Versatile rice is fast growing in popularity

January 29, 1992|By John Tanasychuk | John Tanasychuk,Knight-Ridder Newspapers JHC rdB

Before 1989, Americans couldn't have cared less about rice.

We ate it in Chinese restaurants. We made occasional boxes of Rice-A-Roni. We laughed at the brown-rice crowd.

Americans eat about 20 pounds per person per year. While it's nothing compared to the 500 pounds that every person in Burma eats in a year, the USA Rice Council, a Houston-based growers group, says American consumption doubled in the decade ending in 1989.

One of the main reasons, says the Rice Council's Kristen O'Brien, is our ever-growing interest in good health. Half a cup of white rice has 82 calories but no fat, cholesterol or sodium when cooked without added fat or salt.

Rice and Meat Loaf

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup onion, peeled, ends removed, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, peeled, ends removed, minced

1 tablespoon anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained, minced; or anchovy paste (available at large grocery stores or specialty stores)

2 cups long- or medium-grain white rice, or Italian arborio rice, cooked

1 pound ground beef

1/4 pound ground veal

1/4 pound ground pork

1 1/2 cups water

1 extra-large egg

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, cooked, drained and squeezed dry

2 sun-dried tomatoes, halved, soaked, drained, and minced; or 2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins (if necessary plumped in 1/2 cup boiling water for 5 minutes and drained), chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring, until soft and golden, about five minutes. Then add the garlic to the onion and saute for one minute. Add the anchovies or anchovy paste and saute, stirring and crushing with the back of a spoon until the anchovies are melted or dissolved. Stir in the rice until blended. Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl combine the ground beef, ground veal, ground pork, water and egg until the meat is evenly mixed. Add the anchovy mixture, spinach, tomatoes or tomato paste, currants or raisins, cinnamon, and pepper to meat mixture. Stir to blend. Spoon mixture into a 9x5-inch loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula. (Note: Make sure to use a high-sided loaf pan, because pan will be very full.) Bake for 90 minutes, or until the juice runs clear when the center is pierced with a skewer. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Pour off any excess liquid. Remove from loaf pan and set on a serving platter. To serve, cut into thick slices. Serves eight.

Microwave Rice Ring

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon butter or margarine, divided

1 cup fresh mushrooms, cleaned, finely chopped

1/2 cup green onion, washed, ends removed, finely chopped

3 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon instant chicken bouillon granules

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon thyme

Dash of white pepper

1/4 cup pimento, finely chopped, drained

1 1/2 cups long grain rice, uncooked

Using one teaspoon butter or margarine grease, an 8 1/2 -inch microwave-safe ring or tube pan. (Cook's note: To improvise a baking ring, invert a custard cup in a microwave-safe casserole dish, making sure to grease both.) Set aside. In a two-quart microwave-safe casserole, combine mushrooms and onion and top with remaining one-quarter-cup butter or margarine cut into chunks. Microwave on high five minutes. Stir halfway through cooking time. Remove from microwave and add boiling water, bouillon, salt if desired, thyme, white pepper, pimento and rice. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap. Microwave 15 to 20 minutes at medium (50 percent) power or until rice is tender. If you plan to serve immediately, let stand five minutes. To serve up to two days later, remove from microwave and cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate rice for one to two hours until chilled. Press rice into prepared baking ring or tube pan and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until serving time. At serving time, microwave on high for six minutes or until heated through. Remove from microwave, leave covered and allow to stand three minutes. Cover with serving tray and invert. If desired, fill center with vegetable or creamed dish. Serves six to eight.

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