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Rice Is Nice In Texas

by R. Stephen Thompkins

No one really knows the origins of rice. Nevertheless, billons of people consume this ancient grain. Archeological investigations show it was gathered and eaten wild in humankind's prehistory. Such investigations also show it was cultivated in Southest Asia as early as 5000 B. C. in the same region which today consists of Southern China, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Laos. Rice cultivation spread in all directions to India, the Middle East, and Africa. The Moorish invasion of Spain in the eighth century introduced rice into Europe, and it arrived in North and South America in the sixteenth century.

There is no inhabited continent which does not produce rice. Scientists have identified twenty species of rice of which only two, Asian and African, are cultivated today. The African species grows in areas of West Africa. The majority of rice grown today is Asian rice of which there are three major groups, Japonica, Indica, and Javanica.

We catagorize rice into long grain, short grain, and medium grain. Additionally, scientists classify rice by the way it grows and in what soil conditions. There are a staggering 70,000 varieties of rice although only a few hundred are cultivated around the world today.

This variety and ubiquity means that there is no cuisine on the planet that does not have rice on its menu. Naturally, one thinks of Asia where rice is the staple food at every meal. China remains the world's biggest producer with India following as a close second. Readers not from Texas may be surprised to learn that Texas is the fourth largest producer of rice in the United States, and Texas cooking reflects the wide array of rice dishes from hearty side dishes to main courses spanning many ethnic cuisines.

Cooking Rice

Rice is easy to cook. However, novice chefs find it intimidating. Simply use two parts of water for every cup of rice. For example, a typical rice side dish consists of adding one cup of rice to two cups of boiling water.

Reduce heat immediately to a simmer. Boiled rice loses its texture and flavor. Rice should cook from 15 to 30 minutes depending on its size and processing. White rice and short or medium grain rices take less time. The bran on brown rice takes a longer time to soften. Consequently, brown rice and long grain rices take somewhat longer. Butter and salt are not necessary for cooking rice, however, anyone can add it to taste or if part of a recipe.

Stir rice one time, immediately after adding it to the water. Do not stir after this point. Also, air vents will form in the surface of the rice when it is finished cooking. Freshly cooked rice will be somewhat dense, so fluff it with a fork to make it visually appealing. A paper towel placed between the pan and the lid during cooking will result in a less sticky rice, which becomes very fluffy.

Rice With Garlic and Pine Nuts

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 roasted head of garlic (garlic puree)
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Swirl in the garlic puree. Add the rice and pine nuts. Saute, stirring and tossing, until the rice is heated through and has absorbed the butter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot.

Note that this is a very nutritious dish. Rice is not only rich in fiber, but also contains most of the B vitamins. Pine nuts are a rich source of zinc, selenium and other important vitamins.

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