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One Staple Ingredient, Endless Ways

Posted Jun 28 2013 9:52am
Red Rice Simmered in Coconut Water with Spinach & Carrots

Red Rice Simmered in Coconut Water with Spinach & Carrots

Not long ago, a friend opened my eyes to the inexhaustible permutations of rice when he simmered his red rice with jasmine tea. The result was a slightly floral, intriguing flavor that you couldn’t quite pin down. Haunting, you could say, because even though I knew exactly what was in the rice, it was still a tongue-teaser. So when it comes to rice, it isn’t just the variety of rice itself that matters — although that’s certainly a fun variable to explore — it’s also what you simmer the rice in.

Simmering rice in chicken broth is a classic idea, of course — it’s a great way to make your rice more savory. Risotto is traditionally simmered in a mixture of chicken broth and dry white wine. And adding ingredients to the simmering liquid is another great way to customize your rice. Along with tea leaves, whole spices like cinnamon sticks and cloves are welcome additions to the pot. Rice pudding is all the tastier when the rice is simmered with a melange of spice! And simmering rice with chunks of veggies you’d otherwise discard (the ends of carrots and celery, the ribs of hearty greens, the ends of onions) is a thrifty way to imbue your rice with homemade vegetable broth.

For this batch of rice, though, I decided to see what rice simmered in coconut water would taste like. I had some leftover coconut water in my fridge, and I thought it would be interesting to see what sort of flavor I would wind up with if I used the coconut water in place of plain water. After all, coconut-milk-simmered rice is a popular dessert in most of Southeast Asia. I already knew coconut + rice was a workable equation. And with the addition of savory spinach, sweet carrots, and spicy ginger, I’m happy to report that my idea turned into a tasty meal!

Red Rice Simmered in Coconut Water with Spinach & Carrots
Serves 2 for lunch. Recipe can easily be doubled.

1/2 cup raw red rice
1 cup coconut water
1/2 tsp. ginger
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4″-thick slices
Handful of fresh or frozen loose spinach leaves
Dash of sea salt
Tamari for garnishing (be sure to get wheat-free tamari if you’re making a gluten-free dish)

Stir the rice into the coconut water and bring to a boil on the stove. As soon as it hits that boil, immediately reduce heat to the lowest setting, cover, and let simmer gently for 35 minutes or until the rice has absorbed very nearly all of the water. Stir in remaining ingredients except for the tamari, re-cover, and let cook for another 5 minutes or until rice and carrots are tender to the tooth.

Serve with a drizzle of tamari if you’d like to contrast the inherent sweetness of the coconut water and carrots with a punch of savoriness. If you like, you can serve this tossed with cooked free-range chicken, too.


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