Rice

So here we are, five days after Christmas, and you’re probably wondering what to do with the leftover holiday ham in your fridge. After all, there are only so many ham soups you can make before they get tiring (and I’m a big fan of ham soups). As I was thinking about everyone’s ham problem yesterday, I put together this ham and kale risotto for lunch. I thought you folks would enjoy it as well.

Risotto is the most popular way to prepare rice in Italy, and has been around since the 1500s. The rice varieties used in risotto (typically Carnaroli, Arborio, or Vialone Nano) are high in starch and impart a creamy texture to the dish. There’s a certain technique to making risotto: you create a soffrito using fat and onion, toast the rice and coat it in the fat, pour in and evaporate wine, ladle in hot broth until cooked through, then finish with butter and/or cheese.

The risotto-cooking process requires almost constant stirring in order to loosen up the starch and to keep the rice from sticking to the pan, so expect to spend a lot of time in front of your stove when making this dish (I usually grab a book or watch some Netflix on my phone). As an added bonus, your arm will get a bit of a workout along the way.

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Having spent most of my 20s in Hawaii, we regularly made trips to Giovanni’s shrimp truck in Kahuku to enjoy their signature dish: garlic shrimp. The shrimp is pan-fried in an aromatic scampi sauce, and served with a cubic ton of garlic. I have regularly tackled this dish since moving to the mainland in 2008, but it wasn’t until this past year that I really figured out how to recreate the dish at home.

My process includes marinating and par-cooking the shrimp in butter, then reducing the marinating liquid and garlic until it’s crispy, and finally returning the shrimp to the pan to finish everything off. I have made a couple adjustments over the years that ended up making a big difference in the final product. In order to prevent the butter from burning, I used clarified butter (or ghee) which has a higher smoke point than butter (previously I used olive oil, which I don’t like using at high temperatures). Also, by using tail-on (or even shelled) shrimp, the marinating liquid better penetrates the shrimp, making for a more flavorful (and less messy) experience.

For clarification (no pun intended), there is a difference between clarified butter and ghee, although the two are often confused. Clarified butter is butter with its milk solids removed, generally scraped from the surface of the butter as it gently simmers. Ghee, on the other hand, is made when the milk solids are allowed to fall to the bottom of the butter and brown as the butter simmers. Ghee has a more toasted flavor than the more neutral clarified butter.

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You know, for being a guy who’s so pro-rice in the Paleo community, I have relatively few rice recipes out there. Sure, there are a bunch in my cookbook (the Dirty Rice recipe is my favorite), but considering the fact that we eat rice several times a week it should be better represented. So here’s a recipe.

Jollof Rice is a dish originally prepared by the Wolof people of Senegal and The Gambia, which has expanded to the rest of West Africa since. It is characterized by its addition of tomatoes and onions, and is put together in one pot – its other name, Benachin, means “one pot” in the Wolof language.

Wondering how rice fits into a Paleo-style diet? Read a bit about my take on it in this recipe from earlier this year.

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Dolma are stuffed grape leaves, originating in Turkey but expanding all over the Mediterranean, Middle East, and beyond. Their filling can be anything from tomatoes, to eggplant, to meat – really, you can’t go wrong with stuffing these little guys. This particular recipe is the Greek variation, called Dolmathes (an interesting use of Greek plural endings in a foreign word); they are made with rice, ground beef, and fresh herbs. And lemon juice! A whole lemon’s worth. The resulting flavor is both sour, salty, and rich, and is a perfect party dish to accompany other finger foods.

I was first drawn to this dish because it’s a one-stop-macronutrient-shop; it’s equal parts carbs, protein, and fats, ending up in a deeply satisfying experience. The only break from the norm that I adapted in this recipe was to cook the rice in chicken broth instead of water, in order to increase its nutritional profile and tastiness.

Before we move on, let’s have the white rice talk again. As you may know, I find rice to be a perfectly healthy and Paleo-friendly food, since it is very low in toxins (compared to brown rice, and even some common Paleo foods, like coconut). Common questions I get: But what about its glycemic load? Basmati rice (like in this recipe) has a very low glycemic load even compared to other rices, and when paired with protein, fats, and acids, it’s further reduced, and significantly so. But what about arsenic? There are some studies that show there is arsenic in rice, but the amount of arsenic in rice is lower than the arsenic found in other foods (3x less than what’s found in drinking water, for example). But it’s nutritionally poor? Cook it in broth, like in this recipe!

Anyway, those are the most common rice questions I get – be sure to leave more in the comments below if you have any. At the end of the day, I think that white rice is a good thing to have on the table; it’s delicious, and if having a bit of rice as part of a meal helps keep cravings for other (unhealthier) foods at bay, go for it – provided you tolerate it well.

