Herbed brown rice

My mother-in-law is the queen of rice. She has at least a dozen fabulous rice dishes, which she’ll often cook on a bed of crispy potatoes her many grandkids fight over. Her dill-rice dish inspired this recipe. I use an assortment of herbs that complement each other, and have replaced white rice with an aromatic and delicious – I kid you not – short grain brown rice.

How to fall in love with brown rice

I wanted to prefer brown rice -- brown rice has the bran and germ of the grain, and contains more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than the white, refined version -- but feeling the love was a challenge at first.

I was facing two obstacles: Long cooking time and the rice's taste.

Brown rice takes two to three times longer to cook, but once I became familiar with the grain's behavior, the long cooking time became an advantage, and I now enjoy the slow rhythm it enables.  Provided you’re around, you can leave your pot of rice on a slow simmer, and forget about it while you’re doing something else. Another upside: Brown rice is more forgiving to overcooking and will retain its shape and texture. 

Do you like the taste of white rice, and find the brown varieties coarse and unappealing? So did I. I liked aromatic long grain rice and the basmati and jasmine whites were a staple in my home. When I tried the long grain brown rice I was very disappointed.  But then I saw that there were so many other varieties to try, and hope resurged. 

My current favorite is the short grain brown rice; it is one of the most full-flavored rices out there, it has a beautiful nutty aroma, it is plump and pretty and oh so tasty. Try it!  Here’s my advice: If you haven’t found your darling brown rice yet stop by a store that sells brown rice varieties in bulk – most Whole Foods Markets do – buy just a cup of each and give them a try. 

A Short note about cooking rice in measured water: I use much less than what most recipes call for.  The onion adds a lot of fluids to the pot (and I use a lot of onion), and I find that when the rice absorbs less water it is tastier.  For 1-½ cups of short grain brown rice I use 2 cups of fluids. For 2 cups I’d use 2 ¼ cups of fluids.

Herbed brown rice recipe 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup parsley
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • 1 ½ cup brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Preparation: 

  • Bring the vegetable stock to a boil
  • Wash the herbs, remove the large stems leaving mostly leaves (you can cheat a little, since it’s all going into the food processor)
  • Place herbs and ½ a cup of the warm vegetable stock in a blender or food processor and process until you have a smooth chunk-less puree.  Add the puree to the rest of the stock
  • Wash the rice in a sieve under cold water
  • In a medium pot heat the oil on medium high, and sauté the onions and the paprika and salt for a few minutes until translucent
  • Add the rice, and toss around until the rice is aromatic and coated with oil
  • Add the herbed broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a low simmer
  • Cook rice according to directions – mine cooks for about 1½ hours
  • Fluff the rice, check seasoning, and serve with a few leftover sprigs of herbs for garnish.

Enjoy,

Dr. Ayala