Brown rice doesn't have to be difficult
Have you heard? Carbs are back in vogue. Well, maybe not nationwide, but at least one diet gaining popularity these days emphasizes the importance of healthy complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, which should probably be a part of any healthful diet. Not only is brown rice a healthy choice, it's an economical one, too. But brown rice is not easy to prepare. Even following the instructions on the bag may not produce a tasty result.
Turn up the heat too high and you have a burnt pot and crunchy kernels. Add too much water and the rice will swell into a gelatinous mass. Fail to start cooking the rice early and it won't be done in time. But brown rice doesn't have to be difficult. In fact it can be as foolproof as preparing white rice, as long as you understand how to cook it.
The secret for preparing perfect brown rice, according to the folks at Cook's Illustrated (www.cooksillustrated.com)
, who do an amazing job of testing and developing foolproof methods for the kitchen, is to bake it in the oven. Making certain your proportions and measurements are exact is mandatory. Don't guess. Measure. Here are recipes from Cook's Illustrated for baked brown rice and a rice salad.
FOOLPROOF OVEN-BAKED BROWN RICE
1-1/2 cups long-, medium- or short-grain brown rice
2-1/3 cups water
2 teaspoons butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375 F and move a rack to the middle position. Spread the rice into an 8-inch square, glass baking dish. In a covered saucepan on the stove, bring the water and butter or oil to a boil over high heat. Once it begins to boil, stir in the salt and pour over the rice. Cover the baking dish tightly with a double layer of foil. Bake for one hour, until tender. Remove from the oven and uncover. Fluff the rice with a fork, cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover for another 5 minutes, then serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
SUCCULENT BROWN RICE: You can dress up the brown rice recipe above by substituting chicken or vegetable broth for the water. Add 1/2 onion, chopped and sauteed in 1 tablespoon oil, at the same time you pour the liquid over the raw brown rice. When you remove the rice from the oven and fluff with a fork, stir in 3/4 cup frozen peas. Re-cover and proceed as described above. The peas will heat through during the standing time.
ORANGE VINAIGRETTE BROWN RICE SALAD: Follow the foolproof recipe above. While the rice is in the oven, in a small bowl whisk together 2/3 cup orange juice; 2 tablespoons vegetable oil; 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; 2 tablespoons honey; 2 teaspoons orange zest; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1-1/2 cups spinach leaves, packed; 2 large oranges, peeled and sectioned and cut into bite-size pieces; and 1/3 cup red onion. When you remove the rice from the oven, pour this dressing over the hot cooked rice and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold.