Photo by Gary Beverly

The Pandemic Pantry: Rice

by Chef Molly Beverly

July 2020

So, what are you going to do with all those dry beans you bought?

First of all, congratulations for making a wise and practical purchase. Now, consider the bean. These little packages are an excellent pick for the pandemic pantry, from several angles.

 

Dry beans are non-perishable. They keep forever. (Beans have been found in archeological digs hundreds of years old, and they still sprout!) For storage all you need is an airtight container, like a jar or a five-gallon bucket, which can hold 25 pounds of beans.

Beans are nutritional powerhouses and have real health benefits. They are as easy to cook as boiling water. Make a big batch — they freeze well for quick meals.

Rice

Rice was one of mankind's first domesticated crops, dating back 10,000 years. It fueled the great enduring civilizations in China and India and Egypt, then traveled around the world. Now more than half the world's people rely on rice for the majority of their caloric intake. It's the most important food on the planet.

 

Every grain of rice is a seed that consists of an inedible husk, the germ (the life-starting location for the emerging plant), several thin layers of bran, and the white, starchy endosperm. Every grain of rice starts as a whole grain.

 

To prepare rice for eating, first the husk is removed, and 150 years ago that's where most processing stopped. This is whole-grain rice. It is perishable and must be kept cool. It takes about 45 minutes to cook.

 

With the Industrial Age new machines came into use that processed rice faster and cleaner, "milling" and "polishing" to remove the germ and bran, peeling off key nutritional components, and producing a white rice that cooks soft in 15 minutes and keeps for decades.

 

The complete nutritional package of whole-grain rice protects against cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and colorectal cancer. White rice does not. Instead it is a factor in promoting those diseases.

 

Varieties

There are more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice, a continuum ranging from very short, sweet and sticky to extremely long, thin and dry. Some distinctive heritage varieties are especially aromatic or colored — red, purple or black. American "wild rice" is a distant cousin, harvested and developed as a food crop over the last 2,000 years. To simplify, there are only three major categories.

 

Short-grain rice is stout and round, and heavier in proteins that stick together. It's used for sushi, rice pudding and Italian risotto. Extremely short-grain, sticky-grain rice, also known as mochigome, is used for the chewy, gelatinous Japanese confection called mochi.

 

Medium-grain rice cooks up nutty and chewy. It's still soft, but holds its shape in salads, soups and even when fried (as in Chinese fried rice). Medium-grain rice is the most versatile, the one I keep around for everyday use.

 

Long-grain rice is elegant, and the grains hold up distinctively. This is the standard white rice in the grocery store. Jasmine and Basmati gourmet varieties are also long-grain. It's the rice of preference for pilafs, which I'll explain later.

 

Rice is the mainstay of human nutrition across hundreds of countries and cuisines from Japan to Brazil, Louisiana to Egypt, India to East Africa and Greece to the Philippines. There are probably 40,000 delicious ways to cook it. Before the 19th century most rice was whole-grain, so you can take any recipe that calls for white rice and use whole-grain. Just remember to add 30 minutes to the cooking time.

 

Cook it up

I've been through the brown-rice cooking school of hard knocks. I've made all the mistakes — undercooked, dry and hard, gooey, sticky, burned. So please pay close attention here.

 

For basic steamed rice, use two parts water to one part rice. One cup of dry rice turns into three cups cooked. Bring the water to a boil. Add rice. Reduce to a simmer and cover tightly. Simmer 40-45 minutes. This is important: do not stir. When you're ready to check for doneness, taste a few grains with a fork. If they aren't tender, add a tiny bit more water, cover and simmer for a few more minutes, covered. Let the rice sit for a few more minutes before serving.

 

I always make extra rice to have it on hand in the refrigerator (it keeps for about a week) as the base for quick, thrown-together meals. For example, I just had a rice salad for dinner: greens, vegetables, a dollop of rice, and dressing. Or use it for rice bowls, in soups, or for rice pudding. Mix cooked rice with sautéed onions, roasted peppers, sweet corn and cheddar cheese and bake, and you have a Mexican dish. Add sautéed garlic, zucchini, mozzarella, an egg or two and Parmesan cheese, and it's Italian. Cooked rice is a great out-of-the-hat trick for cooking on the fly.

 

What's pilaf?

Thirteenth-century Arabic texts describe the consistency of pilaf: the grains should be plump and somewhat firm, to resemble peppercorns, with no mushiness, and each grain should be separate, with no clumping.

 

This has evolved into complex Indian rice dishes, Spanish paella, and simpler Mexican rice and French pilafs. Essentially, to make pilaf you first fry raw dry rice in a little oil until the grains are sealed, then follow with additions (tomato juice or stocks, roasted vegetables, smoked meats, seafood, chicken, spices, onions, garlic) characteristic of the cuisines that make each recipe spectacular, then steam with a tight lid until the liquid evaporates. With all the extra ingredients it's tricky to balance the right amount of liquid to cook the rice so it comes out tender and not mushy.

 

Experience healthy and delicious rice dishes from around the world. Use whole-grain brown rice (increase cooking time by 30 minutes).

 

Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott’s creative food activist and teacher. As Chair of Slow Food Prescott she champions community gardens and sustainable food education.

Recommended Recipes

 

Steamed Rice Recipes

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto —
Red Beans and Rice
 

Basic Chinese Fried Rice

Fried rice is always made from cooked, cold rice.

15 Different Rice Bowl Recipes 

Italian Torte di Riso 

Pilaf-Style Recipes

Greek Greens and Rice, Hortorizo 

Indian Rice Pilaf 

Easy Paella

Mexican Rice 

Resources

Lundberg Family Farms

The leading grower of organic and specialty rice, based in California. Available in stores.

Massa Organics

California whole-grain organic brown rice and almonds, available online.

Seductions of Rice: A Cookbook

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

"Two hundred easy-to-prepare dishes from the world's great rice cuisines, illuminated by stories, insights, and more than two hundred photographs of people, places, and wonderful food. Cherished dishes — Chinese stir-frys, Spanish paellas, Japanese sushi, Indian thorans, Thai salads, Turkish pilafs, Italian risottos — are shared not just as recipes, but as time-honored traditions." 

Cautions

Storage: To preserve the best flavor and nutrition, whole-grain rice should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated or frozen if kept longer than two months.

Safety: Always refrigerate cooked rice in small batches within two hours of cooking.

Bacillus cerus is a naturally occurring toxin-producing sporulating, anaerobic bacteria that grows in improperly handled rice and causes yucky foodborne illness.

Arsenic: Rice is a plant that picks up arsenic and always has. Rice from the American south has been planted on land where cotton was grown. Cotton is not a food crop, so it gets sprayed with more harmful chemicals, like arsenic. Whole-grain brown rice from California tests well below the maximum permitted level of arsenic. For complete information and full analysis visit Lundberg Family Farms

So, what are you going to do with all those dry beans you bought?

First of all, congratulations for making a wise and practical purchase. Now, consider the bean. These little packages are an excellent pick for the pandemic pantry, from several angles.

 

Dry beans are non-perishable. They keep forever. (Beans have been found in archeological digs hundreds of years old, and they still sprout!) For storage all you need is an airtight container, like a jar or a five-gallon bucket, which can hold 25 pounds of beans.

Beans are nutritional powerhouses and have real health benefits. They are as easy to cook as boiling water. Make a big batch — they freeze well for quick meals.

June 2020

The Pandemic Pantry: Beans

by Chef Molly Beverly

Are beans boring? No way, Beans are the mainstay of many spicy, exciting cuisines the world over. Think Indian curry, Mexican mole, French cassoulet, Italian pasta fagioli, Southwest chili, Cajun red beans and rice, Ethiopian berbere, Thani noodles, and Middle Eastern falafel.

 

Beans are seeds. They regenerate themselves, and they are among the easiest plants to grow. Beans are healthy for the planet, too. Factory farms producing industrial meat, dairy and eggs are disastrous for the environment, contributing to global warming, soil, water, air and land pollution, and overuse of pesticides and herbicides. Switching to a vegetable-based diet rich in beans will have the cumulative effect of slowing or even reversing these environmental threats.

 

Now let’s get down to the basic cooking rules.

 

Cardinal Rule #1: Cook beans in advance. Make a lot. I freeze extras in four-cup containers and enjoy the luxury of having beans ready and on hand in minutes.

 

Cardinal Rule #2: Use a lot of water. Beans expand three times over, and you never want to experience burned beans, they're nasty. Plus oligosaccarides are water-soluble (see the Gas Box below for more information). For each cup of beans use four cups of water.

 

Cardinal Rule #3: Begin with a good soak. Put them in a pot with a lot of water. Bring to a boil, then take them off the heat, cover and let sit for four to twelve hours.

 

Cardinal Rule #4: Cook beans until they are very tender. Taste them to make sure they're soft. If they need more time, give it to them. Undercooked beans are hard to digest.

