Spice Up Your Rice – Simple Rice Recipe for Every Day

Close-up of grains of jasmine rice

Close-up of grains of jasmine rice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it weird that I love plain white rice?  When I say plain, I mean rice boiled – that’s it.  I like the taste of good quality rice.  I’m not talking about Uncle Ben’s boil in bag, I’m talking a good basmati or Thai jasmine rice. When it’s cooked well, they’ve got a very unique flavour that is amazing. I know that rice nutrition is next to zero but I would eat it every day if I could.  My husband thinks it’s weird that when I finish a meal at a Chinese restaurant, I actually take a spoon and eat the remaining rice from the bowl.  If there’s no more rice left, I’ll order a bowl of plain rice just for me to eat.  OK, I recognize this is a bit weird but hey, that’s me.

Rice, although it seems simple, is notoriously hard to get right.  My friend Gail, who is the queen of microwave cooking once taught me how to make rice in the microwave (yeah you can actually do that).  She made it seem absolutely simple until I actually tried it.  The one step she neglected to share with me was that you’ve got to turn the microwave to 50% power (really important step).  When I opened the microwave, I had a bowl of hard, black, glassy goo.  Not only did I discover that it is possible to char food in the microwave, but I also learned that burnt rice really stinks and the smell doesn’t go away for months.  Needless to say, I never tried that again and I perfected making rice on the stove.

So here are a few ways with rice because, although I love plain rice and can eat it everyday, I’m probably the only non-Asian person that can say that.

Plain Rice

Serves 4

Preparation: 1 minute

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rice

2 cups water

Method

Rinse rice under cold running water until the water is no longer cloudy.  Add rice and water in pot and place on high heat.  Once rice is boiling, stir, cover pot tightly with lid and reduce heat to low. Do not remove the lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes (this is a good time to get other parts of your meal started).  At 15 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked and water is absorbed.  If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 mints more.  At this point, if there is still water waiting to be absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and remove lid and let stand.  The rice will continue to absorb the water and any excess will begin evaporating.

Beans and Rice

Serves 4

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rice (rinsed)

1 10oz can of beans (kidney beans, black beans, gungoa peas are good options)

¼ cup diced onion

2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp dry)

1 cup chicken broth

1 clove chopped garlic

1 – 2 tsp butter (or 1-2 tsp olive oil)

Method

Drain the beans over a measuring cup that can hold at least 2 cups of liquid. In this same measuring cup, add chicken broth until the total liquid measures 2 cups (if you’re a little short, add additional chicken broth or just plain water). Set the liquid and beans to the side for a moment.

Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pot (with a lid).  Once the butter is melted, add onions and garlic and cook until onion is clear and shiny (being careful not to burn the garlic).   Add rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter/onion mix.  Add beans and liquid to the pot, stir and drop thyme sprigs on top.  Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 without removing the lid. If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 mints more.

Cilantro/Coriander Rice

Serves 4

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rice (rinsed)

¼ cup diced onion

2 handfuls (about 1 cup) chopped cilantro/coriander

2 cup vegetable broth

1 clove chopped garlic

1 – 2 tsp butter (or 1-2 tsp olive oil)

Method

Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pot (with a lid).  Once the butter is melted, add onions and garlic and cook until onion is clear and shiny (being careful not to burn the garlic).   Add rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter/onion mix.  Add the vegetable broth.  Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 without removing the lid. Remove lid and add the coriander/cilantro to the pan and stir.  If the rice is still wet, cover and continue to cook.  If the rice is the right consistency, cover the pan and remove from the heat for 5 minutes.

Serve.

Things to make with leftover chicken – Chicken Bacon Apple Salad

I know you read my blog and immediately went out and bought a beautiful free range bird for way more than you really wanted to pay.  Now what do you do with the left overs? It would be a shame to let that tasty tender meat go to waste.  Well today for dinner I transformed that bird into a fabulous meal.

Chicken Bacon Apple Salad

Serves 2

Prep time & cook time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 egg

6 skinny rashers of bacon

1 package salad leaves (washed and dried)

1.5 cups diced cooked chicken (from that chicken you roasted)

1 large apple sliced thin

1/2 red onion sliced

handful crumbled blue cheese

handful chopped walnuts

Dressing:

4 tbls olive oil

2 tbls balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp Italian herb mix

salt & pepper to taste

METHOD

Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the pan to a boil and allow the eggs to boil for 1 to 2 minutes cover

In another pan, cook bacon on medium high heat until crisp.

While the bacon is cooking combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Crumble the cooked bacon over the salad.

In a separate bowl, combine  salad dressing ingredients, mix well and pour over the salad.

Toss the salad  well and serve.

THE VERDICT

This salad was delicious. But really isn’t impossible for anything to taste bad when it includes bacon? The blue cheese makes it absolutely perfect.  Try to use salad leaves like spinach or arugala (rocket).  Iceberg doesn’t add any flavor and it doesn’t really have a lot of health benefit.  Remember to closer to a leaf it looks the better it is for you.  This salad is great for lunch or to take on a picnic (just leave the dressing on the side until you’re ready to eat).

Even YOU can make a great steak

Steak is one of the most difficult foods to make well.  It seems that something that seems so simple has perplexed so many people.  Here are a few tips that will guarantee that you make the best steak dinner ever.

