Rice Pilaf – Small Effort for Something Special

Rice is good.  You can dress it up as little or as much as you would like.  And, dressing it up is an excellent way to get more flavor and a few more veggies into your meal, or even create a one-pot meal, albeit the latter is not the focus of this post.

I am planning a simple meal of sauteed salmon fillets, steamed broccoli, and rice.  I might create a post about the salmon in the future, but in the meantime, I am simply sauteing two 5 oz skinless fillets in olive oil (enough oil  so that the fish has a chance to get hot before hitting the pan directly and sticking to it!) for a few minutes per side and then brushing with a balsamic glaze, most likely using some store-bought balsamic cream (Pastene) that I have on hand, dressed up with a bit of  lemon juice and olive oil.

As to the broccoli – Steve and I like it well-steamed rather than the “healthier” more crisp style.  Actually, there are arguments for both sides: the more cooked, the more accessible many of the nutrients, albeit more cooking will reduce the amount of the heat-sensitive Vitamin C,  for example. But, in any case, here is a great way to keep broccoli crisp in your fridge, as well as perk up broccoli that was not quite as firm as one would like when purchased.

Just pop the broccoli in water and then pop into the fridge.
Just pop the broccoli in water and then pop into the fridge.

But, back to the rice.  I like using brown/whole grain rice for the added fiber.  I know there are issues these days with arsenic in rice and the whole grain version having more, but from my research, it looks like this is an issue with rice grown on former cotton fields on which arsenic-containing pesticides were used.  My solution is to buy my rice from the California-based Lundberg Family Farms.

ANYWAY – since the rest of the meal is quite simple, I thought I would make the rice more interesting.  And, truthfully, it does not take that much effort. Here is what I did:

Start with sauting onion until soft, and then add diced carrot and chopped fresh parsley.
Start with sauteing in olive oil to build a flavor base.

I started with sauteing a half a small onion until soft, and then added diced carrot, chopped fresh parsley, and freshly ground black pepper. I also tossed in a few dried red pepper flakes for fun.

Add rice and saute some more!
Add rice and saute some more!

Next, I added the rice (I used 1 cup) and sauteed until just a bit toasty – a few minutes while stirring.

I then added 2 cups liquid. I recommend using chicken broth or bouillon or other savory-flavored liquid, if available.  I make chicken stock and keep it in one-cup containers in the freezer.  Today I defrosted a cup of chicken stock and added water to make two cups liquid to the one cup of rice.

Add water and simmer on low for 45 minutes or more as needed.
Add water and simmer on low for 45 minutes or more as needed.

I am blessed to have a stovetop with a “simmer”  burner, so keeping the rice on a low simmer is easy for me.  When I have to use another burner, I watch the rice carefully and/or use a heat diffuser.  But, even at a more active simmer, rice comes out nicely after about 45 minutes. Just keep an eye out so it doesn’t dry out too much.  Although, if you get a bit of burning on the bottom, it can add to the complexity of the flavor and texture once you stir the rice up and serve.  🙂

All done and has passed the "quality control" tasting.  Yum!
All done – and  it has passed the “quality control” tasting. Yum!

And, there you have it.  For a one-pot meal, you can add shredded meat, tofu, tempeh, fish… ooo, salmon would be good!…or whatever strikes your fancy.  BUT, do remember that you can always make rice more interesting with just a little effort.