Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Food is Forbidden!

Chinese Forbidden Rice. Admit it. Any food that is called "forbidden" is something you just have to try. Also called Chinese black rice, it is considered a "superfood," being one of the highest foods in antioxidants (more than blueberries!)and it also improves blood circulation. Forbidden rice has the darkest bran layer, and therefore the most fiber, vitamins, and minerals than any other whole grain rice. And THIS is exactly why it became known as forbidden rice in ancient China. Because it was thought to ensure a long life, only the emperors were allowed to eat it. And as for the taste? It's pretty special- a little chewier than brown rice with a bit of a nutty flavor. I am a big fan! Unfortunately, I have only been able to find it so far at a health food store. Unless I have just missed it, I don't think it's available at Wegmans- yet.

You can cook forbidden rice exactly the way you do brown rice. Boil it in water and a little salt, if desired. Use about a cup of rice to about a cup and a quarter of water. As soon as it starts boiling, turn the stove to low, cover, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. You can make it in place of regular or brown rice in any recipe, or just serve it as is, either on the side or under a dish with a sauce.
I've also tried a few recipes I've found online. My favorite by far is Fried Forbidden Rice by Sang Yoon. Fried with roasted garlic, bacon, onion, and tamari sauce and topped with scallions, the nutty rice took on the Asian flavors nicely! I made this recipe exactly as written with one exception. The original recipe requires that you cook the rice and let it dry overnight before adding it in the recipe. I didn't really have the time for this, so I just cooked it and spread it out on a pan, draining it with paper towels to absorb the liquid. The dish was delicious so I'm not sure the cooking ahead is really necessary.

The next one I'm going to try is a forbidden rice salad from Whole Foods that is apparently their best selling salad. I'll post the results and recipe after I've tried it. Let me know if you dared to try forbidden rice! And please pass along any great recipes you find. I am planning on making this "superfood" a staple at our house!

Fried Forbidden Rice ACTIVE: 25 MIN TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 25 MIN plus overnight chilling SERVINGS: 6
1 head of garlic (about 12 cloves), cloves peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups black rice (13 ounces; see Note)
2 cups water
1/4 pound lean bacon, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°. Put the garlic cloves on a double sheet of foil and drizzle with vegetable oil. Seal the foil around the garlic and bake for about 1 hour, until the garlic is soft and caramelized. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cover the black rice with the water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Spread the rice on a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.
Pour off all of the fat in the skillet and add the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the bacon, black rice and roasted garlic and stir-fry over moderately high heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and season with salt and white pepper. Transfer to bowls, garnish with the scallions and serve right away.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Return of Quinoa with a Twist- It's for Breakfast!

Since I started on my weight loss/healthy eating journey almost ten years ago, I've relied on mostly one ingredient for breakfast: the incredible, edible egg. Previously given a bad rap for its cholesterol content, it is now known that eggs actually contain the good cholesterol that our bodies need. The advantage to having an all or mostly protein breakfast is that it keeps your blood sugar steady so that you are less hungry during the day. Although there are many ways to vary the egg breakfast (omelets with different veggies, meats and cheeses, open faced egg sandwiches on whole grain, etc.), sometimes I just want something else.

Cereals are tough for me because it has been difficult to find one that is low enough in sugar without tasting like cardboard. I do enjoy the weight control oatmeal occasionally, loaded with berries, but recently I've been wanting to try making my own oatmeal to have something that is more natural. So I started digging through recipes online, in recipe books and magazines and after perusing several oatmeal recipes, I came across a breakfast quinoa that looked very interesting. It called for red quinoa, almonds, apricots, orange and cinnamon and was topped with fresh ricotta cheese. YUM!

If you read my previous post about quinoa, you know that it is a protein powerhouse. So now I can eat some fruit and grain for breakfast but still get that boost of protein that I need first thing in the morning! The original recipe can be found in the February issue of Food and Wine magazine. I'm sure you are already guessing that I made substitutions! First, it called for pure maple syrup but I used agave nectar instead because I prefer the flavor and it has a lower glycemic index and will keep blood sugar levels down. I also substituted fresh dates for the apricots because I am not a huge fan of apricots. If you are going to do this, don't buy the sugared dates in the baking aisle that look like rabbit pellets! Buy the organic dates. They are delicious, all natural, and the pits are easy to remove. There is just no comparison! Well, after that substitution (which was a delicious one), I realized that apricots were probably chosen in the original recipe for color. As you can imagine, the dates blended right in with the red quinoa and aside from the almonds, the dish was rather monochromatic. So I threw in some golden raisins and that helped a bit!

The great thing about recipes like this is that you can substitute for the sweetener (either agave like I did or honey), the nuts, and the dried fruit to make it YOUR quinoa breakfast. And by the way, it was absolutely delicious. The recipe can be made up to five days ahead and reheated. It also can be served cold which we will definitely try with the leftovers tomorrow.

So now I have another option for breakfast other than eggs. I'm still going to go back to some oatmeal recipes and if I try anything fabulous, I will be sure to post it here!

Sweet Breakfast Quinoa (from Food and Wine)
1 cup red quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used dates and added golden raisins)
2 T pure maple syrup (or agave nectar or honey)1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh ricotta

In a small saucepan, cover the quinoa with the water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 min. Lightly fluff with a fork and cover again.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until golden brown, about 2 min. Add the apricots, maple syrup, orange zest and cinnamon and stir well until heated through.
Add the quinoa to the skillet and stir gently to incorporate the almonds and apricots. Top each portion with a tablespoon of ricotta (I also added more orange zest) and serve.