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No-Cook Cooking: The comfort and versatility of rice in the pandemic pantry

No-Cook Cooking: The comfort and versatility of rice in the pandemic pantry

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If you miss sitting down to a restaurant meal of Chinese, Thai, Indian or Ethiopian food, no doubt you’ve been dreaming of the steaming bowl of rice on your table. If you’ve been steering clear of white rice to help control blood sugar levels or adhere to a low-carbohydrate meal plan, there’s a good chance you’ve craved it from time to time.

But if you’re home without dietary restrictions, making progress and building confidence as a home cook and looking for new ideas for using what you can find at the grocery store, rice may be the creative No-Cook Cooking canvas you’ve been looking for.

Recipes abound for paella, which rewards patience and attention with a creamy texture that’s hard to replicate any other way. If you’re ready to dive in, pick up a variety of short-grain rice; long-grain rice won’t work well. Having paella in your cooking repertoire will give you endless possibilities for making fresh seafood and farmers-market vegetable finds stretch to feed a happy crowd when serendipity strikes.

If the rice shelf is sparsely populated at your grocery store, this is the perfect time to try some of the other kinds of rice that are enjoyed around the world. If you’ve ever been tempted to buy one of those big plastic jars of wild rice, now is the time to experiment.

Wild rice actually is a grass, not a grain, and it’s one of many Native American contributions to world cuisine. If you aren’t familiar with its almost nutty flavor, cook it following the package instructions and just enjoy the flavor before you begin trying different seasonings.

If you’re growing some fresh herbs on your windowsill or back porch, snip a few over a steaming bowl of wild rice.

Entree salad possibilities based on rice are endless. Try serving wild rice mixed with peeled orange segments, blueberries, dried cranberries and some chopped yellow or orange bell peppers over a bed of spinach and wild greens. If you’ve chilled the rice mixture in the refrigerator, it’ll make a good lunch to take to work at some point. Wait to add it to chilled greens once you sit down to eat if maximum crispiness is important to you.

This combination is rich in vitamin C, and the protein-and-fruit blend will give you a boost to fight that drowsy mid-afternoon slump. If you have some grilled chicken, add away; choose your favorite spices from the collection you’ve been building, and you’ll have a company-worthy entree.

If you’d rather take a wrap to work, wild rice will go beautifully with many flavors of wraps, from spinach to sun-dried tomato to multigrain. Shred some lettuce or cabbage, add wild rice with mandarin oranges, top with some cranberry sauce and enjoy.

Wild rice and black beans are good friends, so try making a beans-and-rice dish you already enjoy with wild rice instead. The nutty flavor of wild rice teams up beautifully with slivered almonds, too. If you’ve been tempted to replicate a trout almandine dish that you’ve enjoyed in New Orleans cuisine, think about substituting wild rice to play up the rich almond flavor. Stay with the New Orleans vibe and make red beans and rice with wild rice, which is delicious with andouille sausage — the spicier, the better.

Rice also is a wonderful dessert canvas, from rice pudding with cinnamon and raisins to Thai sticky rice. If you’ve been interested in branching out and trying more international cuisines during your stay-at-home sojourn, dessert is a great place to start.

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