 

  • 15-45 minutes for lentils, split peas, mung beans, and blackeye peas. No soaking required.

  • Two to four hours for common beans, depending on age. Soaking recommended.

  • Two or more hours for older beans, garbanzo and tepary beans. Soaking essential.

 

A note on labor- and time-saving devices: slow cookers and crock pots were invented for beans. They cook beans perfectly while you sleep or work. Instant pots (and their non-electronic antecedents, pressure cookers) cut the cooking time to less than an hour.

 

What you don’t need to do

Beans do not need to be seasoned or sauced when they are being cooked. Some of my biggest professional cooking nightmares revolve around beans that just wouldn’t get soft, and that was because they were being cooked with salt or sauces or tomatoes that changed the chemistry. Add spices after cooking. Plain cooked beans absorb flavors, so make them plain and use them generously.

Bean cuisine and my favorite incarnations

Cooked beans are universally welcomed and slip into meals so easily. Try fried eggs, potatoes and lima beans for a bean breakfast. Slide them onto the salad plate and top them with dressing. Toss them into soups. Heat up the skillet with a little oil, garlic and spices, and pour in the beans for a great side dish. Then mash them with olive oil for a dip. Beans with pasta. Beans and rice. Beans and potatoes. Beans and steak. Beans and tortillas with salsa. For really good ideas get a copy of the book Cool Beans by Joe Yonan, food editor for The Washington Post.

 

Another thing you can do with those beans is plant them! Every one of them is a life package, waiting and equipped to grow and reproduce itself and make more food for you. Practice some resilience gardening. Check out the delightful and instructive video Growing Beans from Sowing to Harvest at GrowVeg.com.

 

Embrace beans. Fill the pantry. They’ll get you through hard times with good food.

 

Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott’s creative food activist and teacher. As Chair of Slow Food Prescott she champions community gardens and sustainable food education.

These are the bean dishes I’m excited about right now, with links to good recipes.

 

I take liberties with recipes all the time and regularly substitute one bean for another, so if you bought 50 pounds of pinto beans (a good idea!), they’ll pretty much work in any of these standard bean recipes.

Middle Eastern Hummus has become everyone’s sweetheart healthy snack. It’s everywhere in many variations. It’s super easy and cheap to make with garbanzo or white beans.

Chocolate hummus is my new love for fulfilling that rich-dessert yearning. Use the same procedure as regular hummus, throw everything in the blender and buzz. Watch out for the kids, they’ll be fighting you for this.

For a kid-friendly snack or topping, try Chickpea Croutons. Toss cooked garbanzos with oil and spices and roast them in a hot oven. I discovered these when teaching kids cooking. It's easy, and the kids love them.

Pasta e Fagioli is what happens when you turn beans into a creamy soup and float pasta in it, a classic Italian zuppa perfumed with garlic, rosemary and sage. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

The next two recipes use green lentils, red lentils or split peas, which are interchangeable. I just used up the 25-pound sack of lentils I bought a few years back. Time to order more!

Subzi Dalcha (ginger, split pea and vegetable curry) uses red lentils or split peas as the sauce for potatoes and vegetables, and kicks it up with turmeric, cumin, chilies, garlic, ginger and cilantro. Wow! It's great over rice. Start to finish, this recipe takes an hour.

Neera’s Dahl: I treasure this recipe and have made many gallons during my professional career. Try it, you’ll like it!

 

As I said before, lentils take minutes to cook. Makes about eight servings.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and minced

  • 1 1/2 pounds bok choy, cabbage or other greens

  • 2 cups dry lentils

  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the greens finely. In a dry skillet over medium heat toast the cumin pods, stirring constantly until they begin to smoke. In a large pot, sauté garlic in oil until limp, about two minutes. Add greens and sauté for another two or three minutes. Add dry lentils, cumin and pepper and sauté another minute. Add enough water to cover the lentils plus one inch. Simmer for about 45 minutes or until lentils are tender. During the last few minutes of cooking add lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pangaea Rises

by Chef Molly Beverly

May 2020

Pangaea Rises

by Chef Molly Beverly

About 25 years ago I was driving down Granite Street and noticed an oncoming car flashing its lights. The driver waved me down.

It was Dave, one of my cooking-class students. He stopped in the middle of the street, opened the car door, stepped out and yelled, "I just spent $60,000 on an oven!”

That was the beginning of Pangaea Bakery. Three friends, Bill, Nicole and Dave, teamed up to open this artisan bakery.

Nicole had just completed a business degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She grew up in the Matanuska Valley, Alaska, in a farm town where her family grew their own food and made their own bread. Until she left the state she had never even tasted store-bought.

