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Simpledish.com wouldn't connect me to Brown Rice 101 so I will do this mini-course myself. I was curious to read their article, hoping as always to pick up something I don't know about cooking grain or whatever, but while I found the link to the article, I could not get it to come up on my computer. Normally I don't have the problem, and my computer works just fine, so I assume that their link was broken. At some future time you may be able to connect with it, though.

On the subject of brown rice, of course rice is "brown" if it has not been refined. The process of refining rice is the same as that used to refining oats, barley and wheat: the outer bran layer is abraded off the grain and then it is transformed into oatmeal, pearled barley, flour, or white rice. We all know that it is not strictly necessary to process grain this way, and in fact it decreases the amount of nutrition in the grain--which is why so many people prefer whole-grain food.

Rice comes in three basic forms: short, medium and long-grain. The shortest or most rounded grain of rice is Arborio, which is used specifically to make the Italian dish called Risotto. Arborio rice is not the only species that is used, but when you decide that you want to make a Risotto for dinner you go looking for it.

Medium-grain rice is frequently found in Asian restaurants, and in its white form it is made easily in a standard rice cooker. It is the custom of Asians to rinse their rice before cooking, because it may be packed in cornstarch or even talc (which it should not be) to prevent the grains from sticking to each other. When I was growing up in Guam you bought rice in fifty-pound bags because it a staple; no local household is without it, along with the storage container that accommodates the contents and has a switch to parcel it out for cooking.

Long-grain rice is popular in the U. S., probably the most popular when it comes as Jasmine and Basmati rice. All these forms of rice are available both in brown and white forms. However, if you bought a fifty-pound bag of brown rice you would be in danger of losing it unless it is cooked on a regular basis. Brown rice contains the oils that reside in the bran, so if it remains in the grain it can cause the rice to become rancid. Fortunately we recognize this easily, as it produces a stale or "off" odor. Fresh ride has almost no odor at all.

Brown rice can be a staff of life in the Asian/Pacific area, much as wheat is in America and many parts of the Western world. The widespread practice of using refined white rice may or may not prevail in a more health-conscious world, but even if you use it you will still tend to get fewer calories because rice is basically table-ready when the cooking cycle is over. When your rice cooker turns off, fluff the rice with a fork, turn it into a serving dish and dinner is ready (other factors being equal).

But to make medium- or long-grain brown rice, you will find that you need more time for the cooking water to burst that sturdy jacket of bran that is wrapped around each and every grain. I discovered this by the empirical method, when my first husband (a Pacific Islander) complained that brown rice wasn't good to eat. I had been cooking it in our rice cooker, and much of the time it had not "popped" like popcorn, which in the case of rice produces the fluffiness.

By experimentation, I discovered the optimal way to prepare rice, and I got into a lot of rice pilafs later on, once I got the hang of brown rice. You can find any versions of whole-grain rice in the stores nowadays, and even if they are not literally brown, they must be treated the same way. You'll see packages of rices that are anywhere from red to brown to black before cooking, and they are those colors because the bran comes out that way. After cooking they appear more like conventional cooked rice.

So as you cruise the supermarkets cruising from some brown rice, make sure of a few things before you pay for it. Do not buy combinations of conventional rice and the so-called "wild rice" that grows in swamps. Wild rice requires a different preparation from conventional brown rice, and contrary to the manufacturer's apparent beliefs, the preparation that I am suggesting below will not give wild rice--a grass seed--a chance to become its delectable self.

If you want to be safe, just get a packet of brown rice that looks like what you have in mind. When you get home, there is a simple preparation that will bring the wonderful taste and nutrition of brown rice right into your life with a minimum of fuss.

BROWN RICE CASSEROLE

Ingredients (to serve 3-4 people):

1 cup organic brown rice, rinsed

2 cups of water or broth

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is heating, you can treat the inside of a covered casserole dish with nonstick baking spray if you wish. Empty the rice into the dish.

Cover the rice with the broth, stir, and place it in the oven for 1 hour. When the hour is up, check to see if the rice has absorbed all the liquid and then fluff it with a fork. If it is tender and fluffy, it is ready. If it still has water observable in the baking dish, give it another 20 minutes in the oven and check again.

Rice is generally served hot, but the typical brown rice is also perfectly good for rice pudding and salads. Use it interchangeably in any rice recipe you have and welcome some incredibly good nutrition to a permanent place in your life.

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