I grew up eating lots of rice at home. We ate so much of it that I was convinced it was a vegetable for most of my youth. (Don’t waste your time trying to figure out the logic there.) Rice was synonymous with white basmati rice, a long, fragrant grain from India that my mom would cook with a good with a pinch of floral saffron or wrapped in tendrils of dried dill.
While I still look to white rice when I’m trying to create an elegant meal for a special occasion, brown rice is one of my everyday go-to foods. Since brown rice has both the bran and germ intact, it has more nutrients, protein and healthy fats present. Out of all the grains, it’s the highest in energy-giving B vitamins, and also contains significant amounts of vitamin E, manganese and selenium.
The key to cooking brown rice is to work with its idiosyncrasies rather than against them. Brown rice is chewier and heartier than white rice, so I try to cook it with strong, toasty flavors like cumin, cinnamon and clove that complement its texture. Compared to sticky short-grain rice, basmati grains are longer, crunchier and more separated. After toasting the spices in the oil to release their flavor, I also toast the rice to accentuate its individual grains and keep them separate.
This rice is spicy and flavorful and is a great accompaniment to an Indian meal. Try it with dal or tandoori chicken with a side of Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds. Its flavors are versatile enough to accompany an American or Middle Eastern-style meal as well.
A warm bowl of brown rice also makes a great, hearty breakfast on its own. It’s really not so different from a breakfast of commercial dry cereal or oatmeal, except that the whole grains are intact and no additional sweetener is required.
Toasty Cinnamon Brown Basmati Rice
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods
1 3/4 cups of water
pinch of salt
1. In a mesh strainer, rinse the brown basmati rice until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
2. In a medium pot with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and gently stir until they start to sizzle and pop, about 30 – 60 seconds. Then add the cinnamon stick, cloves and green cardamom pods, stirring gently for about 30 seconds. Add the drained rice, stirring occasionally until the water has evaporated from the grains. Pour in the water and the pinch of salt and bring the pot up to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, turn the heat down so the water is only simmering and cover with the lid. The rice will need to cook for about 30 – 45 minutes. When all the water is absorbed, turn off the heat and let the rice sit and steam for 10 minutes. This well help soften the grains. Remove cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods before serving. Or just warn your guests.