Add Layers of Flavor with Herbs

Liven up rice with a medley of herbs and the unique taste and nutritional benefits of spinach. Long grain rice is used in this week’s recipe because it cooks up looser and less sticky than the short-grained variety, which allows for better mixing with the other ingredients.

Rice is a major element of the grass family and has been intensively cultivated in Asia for over four millennia. It is grown in submerged fields called “paddies” and is about three feet tall with a grass-like appearance. Not surprisingly, it enjoys near universal popularity as a food staple due to its availability, satisfyingly chewy texture, and nutritional value.

Here, its flavor is greatly enhanced by herbs. The oregano, which still grows wild in the mountains of Italy and Greece, provides a pungent and versatile accent. The parsley imparts its own fragrant flavor, while the thyme adds a strong, earthy note.

In culinary circles, herbs are loosely defined as the fragrant leaves and stems of plants (provided those stems are supple and not woody). Spices, on the other hand, are derived from the buds, bark, fruits, seeds or woody stems of plants and trees. Consider cilantro and coriander. Although they come from the same plant, cilantro is the leaf (and thus an herb) and coriander the seed (and thus a spice).

The addition of mushrooms adds texture and nutrition to the dish. The spinach provides a measure of color, consistency, and flavor. Rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, it also increases the nutritional value.

When these ingredients are stirred into the rice, the result is a fluffy mixture that goes great with a variety of other dishes, including baked chicken. Easy to prepare, it makes a satisfying leftover. So enjoy this unique way to prepare an age-old favorite.

Herbed Rice with Mushrooms and Wilted Spinach - Makes 5 servings.

2 cups water
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. low-sodium chicken or vegetable bouillon granules
1 cup uncooked long grain rice, preferably brown
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2cup cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and cut into quarters (baby bella mushrooms may be substituted)
1/4 cup white onions, diced
1 cup fresh baby spinach Salt and pepper to taste
Combine water, butter, and bouillon in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Add rice, soy sauce, onion powder and herbs.

In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions for 5 minutes, and then add mushrooms and sauté together until golden. Then add spinach and lower temperature to low and cook until spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Reduce heat over rice mixture. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Once rice is cooked, fluff with a fork and gently toss in the sautéed vegetables.

Per serving: 180 calories, 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 30 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 225 mg sodium.

The Author:

AICR’s Nutrition Hotline is a free service that allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. Access it on-line at www.aicr.org/hotline or by phone (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers. It has provided more than $78 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is www.aicr.org.

Article Source: Aicr.org

Article Posted: March 31, 2009

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