Friday, March 15, 2013

Vermicelli Rice

This is another one of those dishes that brings me back to my childhood, my toddlerhood, even, as I was served up bowls and bowls of this with fresh whole yogurt.  It's a soft and flavorful rice, fragrant with cinnamon and allspice, often topped with browned almonds or pine nuts.  The broken peices of noodles, sauteed in butter and then cooked along the rice, make this a dressed-up rice.  As soon as I could safely see over the rim of a pot, it became my job to saute the broken noodles in the butter, stirring diligently to prevent the noodles from burning.  Of course, I still remember the smell of those noodles burning, and my mother chidding me, and my defense:   I just turned away for a second! 

When we would have American friends over, they would point at this rice and declare, "Rice-a-Roni!"  My mother would always smile kindly and say, "Yes, very similar."  Except that it's not.  It's much, much better.

Why Soaked?

One of the first things that drew me to the traditional food philosophy was that it brought me back to the way that my mother and grandmother had taught me to prepare food.  Preparing rice is the perfect example of this.  My mother always soaked her rice in warm water for at least several hours before preparing it.  I remember that there was always a bowl of soaking rice on our kitchen counter. 

Why do I need to do that?  I remember asking.  Because it opens up the grains.  It makes the rice cook faster, she told me.  It will taste better. 

When I started cooking, though, I never soaked my rice.  Who could be bothered?  What was the point?  I never saw a chef on the Food Network soak and rinse her rice.  So, with maybe the slightest amount of arrogance (!), I shrugged it off and just followed the directions on the back of my sack of rice.  Like many other things, I relegated that to the old Arab way and moved on. 

It wasn't until I started reading about traditional foods that I realized that there is indeed a benefit to all of this soaking my mother had instructed me on.  As it turns out, all traditional cultures treat their grains before consuming them, by either soaking, fermenting or sprouting them.  They somehow understood that untreated grains put a strain on our digestions system, and through phytic acids, prevent the absorption of nutrients in our bodies.

So now, slightly humbled, I soak my rice. 

Vermicelli Rice

1/3 cup broken vermicelli (angel hair) pasta - rice pasta preferred
1-2 tbsp butter
2 cups long grain rice, soaked overnight, rinsed thoroughly and drained
3 3/4 cups chicken or beef broth, homemade preferred
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Melt the butter in a small pot and then saute the vermicelli pasta until toasted brown.  Watch carefully -this burns quickly.

2.  Pour rice into the pan and stir in the noddles and butter, sauteing the rice lightly in the butter for a minute or two.

3.  Pour in the broth, add seasonings. 

4.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a very low simmer.  Cover tightly with a lid.  White rice will be finished in about 15 minutes, brown rice in about thirty-five minutes. 

5.  Turn the rice off and let it sit, covered, for a few minutes to finish steaming. 

May this double your health.

Shared at Tasty Traditions .

1 comment:

  1. My husband is half Armenian and his grandmother made a very similar dish. Looking forward to trying it! Thanks!



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