Dressing up a plain Grain For a healthful diet, rice is the order of the day

June 02, 1993|By Susan Stuck | Susan Stuck,Contributing Writer

Americans are not big rice eaters compared to the rest of the world -- a mere 21 pounds per capita per year against a worldwide rate of 143 pounds.

But as health-conscious Americans reduce the proportion of meat and increase that of grains, vegetables and fruits in their diets, rice is moving to the center of the plate.

Rice is high in complex carbohydrates, and its protein content, while limited, is superior to that of other grains. It is also the only grain to have all eight amino acids -- protein building blocks -- present and in the proper balance, an important consideration ,, for vegetarians who choose to exclude animal products completely.

The main-course dishes below call for types of rice sold in most supermarkets or natural-foods stores -- the ubiquitous long-grain white rice and short-grain Italian arborio. The recipes are quick-cooking; they make hearty, healthful dishes in under an hour. When served with a simple salad, any one of them makes a meal.

Paella rapida

Serves 4

Smoked mussels replace the pork sausages of a traditional paella, adding depth of flavor without the fat.

Two Spanish wines by Rene Barbier from the Penedes area west of Barcelona mix well with the complex flavors in the paella, and they are an extraordinarily good value at $4 to $5 per bottle. The Mediterranean red is mellow and balanced; Mediterranean white crisp and easy.

2 cups defatted reduced-sodium chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed, or pinch powdered saffron

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2 -inch-thick strips

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 14 1/2 -ounce can tomatoes (with juice)

1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 cup arborio rice

L 1 cup artichoke hearts, canned in water or frozen and thawed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/3 cup bottled roasted red pepper, cut into strips

1/3 cup smoked mussels (2 ounces, not packed in oil)

In a small saucepan, combine chicken stock and saffron; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over high heat. When the pan is hot, add shrimp and saute until pink and curled, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet. Add chicken and saute until lightly browned on the outside and opaque inside, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from skillet. Season the shrimp and chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet. Stir in onions and garlic; saute until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. (Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water if they become too dry.) Stir in tomatoes and red-pepper flakes; simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add rice and stir to coat well with the tomato mixture.

Stir in the reserved chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Gently stir artichoke hearts, peas, roasted red peppers, smoked mussels and the reserved shrimp and chicken into the rice mixture. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until the rice is tender and the shrimp and chicken are heated through. (Stir occasionally to prevent scorching, if necessary.) Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 450 calories; 35 grams protein; 7 grams fat; 58 grams carbohydrate; 423 milligrams sodium; 128 milligrams



Wild rice salad

Serves 4

The wild and white rice can be cooked ahead of time, but the salad should be assembled and tossed shortly before serving.

3/4 cup wild rice, rinsed

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 pound smoked turkey breast, diced (2 cups)

2 red apples, such as McIntosh, unpeeled, cored and diced

5 scallions, trimmed and sliced

1 stalk celery, trimmed and diced

1/2 cup apple-juice concentrate, thawed

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dried tarragon or thyme

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bunch watercress, trimmed and washed

2 tablespoon chopped toasted pecans (see below)

In a saucepan, combine 2 cups water, wild rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the wild rice is tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, bring 1 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add white rice, cover and simmer over low heat until the rice is tender and most of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer wild and white rice to a sieve and refresh under cold water to cool.

In a large bowl, combine wild rice, white rice, turkey, apples, scallions and celery. In a small bowl, whisk together apple juice concentrate, vinegar and tarragon or thyme. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the salad. Toss well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Mound the salad on a serving platter and garnish with watercress. Sprinkle with pecans and serve.

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