Friday, April 17, 2009

Of Rice and Ben (Uncle Ben's that is)

I am writing this post for my very good friend Dion. He reads my blog and suggested I write about rice. But then again the other day he said I write too much about food. I guess all I can say is that is Dion for you. He's a Libra. They go back and forth all the time. It's a Libra thing. :0) Now writing about rice might seem a little weird but there is a lesson to be learned.

First, I will start by professing my love of rice. It is second to my love of potatoes. But I could eat rice anytime and all the time. I think it's because I grew up eating rice that I can't go more than a week without having it. If I don't get it, I crave it.

I hate cooking rice though. I learned by watching my abuela Gilda. I would watch her mince the onions and red bell peppers into this tiny chunks. Then she would saute them in oil, add the rice and saute it all together. Then she would add some achoite (annatto seed) that is sold in a paste from Costa Rica. After sauteing it all together then she would add the water, let it boil and then cover it and it cooked. It came out perfect every time. My mom used the same method and it was equally as yummy.

When I finally left home to go to college and ended up in Miami, I tried cooking rice but it was sort of a chore for me. I lived in this tiny studio apartment with only one of those mini burners for a stove. It was hard cooking with that but somehow I would always manage to cook a really good meal every once in a while. It was then that I got lazy about rice and figured I should just get some Uncle Ben's and make it easier on myself. I went home and cooked it up and it was crap compared to real home-cooked rice. I never bought it again. It tasted like nothing and had a weirdo texture. I tried Minute Rice too and that was horrible as well. I preferred trying to cook it fresh.

But as time went by, I stopped sauteing onions and peppers and using achiote. I ended up just making white rice with salt. It was easier to make. But it was also tricky because it either came out too al dente or too mushy. But rice is rice and it didn't matter because I needed to eat rice.

Back to Dion. I met Dion because he became my neighbor when I lived in that little studio in Miami. He was also a student. We came very good friends and every so often I would feed him. Well one day he came over and was hungry. I just happened to have some leftover chicken and some leftover rice in the fridge. I told him to take the food. Rice gets hard when it goes into the fridge so I told him to take it and sprinkle some water on it and pop it into the microwave because when you do this, it comes back all nice and steamy and, frankly, it's like you had made it fresh. He did it. And to this day, he talks about how I taught him that little trick. So he told me I should blog about it, so I am. I can't believe to this date he remembers that. So there you have it D, the rice trick for all my tens of followers to read. :D

Well back to my rice addiction. So pretty much all I started cooking was white rice and not the yummy Costa Rican rice that I was brought up on. And that was fine because I found rice to be a canvas where I could paint some yumminess. Like potatoes, you can do so much to it. I make real recipes like arroz con pollo or mushroom chicken and rice (and yes I use Campbell's soup for that). But our favorite way to eat it is as a side dish. Tom loves when I make Chicken and wine sauce and he can pour the sauce over it. I like eating it plain with some butter and lemon. I also like eating rice and avocado. You mash the avocado into the rice and add a little salt. OMG so delish. I also like making a fresh salsa with tomatoes, cilantro, onions and lemon and putting it over the rice. We eat that all summer. One of my favorite ways of eating rice is having it with a fried egg and buttered toast. This was a breakfast my grandmother always made me and my sister. And to this day, I still have it every once in a while.

When I lived in Florida and had moved in with Tom who had a real kitchen, rice used to be easy to make. When we moved to Santa Fe, it became really hard to cook because of the altitude and it was so frustrating because it would come out undercooked. My sister had mentioned she had a rice cooker so one day I saw this little Wolfgang Puck rice cooker on HSN on sale and bought. The rice cooker like the bread maker is on of the best damn inventions in the world. It's so easy. Put the rice with some salt in the cooker and push a button and the rice comes out perfectly every time. I love it.

I have met people who don't like rice and I am suspicious of them. I don't understand how you cannot love this little grain of goodness. So eat rice. Sure it's fattening but hell live it up. And to Dion, I hope you enjoyed me sharing the secret to reconstituting rice with the world. That's more of a tip then a lesson. So I guess there was no lesson in today's post. Oh well. . .


  1. what a fun post! i always have to read your post from top to bottom because you write in such a captivating manner!

    LOL you know, growing up in a chinese family, i always wondered WHY people thought it was so difficult to make rice.

    and then i realized it was because they were trying to make it using a pot. and all i had to do was press a button on my rice cooker. :)

  2. Glad to have the opportunity to read your posting! This one about the rice is yummy funny. I happen to be Dion's mom, and I thank you for feeding him when he most needed it! :))) Especially with rice....his favorite.....too bad that we were not living in the same country during those days, and you became his lifesaver when hunger attacked....something to always be thankful for!
    To this day, Dion craves for rice, and I happen to have the opportunity this time to cook it for him. Would very much like to meet you in person and have you taste my puertorrican rice recipes.....
    Wishing you much success in your blog posting, they are great and amusing......BTW, no rice cooker for me.....only the real thing "el caldero"......

  3. I like rice and potatos as well. I like them together especially. Mashed potatos with rice mixed in? Heavenly!

    Since being on my great weight loss quest, ive switched to brown rice, its not the same at all. But when you can eat a loaf of bread in a day, you have to watch your carbs. (that's me....addict)

  4. Love your post, and as a good mexican I love rice!!, I eat it 3 or 4 times a week, I cannot live without it.

    My favorite: when I do not have to cook and I have rice I just make an egg sunny side pour it over the rice, add some salsa hmmmm buen provecho!