My apartment smells amazing right now! It’s a nice change because ever since I moved in I’ve been fighting a strong new-carpet smell muddled with the lingering scent of curry spice that I spilled when stocking my cabinet. Tonight’s aroma is like fresh popped buttery popcorn… the real deal, not the microwave stuff. But it’s not movie night and I’m not snacking. I’m making brown rice. Completely plain brown rice. From scratch. I’m going to put it in a container in the fridge and keep it there for the rest of the week, or until it’s gone. I’ll put it in soup or chili with my lunch, maybe use it to beef up a salad for dinner one night or as a start for warm rice cereal at breakfast (one of my favorite uses).
Whole grains (brown rice is one) have taken on a new fame as of late. The government and mainstream health authorities are endorsing them in our diets, food manufacturers are pumping them into as many products as they can (or at least labeling them as such), and restaurant chefs are featuring them on seasonal menus. The purported health benefits to our hearts and waistlines are still standing and, whether for fad or function, most of us are getting on board with the trend. Sadly though, I feel like the masses are still missing out on the whole grain in its true form. That being, the one in which it is WHOLE! Sure there are the breakfast cereals that only taste good with chocolate Silk and loaves of bread made of 5, 7 or12 different grains. But in all of those products the grain has been pulverized into a powder and made into something else. And that’s if you’re lucky (or smart) and buy something that’s not just masquerading as “whole grain.”
So why doesn’t anyone just cook the grain itself? They’re cheap, incredibly shelf stable, come in a variety of forms (great article in the WSJ), smell good while cooking (brown rice, anyway) and boast a satisfying texture and intricate nutty flavor. I figure it must be the cooking part. Believe it or not, whole grains are incredibly easy to cook. Not far off from that staple food that feeds college students everywhere and tends to follow learning to boil water. But we’ve been intimidated and spoiled by packaged products like Near East and Rice-A-Roni. Even my mother, who has made rice from scratch countless times, still texts me to ask the rice-to-water ratio. So for her, and those of you have never cooked a whole grain, I’m going to give you the pleasure. Why not start with a familiar one. Below is my photographic tutorial and recipe for one of the simplest foods you’ll ever make.
Simple Brown Rice
Disclaimer: While this is written like a recipe, try not to think of it like one. Think of it as instructions for something that is really hard to screw up. It could come out perfect, or just mediocre, but either way it’ll be edible. Pasta works the same way.
Ingredients/Utensils: 1 pot with lid, mesh strainer, wooden spoon, 1 cup dry brown rice, 1.5-1.75c water or stock (I like a blend), a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
- Wash the rice.
- Heat the oil (medium heat)
- Add the rice, stir. Stop when it starts to give off apleasant nutty aroma. This brings out a lot of natural flavor in the rice.
- Pour in the water/stock and salt.
- Bring to boil.
- Turn to low and cover
- 45 minutes (or so) – DO NOT DISTURB (lest you want a mushy grain)
- Check when it’s done. Tilt the pot carefully… any liquid left? When the answer is no remove from heat and rest 10 minutes to cool.
- Taste a bite. Serve. Enjoy. Store.