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Last week I posted the Risotto diary and this week it's the turn of the humble but incredibly healthy Brown Rice. Next week, stay tuned as it will be all about Wild Rice (and Red Rice, from Camargues, near my neck of the woods)

                                                                   

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Now I know that brown rice is not "sexy" like its hulled counterpart but it does pack a huge wallop of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, selenium, manganese, and the vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6. Additionally brown rice is also a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and gamma-oryzanol. It is said to substantially reduce the risk of colon cancers as well as minimizing the amount of time cancer-causing substances. So what's not to like?

Those of you who are vegetarians know the difference between brown rice and white rice: it is not just the color! A whole grain of rice has several layers. Only the outermost layer, the hull, is removed to produce brown rice. This process is the least damaging to the nutritional value of the rice and avoids the unnecessary loss of nutrients that occurs with further processing (as anyone who is a fan of Rice-A-Roni would attest!) When brown rice is further milled to remove the bran and most of the germ layer, the result is a whiter rice, but also a rice that has lost the majority of its nutrients. Then they polish it to produce the white rice we are used to seeing in the supermarkets. Polishing removes the aleurone layer of the grain-a layer filled with health-supportive, essential fats. And because these fats, once exposed to air by the extreme refining process, they are highly susceptible to oxidation so food processors remove this layer it to simply extend the shelf life of the product. Et voila! The end product is a highly refined starch that is largely bereft of its original nutrients.

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The earliest record of rice being cultivated in China date back to 7000 B.C.E., and rice was exclusive to Asia before travelers brought it into ancient Greece. Although typically viewed as a side dish in Western nations, rice provides up to half the calories in a typical daily diet in many Asian countries. Most of the world’s rice is grown in Asia. There are more than 8,000 varieties of rice.

This week I have three recipes, all healthy and reasonably priced: Brown Rice & Root Vegetable Soup with Port, Greek-styled Vine Leaves and a vegetarian's paradise, Baked Brown Rice Provencale, which is simply a tasty ratatouille with fluffy brown rice perfumed with fresh thyme & rosemary.

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Brown Rice & Root Vegetable Soup, with Port:

This potage or soup is absolutely brilliant if you have a cold. There are a thousand ways to make a brown rice soup and this one has served me well over the years. If I have fresh kale then I add it with a pinch of local seaweed. And if I have chicken stock in the freezer, I use it too but it's just as good without.

For 4 to 6 persons you will need 6 ounces brown rice, 1/2 pint of port (doesn't have to be an expensive one), 2 carrots, cubed, 2 celery stalks, cut up, 2 onions, roughly chopped up, half a dozen leaves of white cabbage, cut up, 2 leeks, washed and cut up, a handful of mushrooms, sliced, 6 garlic cloves, minced roughly, a knob of ginger, finely minced, a handful of baby potatoes, halved, salt & pepper to taste, water.

In a large pot combine 4 pints water, brown rice, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, celery and ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, in a deep frying pan, pour a little olive oil and saute the onions, mushrooms, leeks and garlic for a few minutes over medium heat. When it's done add the port and the equal amount of water, cook for 5 minutes and add to the soup. Reduce the heat under the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes. Note: I have done this with equal amount of barley as well, works too.

Greek Style Vine Leaves:

Great appetizers, great finger food at parties, and can be eaten as a main meal too. These vine leaves can be stuffed with brown rice and just about anything that takes your fancy. You can now purchase vine leaves in brine in most supermarkets. Make sure you plunge them in cold water, add a little lemon juice and let them sit there for a couple of hours before using. Note that it's best to cook the brown rice in advance as it must be cool before wrapping the vine leaf over.

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For say 100 of them (if you need less, halve or quarter the ingredients) you will need 1 glass (or 1/4 pint) extra virgin olive oil, 6 to red onions, finely chopped, a large handful of chopped flat parsley, 2 or 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped mint leaves, same amount of fresh basil, a handful of shelled pistachios or pine nuts, 6 peeled garlic cloves, finely minced, the strained juice of 6 lemons, 1 pound of rice (leftover rice can be used in soups or thickening sauces), 2 pints of tomato sauce or passata, half a pint of chicken or vegetable stock, salt & pepper to taste.

To make the cooking sauce, simply mix the tomato passata, the lemon juice and the stock together, add salt & pepper to your liking and set aside. Some people like to reduce the sauce but I prefer to keep it liquid as it cooks the vine leaves in the oven, and naturally thickens.

In a large skillet pour a little olive oil, and cook your onions till golden. Check for salt & pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes and add the garlic, and set aside to cool off. In a large mixing bowl, add your cooked brown rice, the pistachios or pine nuts, the parsley and the mint & basil, then add the onions.

Have your vine leaves ready, pat them dry with a cloth and lay one at the time flat, fill the middle with the rice mixture, then roll ( see pic above) If you need to use 2 leaves,  no problem. Continue until you have all of them rolled up.  Next, preheat your oven to 460 F (240C), oil up up a deep dish, sit the vine leaves on top and cover with the tomato sauce. Bake for 30 minutes. Let them cool for a while and place them  on a serving dish and douse it liberally with olive oil. You can, if you wish, use beef or lamb mince and add fresh chillies to it, either way it's delicious and not costly.T

Baked Brown Rice Provencale:

First you need to make a good ratatouille and as luck would have it, I have one recipe here (recipe is just under my hometown pic).

The idea of this "bake" is to either serve it as a main course or as a side dish. Personally I like it on its own, and without cheese on top. For 4 to 6 persons you will need 2 cups (220 grams approx.) of long-grain brown rice, 2 onions, 1 celery stalk, 8 ripe tomatoes, 1 large eggplant, 2 zucchinis, 6 garlic cloves, 2 bell peppers, a handful of fresh thyme and 2 or 3 sprigs of rosemary to infuse the rice, salt & pepper to taste, a little knob of butter and a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Make the ratatouille from the linked recipe, do not overcook it, in fact it's best to undercook it as it will spend another half hour in the oven. Heat up your oven to 375F (200C). Soak and rinse the brown rice well. Mix the brown rice with the olive oil.
Butter a large glass dish and sit the rice in it, spreading it evenly.
Bring 2 1/2 cups of water and olive oil to boil, covered, in medium saucepan over high heat; once boiling, immediately stir in salt and pour water over rice. Cover it with a layer of foil and bake for half an hour. Remove from oven and mix the ratatouille in. Recover with foil and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from your oven and uncover. Fluff the rice with a fork  and let it stand for 5 minutes.

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I was going to write up another recipe, Brown Rice & Smoked Duck Stir-fry, but ran out of time. In any case I think most posters would know how to make a brown rice stir-fry, with or without smoked duck (which, btw, is sensational).

Don't miss the Wild Rice Edition next week, I have three, maye four great recipes. Please post your brown rice experiments, sharing is caring!

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Originally posted to Patric Juillet on Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 02:28 PM PST.

Also republished by Environmental Foodies.

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