As a staple food for more than half the world's population, rice partners well with an unlimited number of flavors, making this convenient dish easily adaptable to many cuisines. Combinations like spicy flank steak and bell peppers in chili sauce, or quickly braised chicken with leeks and mushrooms, can be prepared in about the time it takes to cook the rice. Together they make simple, self-contained meals.
A rice for every bowl
There are more kinds of rice to choose from on supermarket shelves than ever before, each variety with its own unique texture and flavor. Take advantage of this diversity to vary the personality of your rice bowls.
Long-grain. Its long, slender grains stay separate and distinct when cooked and have a fluffy texture. This is a good rice for pilaf.
Medium-grain. Cooked, the grains are moist and slightly stickier than long-grain rice. This is a good all-purpose rice; it works especially well for rice pudding.
Short-grain. Nearly round uncooked, the grains become soft and sticky when cooked. This is the rice used for sushi.
Arborio. Alternately classified as short- and medium-grain, the grains in question have a white dot in the center; when cooked, they become creamy but maintain a slightly firm texture in the center. This rice is great for risotto.
Aromatic. The best known of the fragrant varieties are Jasmine and Basmati, both delicately flavored, long-grain rices.
Brown. This rice is less processed than its white counterpart: the grains retain their bran layers, giving the rice a light brown color, chewy texture, and nutty flavor.
Wild. This is actually not rice at all; it's the seed of an aquatic grass, which becomes chewy and nutty when cooked. Wild rice is often blended with brown or white rice and sold as a mix.
More delicious topping ideas
Cubed chicken and sweet potatoes simmered in coconut milk over aromatic rice, sprinkled with chopped peanuts, toasted coconut, and sliced green onions.
Broiled salmon or chicken breasts and steamed vegetables with purchased teriyaki sauce over short-grain rice.
Black beans simmered with Mexican-seasoned canned tomatoes and chopped cilantro over long-grain rice.
Sautéed greens such as spinach with purchased Thai peanut sauce over short- or medium-grain rice.
Sautéed sliced Japanese eggplant and cubed tofu mixed with Asian red chili paste over short-grain rice.