Friday, April 8, 2011

A New Rice On My Block

Something I never cease to marvel at is the way that, after over 30 years of cooking, traveling, walking through ethnic markets and reading about food, I'm still discovering new foods--new fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, spices--things I had literally never even heard of, and new ways to prepare them. Just last week I saw a new product from Alter Eco, a company that puts out very high quality, fair trade quinoa, chocolate, olive oil, and--as I discovered--rice. I had been using Bhutanese red rice for years, and the product that caught my eye, "Ruby Red Jasmine" rice from Thailand looked somewhat similar at first glance. On closer inspection, the red grains are longer, like basmati, with a pleasant luster. Of course I had to try them.

On my first sortie into the realm of ruby red rice, I kept it very simple, because I wanted to understand the bare essentials: the right grain-to-water ratio (1:2 1/2), the timing (I live at 7800 feet, so it takes longer than at sea level), and the unembellished flavor of the grain itself. I usually do this with every new item, unless, like a fruit, I can taste it without any preparation, so I can get to know its properties. Then my imagination can begin to fly around in search of likely ways to use the new addition to my ever-expanding artist's palette.

Of course, I already had in mind that I would make something with a Thai flavor to accompany the rice, just because I figured they would get along well enough. I made a very quick green curry with onions, peppers and tofu. I sauteed the onion over high heat in a little coconut oil, then added the peppers and stirred them briefly before adding a generous gob of Thai green curry paste. Once the curry paste was well distributed, I added a can of rich coconut milk, some cubed firm tofu, and finely sliced cilantro stems. On the side, I steamed some broccoli florets, split lengthwise to expose a cross-section view of their delicate green "tree" look. I plated it with a molded serving of the rice in the center of each bowl, a moat of the soupy curry, with the steamed broccoli on top, distributed around the rice, and a garnish of cilantro leaves.

The rice has a texture similar to a very tender long grain brown rice, and a nice nutty taste. It has a wonderful combination of rich, full-bodied flavor and yet a mild character, which blended with the curry seamlessly into an earthy, delectable melange--chewy, creamy, crunchy, pungent, fragrant.

I needed just a little more heat, so I spattered my plate with sriracha sauce (once I had tasted the rice by itself, that is).

The next day (today), I had some leftover rice, so I made an even simpler dish, combining it with peas to form a complete protein, and flavored it with roasted chile-garlic paste and scallions. Great success.

I'm just getting started, but I'd say it's safe to go ahead and announce the verdict now: Alter Eco's Ruby Red Jasmine rice is a delicious, versatile grain with a wide horizon of possibilities.


No comments:

Post a Comment