31 January 2009

Rice - Wild and Not So Wild

Including a simple, delicious recipe for Chile Wild Rice & Poached Eggs

L- hand harvested, wood parched, long grain; M- hand harvested wood parched short grain; R- 'wild rice' from the store

A couple of weeks ago, I bought some 'wild rice' from the local Amish store. I popped it into a pressure cooker at 10 pounds of pressure and checked it after 30 minutes, then 50 minutes. Even at 50 minutes in a pressure cooker, the grains hadn't properly 'exploded' like I was used to seeing. The taste was also much stronger and 'in your face' than I recall wild rice being years ago.

This led me to do some browsing on the net. It didn't take long to discover that there are three distinct ways to approach 'wild rice'. To me, wild rice is meant to be the grains from plants growing wild along rivers and lakes in the northern US and Canada, such as were harvested by native Americans for centuries. But this is no longer the predominant case.

First, there is the readily available, commercially produced 'wild rice'. This isn't wild at all but uses hybrids in paddies to mass produce grains. Grains are machine harvested, then parched at a high temp using propane burners. The result is a very black, very dry product that is relatively inexpensive but requires 50 minutes of cooking or more. And it is mainly grown in California, with other paddies in Minnesota.

Secondly, some native American tribes hand harvest the grain sort of like a co-op in the northern US and Canada, but still parch it using propane burners due to the volume of their harvest. This is an improvement because by hand harvesting can the harvesters get only the ripe grains and leave the green grain behind. But the result, while a step forward, is still black and dry and takes substantial cooking.

Lastly, I discovered, there is hand harvested and wood parched wild rice. This grain is harvested as it ripens, and is parched over wood fires, usually by native Americans. This grain ends up gray (and a bit dusty) but only requires about 18-20 minutes cooking time.

As soon as I could, I ordered some of hand harvested, wood parched wild rice from Minnesota. Two days later, it was in my mailbox and not long after, in my pot... The vendor, Scott Paavola, of The Farm Next Door also kindly included a 1 cup sample of some shorter grain wild rice, harvested from headwaters of the Mississippi instead of the lakes, as the long grain was.

As you can see in the photo above, there is a distinct difference between the 'store' wild rice and the two hand harvested wood parched rices. The store rice has a much stronger aroma, and takes far longer to cook. It's flavor is very strong, and really has to be mixed with brown rice or something to knock down the aggressive flavor. To eat this rice by itself with a spoon would probably not be pleasant.

The wood parched rices have a milder smell, and a nice mild nutty, ricey flavor. When cooked, there are no hard pieces, and the exploded grains are soft but still have some 'tooth' to them.

Before cooking the wood parched grains, they need to be rinsed repeatedly in warm water. I wash them in a metal bowl, slosh it around, and pour off the water and any husks, etc floating on top, and repeat until the water is nearly clear. Then, they go into a covered saucepan at a ratio of about 3.5 parts liquid to 1 part rice. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer. The long grain takes about 18-20 minutes to cook, the short grain about 20-22 minutes. Pour off any remaining liquid, and your rice is ready to go.

Note that we did NOT add any salt. The grains I've tried have an inherent salty taste to them. So, salt lightly and carefully after the grains are cooked. They may not need any salt at all. If you add it at the end and over-salt, you can quickly rinse and drain the rice. This rice can stand up to it.

And, although you can add this to brown or white rice to make it go further, this rices is perfect by itself. When we made the first pot to try it, we planned on mixing it with brown rice for another dish for dinner. We got a spoon and tasted. We tasted again. Tae got a second spoon and we continued 'sampling' until it was all gone... As Alton Brown would say, this was some seriously good eats.

The mild interesting flavor is definitely worth trying. This rice will definitely be in my list of things to always keep on hand.

Chile wild rice & poached eggs

1 Tbs white vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp Earth Balance 'butter'
1 green serrano chile, diced
2/3 c wild rice, cooked (wood parched, of course)
2 eggs

Bring a pot of water to boil and add the vinegar.

Heat a 10 inch pan over medium low heat in a good non-stick pan. Add the oil and butter, and saute the serrano until it softens. Add the rice and begin to heat through.

As the rice is warming, add the eggs to the boiling water. turn off the heat and cover. Allow the eggs to poach for 2-3 minutes or until done.

When the eggs are done, dump the rice mixture onto a warm plate. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon and rest the spoon on a clean tea towel to make sure all the vinegar water is removed. Lay the eggs on top of the rice. Salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Delicious!

21 January 2009

Kamut Flaxmeal Bread

The bread machine has to be one of the world's great inventions. If you have made bread by hand, you know 2 things, at least. One, 'real' hand made bread is way better than a bread machine, but two, the ease of a bread machine makes it irresistibly alluring to settle for a little less quality.

Here's the recipe for our current favorite bread. I mainly eat bread as toast in the mornings, and this recipe makes terrific toast. It also makes a great platform on which to build a veggie burger.

Kamut Flax Bread

1 1/2 c water (approx 105F)
3 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs agave nectar

2 1/2 c kamut flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c oat flour
1 Tbs wheat gluten
1/3 cup flax meal
2 tsp salt
3 tsp Red Star yeast

Add to the machine in the order given unless your machine requires a different order.

Bread machine setting - 2 pound, white, medium crust. Use light crust setting if you prefer, but the dark setting will result in very dark, hard crust


This is for a 2 pound loaf. I add all the flours together in a 4 cup measuring cup and warm it for about 30 seconds in the microwave to 'kill the chill' before adding the dry ingredients to the warm water. This allows me to skip using the whole grain bread setting 'preheat' on my bread machine. My machine's whole grain setting preheats the contents for 30 minutes before proceeding. So, manually preheating the flours saves that half hour of bread machine preheat time, and allows me to use a regular white bread setting.

08 January 2009

Wild Rice Pizza Crust

Sometimes, you just have to use up the stuff in the fridge... Tonight we had some wild rice left over, and it struck me as being a great addition to a spinach and mushroom pizza. However, the wild rice adds a nutty flavor that would complement many vegetable toppings, so I thought I'd pass along this tweaking of a basic pizza dough.

Try it - you'll be glad you did.

Wild Rice Pizza Crust:

3/4 c water
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp agave nectar
1 c ( + maybe 2 Tbs ) kamut flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/4 c cooked wild rice, slightly warmed
2 tsp dry yeast

Dump it all in the breadmaker in order, and push the 'pizza dough' button. If the dough looks a little wet after a few minutes, add the 2 extra tablespoons of kamut flour to the breadmaker.

Note: Wild rice is not really a 'rice'. It is a seed from a water grass. Check the Eden Foods Wild Rice site for more information on growing and harvesting the rice, as well as nutritional information.

We buy our wild rice locally from an Amish grocery. In the interest of science (and our stomachs...) we have ordered some 'wild rice flour' to try. I had never heard of it, but the possibility of including it in savory dishes using flour seem intriguing. We'll report on it in the future.