Amy Clark

4 Fun New Ways to Cook Rice

I absolutely love rice, but never had a really appreciation for the diversity of this dish until I really started experimenting with it. Much like pasta, it can be made into many different dishes for even the pickiest of palates. Rice can be made into a perfect accompaniment to fish, you can add an Italian or Asian flare to it depending on your main course, and it can even be made into a tasty pudding. The possibilities with this side are endless!

The best part about rice though is that it is so darn inexpensive, making it the perfect dish for the frugal cook. I try to keep a variety of rices on hand and have experimented with different grains and textures from the traditional long grain white rice to a deliciously nutty brown. Even the more exotic rices like aborio or jasmine rice still are inexpensive and can add a different dimension to your meals depending on your main course of the night.

I wanted to showcase today four different ways that you can prepare this dish to add a little bit of fun to your typical side dish fare. These four recipes have stood the test of time in our house and are four of my favorite ways to make rice

When I ran across a recipe in one of my cookbooks for rice with pesto, I knew this would make a lovely side with our herb baked tilapia. I honestly wasn’t sure if the kids would eat it though since it did have a light green color to it. They ended up gobbling it up just like those rice mixes in a box and the pesto added delicious flavor as a side to fish. It felt a little more grown-up than the Rice-A-Roni and we all enjoyed this very much.

Rice With Pesto or Herb Oil (from “How To Cook Everything“)
Serves Four

1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
1 1/2 cups basmati or other long-grain rice (I used white long grain rice for this)
2 1/4 cups water
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup pesto or 1 cup fresh herb of your choice: chives, parsley, chervil, or cilantro, 1/4 cup canola or other neutral oil, & 1-2 tablespoons water if needed.

Heat the tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is coated with oil. Add the water and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up a bit and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to medium-low.

After 15 minutes, turn off the heat under the rice, but leave the cover on. Wait 10 minutes, then stir in the pesto or herb oil. Check the seasoning and serve immediately.

If you do not have pesto: While the rice is cooking, rinse the herb and place it in the container of a blender or small food processor. Turn the machine on and gradually add teh 1/4 cup oil. Blend or process until smooth, stopping the machine now and then to stir down the mixture. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two of water to the mixture; it should be the texture of heavy cream.

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I use white rice for this one, but I may need to try this dish with brown rice sometime instead. This is a fun and inexpensive side dish and even our rice-haters ate with great enthusiasm. Serve this with a big platter of chicken enchiladas and don’t forget the homemade enchilada sauce to keep your evening perfectly frugal!

I think this will be a repeat performer in our house!

Mexican Rice

1 cup uncooked rice (not instant rice)
2 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped (omitted because of personal taste)
2 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I omitted this ingredient because I didn’t have any tomatoes)
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth or beef broth (we chose chicken broth)
1 tablespoon chili powder (you can reduce this- I added 1 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the rice and stir over medium-high heat until rice is golden brown. Add the garlic and chopped onion, and sauté until the onion just begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, chili powder and salt, lower heat and cover. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

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I can admit that in the past I was not a big fan of brown rice. I have tried other cooking methods, but this baked brown rice is my favorite by far. We eat this at least twice a week and my children absolutely love it. I usually throw this brown rice in with some Caesar or Ranch Pork Chops & a tray of lemony green beans since they all cook at exactly the same degree. It is the perfect side to any weeknight meal! If you hate brown rice, you must try it this way!

Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice

1 1/2 cups brown rice, medium or short grain
2 1/2 cups water (we substituted this with chicken broth instead)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil in a kettle or covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

Amy’s Notes- When I package this up for leftovers, I add a tablespoon or two of water or chicken broth to the rice before storing it for later. This seems to help keep the rice more moist and helps it hold it’s texture a little better.

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If you are looking for a great side dish with your fish, then look no further than this fantastic Lemony Rice Pilaf. This rice is sticky and flavorful with a burst of freshness from the lemon, parsley, and garlic. I love to serve this rice alongside baked salmon or as an accompaniment to my herb baked tilapia. It is a recipe that is in constant rotation and tastes like something you would eat at a fancy seafood place. Lucky for you, it costs practically nothing to make!

Lemony Rice Pilaf (Courtesy of Recipezaar)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil, preferably canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
3 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock makes this vegetarian/vegan)
1 grated lemon, rind of
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
fresh ground pepper

In a heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in rice, then stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; let simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley; taste and add pepper if you wish. Note: This reheats very well so you can make a double batch for another night, if you like!

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What are some fun ways you dress up this common cooking staple in your pantry? Feel free to share your recipes and/or links!

Published February 22, 2010 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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