Category Archives: Vegan

Toasty Cinnamon Brown Basmati Rice

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
Serves 4

1 cup brown basmati rice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
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.

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Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds


This recipe was born out of revenge.  When I visit my parents’ house, I become the de-facto short order breakfast cook for my father.  As he’s walking out the door to grab the newspaper, he’ll call out a breakfast order which usually includes how he wants his eggs to be cooked and a non-negotiable number of pieces of toast.  One morning, I tried to mix it up by making him basic oatmeal, sweetened with sliced bananas.  This was a mistake.  Like many men of a certain age, he’ll refuse to try anything that screams “health food,” but I thought I could win him over with my charm as the youngest daughter in our family.  This was my second mistake.  After one bite, he ran to the trash, spit out the oatmeal, then looked to the heavens and exclaimed, “THIS IS FOOD FOR ANIMALS!”

Little bit of a drama queen, that one.  However, let the record state: I make damn good oatmeal.  This was war.

Now, I always sneak a veggie or two into his breakfast, whether its spinach in a frittata or sliced tomato on the side.  But fuming over this tantrum, I decided to go extreme: that man was getting a plate full of steamed broccoli for breakfast.  I quickly pan-steamed broccoli florets and, feeling benevolent, gave them a quick saute in oil with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and plenty of salt.  I still wanted to win him over to the green side.  The result was perfectly tender broccoli with Indian flavors crusted on top and none of that cabbagey flavor that broccoli-haters crinkle their noses at.  Not only did he gobble it up, but he requested more.

I prefer to keep whole spices on hand since they last longer and have more flavor.  But if you only have ground cumin, you can definitely substitute that for the cumin seeds.  Just add it to the oil and then immediately add the broccoli.  Unlike whole spices that take a minute bloom and give flavor to hot oil, ground spices will generally just burn if left in a pan alone to sizzle with oil.

This dish takes 3 minutes to make, and it’s still my favorite way to eat broccoli.  Love  you, Dad!

Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds
Serves 2

1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Take a large saute pan with a lid and fill it with a half-inch of water.  Generously salt like water and then bring to a boil. Add the broccoli florets in an even layer and then cover.  Let steam for about 30 seconds or until bright green.  Remove the florets from the water and let drain in a colander or on a kitchen towel.  Drain the water and wipe out the saute pan.  If you have a steamer basket, you can use that to steam the broccoli, if you prefer.

2. In the same saute pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and let it heat up.  You’ll see a slight shimmer across the surface of the oil.  Then add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds.  Once they heat up, the mustard seeds will start to sizzle and pop.  As soon as they start to do this, add the red pepper flake and the drained broccoli florets.  Sprinkle the salt evenly over the whole pan, adding more to taste if necessary.  Saute for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.