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Kuy Teav is a Cambodian pork and seafood noodle soup, much like the Vietnamese Pho; in fact this dish is enjoyed in Vietnam, under the name Hu Tieu Nom Vang (“Phnom Penh Noodle Soup”). While I’m a huge fan of Pho (it’s in my cookbook), sometimes it’s a little too beefy for my tastes; Kuy Teav serves as an excellent break from the norm.

It’s believed that this dish originated among Chinese immigrants living in Cambodia, and later spread to the rest of the country. It’s also a popular breakfast meal. Like many Asian soups, there is no one way to prepare this dish. Feel free to experiment with all sorts of add-ins, including meat balls or any leftover meat you may have.

This dish sits firmly in the Perfect Health Diet spectrum of Paleo since it uses rice noodles, but feel free to use sweet potato noodles (or even zucchini noodles) instead. One of these days, I’ll help convince the Paleo world that rice is indeed Paleo, but until then, I’ll continue to use my favorite little hashtag: #teamwhiterice.

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Sabzi Polo is a traditional Persian herbed rice pilaf. There are several different ways to cook rice in Persian cuisine, but Polo (parboiled and steamed) is the most popular. This dish in particular is eaten during the Persian New Year (Nowruz, late March) and served with white fish. The type of white fish varies from rare local fish like Caspian kutum to something more accessible, like halibut or tilapia.

Rice is a critical food source in modern day Iran, and has a long history in the region; it was first introduced from South Asia around 1000 BC, and has been grown in northern Iran ever since. It’s also commonly believed that rice entered Europe via Ancient Persia.

It’s exciting to see that white rice is gaining more acceptance in the Paleo community. I started adding white rice to my version of the Paleo diet in early 2011 (here is an old post about it) and it’s definitely had a positive impact on my overall wellness. I explain many of my reasons for eating rice in my book, but the long story short is that it’s an ancient, delicious, satisfying, and neutral starch (it has fewer toxins than many foods we consider Paleo, like coconut and almonds – reference) whose glycemic load is easily tempered by eating low-glycemic varieties (basmati rice in particular is lower (28) than regular white rice (43) – reference). When eaten as part of a whole meal with added fats and acids, its glycemic index is even further diminished (reference). There are still people that have digestive issues with rice, but for everyone else, it may warrant a place on your dinner table.

Sabzi Polo is an excellent example of an optimal way of eating rice, since it’s paired with a huge amount of herbs – much more than your typical dish – and considering Mathieu Lalonde’s AHS 2012 talk where he found that herbs and spices are second only to organ meats in terms of nutrient density, it’s always good to eat lots of herbs.

This recipe is part of a collaboration with my friend Naz of Cinnamon Eats – after having several discussions about Persian rice dishes, we decided to each write up a recipe to highlight the varied and delicious choices available in Persian cuisine. Be sure to check out her half of the collaboration: Zereshk Polo (Persian Barberry Rice).

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A reader recently tipped me off about the idea of pan-frying rice papers (bánh tráng) to make a quick snack. Not only was it a great idea, it served as a unique way of making a quick serving “dish”; in fact, they acted not unlike tostadas in that sense. So to keep with the theme of rice papers, I decided to make some deconstructed spring roll “tostadas” as a quick and easy meal.

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Mohinga is a Burmese rice noodle soup not unlike many other rice noodles soups found in Southeast Asia, like Pho and Laksa. Mohinga is unique in that it uses a catfish soup stock and it’s typically served for breakfast.

There are many variations of this dish out there, but the most common versions usually include chickpea flour (which I omitted since it’s legume-based) and banana tree stem (which I wasn’t able to find in my area). The fish used to make the stock is often pan fried and added to the soup upon serving. To replace the chickpea flour and pan-fried fish, I used crushed up fish and rice fritters, which was my recipe from last week. It ended up being a very good decision.

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Mankind has been dealing with leftover rice for a long time. While some common uses for old rice are fried rice and congee (rice porridge), rice cakes are also a great way to clean out the fridge. Many variations of rice cakes are made using leftover rice that’s pressed together and steamed or pan-fried. When ingredients are mixed into the rice cake, they often take on a different name, fritter.

In putting together this recipe, I looked to create a dish that has an ideal macronutrient ratio (40% fat, 30% protein, 30% carb), which I achieved by mixing in fish and an egg yolk, and pan-frying them in coconut oil. They came out great, and I plan on using this recipe as a baseline for future creations.

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For Thanksgiving this year, we decided to make a traditional side dish instead of trying to invent something new that is in line with our dietary restrictions. What we settled on is not a traditional dish for Thanksgiving by any means, but it’s a traditional one nonetheless!

Risotto is a dish first served in Italy in the 16th century, when rice was first introduced from neighboring Mediterranean cuisines, and gained popularity in Milan. Risotto was served in the United States in the 1800s, but didn’t get popular until after WWII (along with pizza). The 1980s are also a time when this dish became really popular and faddish in the US.

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