With a roasted, nutty flavor and chewy texture, black rice is the perfect antidote to the heavy foods that grace the holiday table every year.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MEGAN GORDON
There’s always a great deal of anticipation leading up to the holiday season, and for so many of us, the time goes by too quickly. Now that we have our own little guy underfoot, I look forward to creating new family traditions and rituals here in Seattle, yet cross my fingers that we’ll get to see faraway family and friends at some point, too. There are cookie swaps, pans of stuffing, and Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.
But come January, as sad as I am to pack up the stockings until next year, I’m always thankful to hit the reset button with our daily meals. After all, there are only so many cinnamon rolls a gal can eat. So lately, we’ve been stocking up on root vegetables at the farmers market and experimenting with colorful and nutritious grains like … black rice.
While brown rice and wild rice certainly get a lot of the limelight, black rice gets my vote this winter thanks to its impressive health benefits and distinctive flavor. Black rice is often called “forbidden rice” or “emperors rice” because in Ancient China the grain was difficult to grow and only the very wealthy could afford the rare delicacy.Today, forbidden rice is easy to come by in gourmet grocery stores, and it’s worth seeking out as an addition to your favorite hearty soups, vibrant salads, and sweet desserts.
Although the grains appear black in the package, they cook into a deep purple, thanks to the presence of anthocyanin, a pigment with antioxidant properties that’s credited for the dark color of many fruits, including blueberries and Concord grapes. But really, impressive antioxidant benefits and high dietary fiber aside, I come for the taste: With a roasted, nutty flavor and chewy texture, black rice is the perfect antidote to the heavy foods that grace the holiday table every year.
Thai Coconut Chicken and Black Rice Soup
When the weather turns from crisp to downright cold, I crave a hearty tomato-coconut soup with a little heat, and this version checks all the boxes. High in protein and packed with flavor, this soup makes for a mighty fine lunch or light dinner. To save on time, cook the rice in advance and use rotisserie chicken meat instead of cooking chicken thighs. If you’re looking for a little more heat, throw in an extra jalapeno or even a red chile, and feel free to swap in any seasonal greens you like instead of the spinach (radish greens or kale work well).
Serves 6–8 | Start to Finish Time: 80 minutes
- 3/4 cup black rice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, sliced 1-inch thick
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 3-inch stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise and finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped into thin 2-inch strips (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 can (15-ounce) coconut milk, preferably full fat
- 1 can (15-ounce) diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to season
- 4 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more to top
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to season
- Crushed peanuts, lime wedges, to serve
Place rice in a fine-mesh colander or sieve and rinse under cold water. In a medium saucepan, bring rice and 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Rice should be soft yet chewy.
In a large stockpot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the scallions, ginger, and garlic, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the jalapeño, lemongrass, red pepper, and carrot, and cook an additional 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, scoot all the vegetables to the periphery of the pot to make space for the chicken thighs.
Add chicken, chicken broth, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, curry paste, and salt. Stir well, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Remove chicken pieces from the pot, place on a large plate, and allow to cool slightly. Using two forks, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and place back in the pot. Fold in the cooked rice, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add the spinach, cilantro, lime juice, and fish sauce, and heat until spinach just begins to wilt. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as desired. Serve soup with crushed peanuts, lime wedges, and cilantro. Soup can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 days.
Black Rice Salad with Green Apple and Edamame
While many cooks reach for Asian ingredients when making salads with black rice, I love incorporating Pacific Northwest apples into the mix for a playful winter salad with unexpected flavors and vibrant color. The chewy, protein-rich edamame plays well with the tart, crisp apple and briny olives, and you should be able to find most of the ingredients at your neighborhood grocery store. The black rice, once cooked, will turn the apples light purple, so I like to serve this salad the same day it’s prepared.
Serves: 4 | Start to Finish Time: 40 minutes
For the Salad
- 1 cup black rice
- 1 1/2 cup frozen edamame
- 4 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
- 1 crisp Granny Smith apple, skin on, chopped into
- 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 1/3 cup green olives, chopped
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, choppe
- kosher salt, to season
For the Dressing
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- pinch kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Place rice in a fine-mesh colander or sieve and rinse under cold water. In a medium saucepan, bring rice and 2 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Rice should be soft yet chewy.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the edamame. Cook until edamame is bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients.
In a large salad bowl, stir together the cooled black rice, edamame, apple, olives, parsley, and salt. Pour in the dressing and fold to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, adding additional salt if desired.
Vegetarian + Vegan + Gluten-Free
Megan Gordon is a recipe developer, culinary educator, and author of Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons. She writes regularly for magazines and websites including The Kitchn and Recipe.com, as well as on her own blog, A Sweet Spoonful. When not writing about food, Megan teaches cooking classes and consults with small food businesses and brands.