Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rice Bowls

Rice bowls can make a fun and economical dinner.
Not that "economical" and "fun" belong in the same sentence very often, and they certainly should not be confused. However, we must consider that they're not mutually exclusive.

Just make a big pot of basmati or jasmine rice, saute whatever fresh vegetables are available- maybe add a nice helping of garlic to the veggies, possibly offer some sort of protein (chicken, beef, shrimp) as well as condiments like soy or tamari sauce, chili paste or sriracha, and toasted sesame oil- and think about making some lime wedges available for those so inclined.
Perhaps a fried egg could be offered for the top of the rice and vegetable mountain, sort of like a bibimbap. This way, when the yolk is broken there's an impromptu silky sauce to go with the rice.
Fresh basil, cilantro, and sliced scallions would be flavorful finishing accompaniments to include.

This type of meal can be tailored towards dietary restrictions or preferences, too. Vegetarian, low sodium, gluten free, low fat...

Once everything is together, serve people a nice steamy bowl of rice, then everyone is welcome to put together his own dinner.

For example, for a recent rice dinner, the choices available as rice bowl toppings included:
  • Sauteed (hot and quick) red and green bell peppers
  • Sauteed garlic, onion, zucchini, and mushrooms, 
  • Shrimp sauteed with lemongrass, ginger, and garlic
  • Fried eggs
  • Soy sauce, sesame oil, chili paste, and torn basil leaves. 

It's sort of like the rice version of a salad bar- a rice bar.
And it's a dinner for which an actual recipe is unnecessary.

Personally, I think it's important to use real rice. Nothing quick-cooking here, nothing that's been processed.
Good basmati or jasmine rice has much more flavor, and takes little more than 20 minutes (probably 30 at most). Can't people take that small amount of time? It's not that big a deal, and the flavor/texture and potential nutritional benefits outweigh the time "disadvantage".... and there are plenty of other things you could work on during that time period. 
Rice is so easy, too.
And one really nice thing is that the measurements don't need to be exact in terms of grams, ounces, cups or whatever you happen to use. Ratios, yes. Nitpicky numbers, no. You just need double the liquid (water or stock) to the amount of rice you plan to use.
I will, however, give a recipe as an example.
Aim for making more rice than you need as opposed to just enough- leftover rice can be a very good thing to have around.

Basmati Rice
probably good for about 4 rice bowls

1 c basmati rice
1 T olive oil
2 c water
1/2 t salt

Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water. 
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the rice and saute a few minutes, until each grain of rice is coated in oil. Add the salt and water, stir, and increase the heat. When the rice comes to a boil, stir again, reduce the heat to a simmer (low/warm), and cover. If the rice and water remain too hot for a while and start to boil over, pull the pan off the heat a little so it's only partially on the burner. 
Simmer the rice 20 minutes, then remove from heat. Keep the pot covered and let the rice rest and steam at least 5 minutes... but it can sit for longer as it will stay hot.

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