Pick the right piece of meat

It’s important not to skimp on the quality of the meat.  Remember more expensive is not always better.  Steaks aged for 20 days or more will be more tender.  Cuts like fillet are more difficult to cook at home so choose sirloin, ribeye, or other cuts that have a little fat running through it.  Interestingly, the butcher recommended an onglet (or eye steak) which is a cheaper cut which gives you the feel of a fillet but half the price and easier to cook.  To make cooking easy, make sure that meat is one to 1.5 inches thick.  Remember once you buy them try to use them within one or two days.  Don’t freeze the steaks because the freezing/thawing process changes the consistency and the flavor of the meat.

Warm it up

Never cook a steak directly from the fridge.  When the cold meat hits the hot pan the muscle fibers will spasm resulting in a tough steak.  Make sure the meat warms to room temperature by leaving the steak on the counter for 20 – 30 minutes.  The closer to room temperature the meat is when you cook it; the more tender it will be.

Have the right tools

A heavy gauge non-stick pan or griddle pan are the best tools for cooking a good steak.  If you don’t have an iron skillet or griddle pan, just make sure you have a good non-stick pan that can take very very high heat without warping.  Make sure you have tongs or a spatula to turn the steak.  You don’t want to pierce the steak with a fork while it’s cooking.

Make it hot

The pan must be SUPER hot to cook a good steak.  Normally I leave the skillet on the stove on the highest heat for at least 10 minutes to make sure every surface of the pan is at its hottest. It’s hot if you sprinkle a drop or two of water in the pan and it cracks and sizzles and evaporates completely in a second or two. Here’s where I advise you unplug your smoke detector and turn on your exhaust fan and open the windows.  We’re going to make it really smoky.  Again, it’s really important that you are sure that the pan you are using is able to handle the high heat and distribute the heat evenly across the entire surface of the pan or you may have a fire on your hands.

Less is more

When it comes to seasoning a steak, less is best.  Simple kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper allows the flavor of a good steak to come through. Add a little butter and parsley as garnish after cooking makes it perfection.  I also recommend Montreal Steak Seasoning for a really good complement to steak.

Don’t overcook it

I know a lot of people will disagree but steaks are not meant to be eaten well done.  A little pink won’t hurt you and it adds flavor and juiciness to the meat.  It’s very difficult to cook a steak well done without ruining the flavor. This is because when you cook a steak to well done in the pan, when you remove it from the heat it will continue to cook.  By the time you eat it, it will be dry and tough.  A one to 1.5 inch steak should be cooked for four to six minutes on each side depending on how hot you can get your pan and how well done you want it.  Just try it once for me –  cook your steak to medium (well done on the edges pink in the center but no bleeding) and you’ll definitely understand the difference in taste and I bet you won’t get sick.

Let it rest

When you’ve cooked the steak, you’ve got to let it rest.  Resting allows the steak to settle down and distributes the juicy goodness throughout the meat. Rest the steaks for at least 5 minutes before you serve it. Place the steaks on a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil or waxed paper (grease proof paper).  Also resist the urge to poke or pierce the meat to test if it’s done enough.

Steak with Garlic and parsley with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 2

 

TOOLS

Heavy gauge frying pan or griddle pan

Mixing bowl

Non-stick baking Sheet

Tongs (or something to turn the steak without piercing it)

Garlic press

INGREDIENTS

Steak cut of choice 1 – 1.5 inches thick

2 tbls peanut, sunflower or vegetable oil (DO NOT use olive oil)

Kosher salt or sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic pressed

2tbls salted butter

2tbls chopped fresh parsley

Roasted Potatoes

4 large potatoes

10 shallots whole & whole (or 2 small onions quartered)

2 tbls Olive oil

1tsp sea salt or kosher salt

1 tbls fresh cracked black pepper

1 ½ tsp dried rosemary (or 1tbls fresh rosemary chopped)

Green salad to serve

METHOD

Preheat oven to 400F/200C

Start by removing the steak from the fridge.  Drizzle peanut oil on steaks and massage into the meat.  Season to taste with salt…be generous because some of the salt will burn off in the pan. Add pepper and set aside to allow to warm to room temperature.

While meat is warming wash and chop potatoes into equally sized chunks.  Place the chopped potatoes on a dish towel or paper towel and blot dry.  Place the dried potatoes in a mixing bowl along with shallots and add all of the remaining ingredients. Mix well to coat all potatoes. Place on baking sheet and place in oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.

Begin heating the pan for the steak. Place pan on stove on the highest setting. Heat the pan for 10 minutes (keep a close eye on it).  When the pan is hot, place one steak in the pan.  Allow the pan to heat back up to temperature for about a minute before adding the second steak.  Allow the steaks to cook (don’t touch them) for at least 4-5 minutes.  Turn the steaks and cook on the other side for 1 minute less than you cooked the first side.  Remove from pan and place on plate.  Cover with foil or wax paper.

At this point the potatoes should be done.  If so, remove from oven and set aside.

Make the butter by placing butter and pressed garlic in a microwave safe bowl.  When steaks have rested and you are ready to serve, heat butter in microwave for 30seconds to 1 minute until completely melted.  Add parsley and mix well.  Pour over steaks just before serving.