Remember when rice choices in most stores were pretty slim—brown or white, short grain or long? Today, bags of Arborio and boxes of basmati are offered alongside these basics, and jasmine rice is no longer relegated to Chinese take-out.
A grain belonging to the grass family, rice is life for billions of people. It is related to other grass plants such as wheat, oats and barley that produce grain for food and are known as cereals. Throughout history rice has been one of man’s most important foods. As a cereal grain, it is deeply embedded in the cultural heritage of the societies for more than half of the world’s population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the most rapidly growing source of food in Africa, and is of significant importance to food security in an increasing number of low-income food-deficit countries.
Tolerant to desert, hot, humid, flooded, dry and cool conditions, rice will grow in saline, alkaline and acidic soils. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after maize (corn). About four-fifths of the world’s rice is produced by small-scale farmers and is consumed locally. Rice cultivation is the principal activity and source of income for about 100 million households in Asia and Africa.
Rice is the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one-fifth of the calories consumed worldwide. A great source of complex carbohydrates, rice is healthful for what it does not contain. Rice has no fat, no cholesterol, and is gluten and sodium free. A good source of vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, niacin, iron, riboflavin, vitamin D, calcium, and fiber, rice also contains resistant starch, which is the starch that reaches the bowel undigested. This encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria, keeping the bowel healthy. It is also a fair source of protein, containing eight essential amino acids. Rice contains no additives or preservatives, making it an excellent inclusion in a healthy and balanced diet.
The increased selection of rice opens up a world of recipe possibilities. With the right rice, you don’t need a mile-long ingredients list to make dishes with international flair. Following is a quick guide to some of the choices you’ll find on boxes and bags of rice:
Arborio – This Italian short-grain rice is used for risotto because its high starch content makes it creamy and thick when cooked.
Basmati – Fragrant, fluffy, and light, this rice, grown in the Himalayan foothills, is standard in Indian recipes and pilafs.
Brown – Unlike white rice that is “polished” to remove the bran coating, nutty-flavored brown rice is a whole grain that’s high in fiber.
Jasmine – This long-grain Thai variety rice has a light, slightly floral flavor and aroma.
Sushi – This sweet, sticky short-grain rice is also great in desserts and risottos.
Beginning your meal with rice opens your plate up to better eating. That’s because rice attracts colorful vegetables, savory spices, and leaner protein entrees. Rice also leads to eating a wide variety of ethnic cuisines and, since everyone loves it, more family time at the dinner table.
Almond Brown Rice Stuffing
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 Tbpn margarine
1/2 tsp. chicken style seasoning
1 medium tart red apple, cored and diced
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups cooked brown rice
Cook almonds in margarine in large skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add apple, onion, celery, chicken style seasoning, and thyme; continue to cook until vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir in rice; cook until thoroughly heated. Bake in tightly covered baking dish at 350 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 6.