>> Sunday, September 25, 2011 – any season, ditch the box, Gluten Free, Mexican, peppers, rice, side dish, Spanish, tomatoes, vegan option
If, like me, you've been making quick Spanish rice "out of a box" to round out your Mexican/Spanish meals for all these years, you'll be happy to know (or, I'm assuming you will if you're bothering to read this blog) that I have cracked the code. I have done a little reading and a little experimenting and have deduced that making your own perfectly marvelous Spanish rice from scratch is really no big deal. I have also confirmed, as I long suspected, that the convenience of boxed Spanish rice is a scam. From this hypothesis I will further theorize that ALL flavored boxed rices are no more efficient or "easy" than their from-scratch predecessors, but I will have to prove that theory in future experiments. For now, let's turn to Exhibit A.
|Rice A Roni Spanish Rice Ingredients|
This stuff has been a standard in my household for years. No longer. You see, what I want out of food is something that tastes good, is nutritious, and is as natural and simple as possible. And I mean really natural, not what our food industry calls 'all natural.' How natural is it if it's been stripped of its nutrients, then a small handful of isolated nutrients are added back in to give us the bare minimum? How natural is it if the flavor has to be enhanced with MSG and there are things in the ingredient list you've never heard of and couldn't guess what plant or animal they came from, and it's not some exotic foreign food. It's something they came up with in a lab. As Michael Pollan says, "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
To add to the list of complaints, if you click on the caption under the Rice A Roni image up there, you'll see that WHEAT is listed as the second ingredient on the label (and a soy product is just a little further down). Rice, once one of the most allergy-friendly grains on the planet, the stuff that has sustained millions across the decades, has now invaded our grocery shelves in the form of little boxes and bags (the flavor packet is right in the box, so convenient for the busy working home maker) laced with more allergens and lab-invented ingredients than was ever necessary to make a good, flavorful pot of rice. For some of us, this stuff will kill you. Allergic to wheat and/or soy? Stay well away from boxed flavored rice.
And now the good news, my personal salvation: perfectly good boxless Spanish rice.
2 c. long grain brown rice
Dollop of Olive Oil (1 or 2 Tbsp.)
1 can (14.5 oz or thereabouts) diced tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz or thereabouts) diced tomatoes and green chilis
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (totally optional, Terri)
1 1/2 - 2 cups broth (chicken, veggie, turkey, whateva')
Chop your onion however you like it, big chunks or little disintegrating bits or somewhere in between (I'm not going to tell you how to run your kitchen). Heat up your dollop of olive oil in a medium-sized pot and cook the onion until it's nearly translucent (or you can go for full caramelization, your choice). Add the minced garlic in the last few minutes, since garlic cooks very fast. At the same time as the garlic, add the rice and stir constantly over medium heat until some of the rice starts to brown slightly.
Add the tomatoes, tomatoes and chilis, any spices if you're going to (see below) and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover, letting it simmer for 35 - 45 minutes, depending on your stove and your rice. Start checking it at about 30 minutes. If the liquid isn't all absorbed, let it keep going. If, at around 40 minutes the rice has absorbed all its liquid but it's still a touch underdone, add a 1/4 c. liquid, put the lid back on, and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Fluff the finished rice with a fork. Eat it with something yummy and Mexican. And know that you have thwarted The Man by making something good from scratch... and it was easy. :)
*That's the basics. Feel free to spice it up from there, if you wish. I've seen recipes that call for a tsp. or so of oregano, or a few dashes of cumin, or even some fresh cilantro thrown in at the end. Go wild. You'll notice that my amounts on the tomatoes are approximate. I understand that many of our wonderfully resourceful readers might be using their own canned tomatoes (not store bought). If that's you, I commend you, and understand that your cans are probably not exactly a store-standard 14.5 oz. Use your best judgment. If you want to use fresh tomatoes, use 2 if they're very large, and maybe 3 or 4 if they're kinda' small (eyeball it). Do not strain your 'maters. You want all that juice in your rice (it will make up part of your liquid), and a few tomato seeds never hurt anyone (honestly, I've done it with whole tomatoes and never even noticed the seeds). Then, of course, you'll have to add your chilis (even if they're mild chilis, or even bell peppers - you need it for depth of flavor). One or two of those little cans of green chilis will do the trick. But, if you're pulling all this produce out of the garden, you probably already know what kind of peppers you want to use, and again, I'm not one to stop you. You can make it as hot or mild as you wish. This is your show.
Go forth and cook food.
Go forth and cook food.