the heat, cover it and let it steam for about ten minutes. It’s important to make sure the rice doesn’t boil dry. With a little practice, you get a feel for amounts, ratios, temperatures, etc. Some types of rice require more water than others, and if it is cooked at a higher temperature it will require more water to prevent it boiling dry, as there will be more steam loss. Some people like the finished product wetter, some like it dryer. Some cook books will give quantities to start with etc, as will some pre packaged rice that can be purchased in a supermarket.
So now that you have your rice, what do you want it to taste like? The key is in the seasoning and companion foods. Mexican takes some specific herbs, while Oriental or Indian take others. We talk about these in the section dealing with ‘Seasonings’.
Rice can be used in casseroles, like Spanish Rice, or simply used as a companion to other dishes. In India the plate is piled with rice and the curries are placed along side. The food is eaten by taking the fingers, dipping them in the curry and then forming a ball with rice to pop into the mouth. My favourite is the Mexican style, where rice and beans are mixed with vegetables and sauces and served wrapped in a tortilla. It’s especially good with fresh avocado and salsa made with a variety of peppers, garlic and tomatoes.