Grains

Rice, Talat Phosy, Luang Prabang

Rice, Talat Phosy, Luang Prabang (Photo credit: Hanoi Mark)

For 10 years of my life, I was a strict vegetarian.

You might think that I had lofty, ideological reasons for embarking on that journey.

No, not so much…

The truth is that a friend told me I could never be a vegetarian. Hence, I (of course) proved her wrong and remained vegetarian for 10 years!!!

Well, my mother had no intention of changing the nightly menu of meat or chicken, accompanied by salad and rice & beans, to accommodate my new diet. So, yup, I ate salad and rice & beans every single night for years!

Therefore, you can assume that I know a lot about rice.

On a basic level, every grain is composed of:

  • Husk – inedible outer layer removed during processing
  • Endosperm –  starchy mass that forms most of the kernel
  • Bran – tough but edible layer covering the endosperm
  • Germ – embryo that forms the new plant when the seed sprouts

As you’ll note below in the chart detailing the different varieties of grains, the options are almost endless. Relatively inexpensive, they are delicious and highly versatile once you become familiar with the most common cooking methods. Once you learn these methods, you can make a pilaf or risotto out of any grain you like.

PRIMARY COOKING METHODS FOR ALL GRAINS:

    SIMMERING

    • This is the classic preparation
    • Rinse the grain and drain
    • Add water and bring to a boil
    • Season with salt and pepper
    • Stir, cover and cook on low heat for the appropriate cooking time (depending on grain)
    • When ready, let stand covered and fluff
    • PASTA METHOD is a sub-method of simmering and involves dropping the washed grain into boiling salted water. When tender, strain

    PILAF/BRAISING

    • Like Braising, the grain is first sauteed in fat and then cooked in liquid
    • Sweat onions in a bit of oil or butter with salt and pepper
    • Add the grains and coat them in the fat
    • Add hot liquid and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally
    • Cover and cook on stove or in oven for appropriate time (depending on grain)
    • Remove from heat, let stand

    RISOTTO

    • Sweat onions in a bit of oil or butter and salt and pepper
    • Add the grains and coat them in the fat
    • Gradually add small amount of boiling liquid and keep stirring until absorbed
    • Repeat until the grain is “al dente” – firm but cooked through
    • Serve immediately

RICE

The most commonly cooked grain, most people struggle with what ratio of rice to liquid should be used. Here’s your go-to guide:

PROPORTIONS FOR BOILED/STEAMED RICE –
RICE: LIQUID

Regular long-grain white rice 1: 2
Parboiled long-grain rice 1: 2.25
Medium-grain white rice 1: 1.7
Brown rice 1: 2.6

And if you’ve ever been confused or overwhelmed by the types of rice and other grains, here’s your guide.

GRAIN VARIETIES

Regular milled white rice

  • Enriched , Short grain, Medium grain, Long-grain
Bran coating removed
Parboiled or converted rice Partially cooked under steam pressure, re-dried and polished – most commonly used
Instant rice Precooked and dried
Brown rice Bran layer retained
Arborio rice Italian variety of short-grain rice – used for traditional risotto
Basmati rice Extra long-grain rice widely used in India
Jasmine rice Fragrant long-grain rice from Thailand
Wild pecan rice Cultivated long-grain rice from Louisiana
Glutinous rice Sticky/Sweet rice – short grain rice that is soaked and steamed
Wehani rice Aromatic rice, red in color
Corn Eaten fresh; Husk covers the entire seed head
Polenta Italian-style cornmeal
Hominy Corn that has been treated with lye; when cracked becomes grits; whole-grain form   is known in Mexican cuisine as pozole
Cracked wheat Whole wheat grains cut into smaller pieces
Bulgur Cracked wheat that has been partially cooked
Wheatberries Whole grain minus the hulls
Green wheat Harvested when immature and then dried
Farro/spelt Wheatlike grain that may be ancestor of wheat
Wild rice Seed of a grass native to northern US & Canada
Kamut Another ancient relative of wheat
Buckwheat Seed of a plant so not technically a grain; toasted is called kasha
Barley Bran layers removed
Oats Whole grains that have been steamed and flattened
Millet Small, round yellow; used as bird seed here but common for human consumption in other parts of the world
Quinoa Native to the Andes; very high protein
Triticale High-protein hybrid of wheat and rye
Amaranth Tiny yellow-brown seed high in protein
Flaxseeds High omega 3’s

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