 

Dave and Bill had both taken my Yavapai College breads-and-pastries class, and were experimenting with sourdough baked in a home-built, wood-fired oven. But no one had any professional experience or training. In short, they didn’t know what they were doing.

 

With the help of a Small Business Association loan, they paid for the oven and then scraped together the rest of the equipment. That big oven was the heartbeat and fiery soul of the operation.

 

The doors opened in 1994, with crisp crust, chewy and grainy loaves, and organic espresso. I was thrilled, but Prescott wasn’t ready. Artisan bread was cutting-edge in the big cities, but folks here still expected bread to be soft, white and uniform.

 

Right away Nicole realized she had to expand the selection, adding muffins, cookies, tarts, pies, cakes, sandwiches and soups. In the evenings she taught accounting at Yavapai College, then went to the bakery at 1am to figure out how to do what next.

 

Nicole says, “I learned the hard way, the expensive way, the painful way.” It was a struggle, and after a few years the partnership dissolved. Nicole was left shouldering the entire operation. With grit and persistence she held on and built a loyal following through many, many delicious loaves, pastries, muffins and quiches.

 

Then, on February 10 2016, after 21 years in business, Pangaea closed. The lease was up and the business needed a lot more space. Nicole found a promising building nearby for the new location and planned to be closed for maybe six months for the transition.

 

I sure missed that bread. You couldn’t get a good slice of bread anywhere.

 

The closure strung out. The new location fell through. One year, then another, and another year passed. I’d run into mutual friends and ask, “When?” and “Where?” Rumors circulated: just a few more months. The months passed, and years passed. Really, I had about given up.

 

For sure Nicole deserved and needed a rest. I thought she was ready to retire along with her hardworking, worn-out oven. But Nicole was hatching a plan — searching for a new and better site, honing her baking expertise, and making plans.

 

Nicole scoured the country for good used equipment, then hauled it home. She searched for a location to match her vision with generous kitchen and dining space, good access and a view. The old Sears automotive department on the north end of the Ponderosa Plaza (now the Walmart shopping center) was an unlikely opportunity. It was a ruin of a place, abandoned for 18 years, dirty, moldy, rat-infested and stinky. The broker said, “What do you want to look at this wreck for?”

 

“I saw the high ceiling and imagined the great view toward Thumb Butte,” said Nicole. “I signed the lease.” Then the battle commenced: never-ending permits, inspection and construction delays, plus the search for investors.

 

Another 18 months passed. At 8am on December 14, the morning after getting a temporary certificate of occupancy, Nicole turned on the lights and posted on Facebook: “Good morning everyone. Are you sitting down? We opened our doors five minutes ago for the first time. We have pastries, bread and coffee. Come on down!”

 

Pangaea had been closed for four years, and Nicole had no idea what to expect. Within an hour there was a line out the door that remained for days. People said, “This is the best Christmas present I could have had! Thank you for re-opening!”

 

What makes Pangaea so special?

 

Nicole says it’s the ingredients. She insists on the absolute best — chocolates, cheese, butter, eggs, vegetables — of everything. She’s persistent and insistent on sustainable, small-scale, earth-friendly, fresh and artisan-produced.

 

But nothing, nothing is more important than the flour. Nicole sources the best organic flour and grains from Central Milling in Utah and heritage flour and grains from Hayden Mills, Arizona.

 

Bread consists of flour, water, salt, and particularly yeast. Most of the yeast in Pangaea bread comes from her original wild-yeast starter, captured from the Prescott air and nurtured for 25 years. And one more ingredient: time. Nicole explains that breads rise on a time/temperature continuum. They rise faster in warmer conditions and slower at lower temperatures. A cooler, longer rise develops gluten, digestibility and complex flavor. Pangaea loaves are “retarded” at 50 degrees for 24-60 hours. That’s why her breads taste so good.

 

What’s exciting in the new Pangaea?

 

The Marketplace features other artisan products: olive oils, cheeses, butter, salami, mustards, vinegars, chocolates, artisan pasta, Rancho Gordo beans and Diamond Crystal salt (the salt is actually in little crystals!). Soon to come: local beers, wines and ciders. Nicole says, “People who are passionate about what they do excite me. When you taste these foods, it’s a whole new experience. My concept is for customers to buy a loaf of bread, pastries, some cheese, chocolates and a bottle of wine, then go home and have a party.”

 

Soon Pangaea will have a full cooking line with an all-day breakfast-and-lunch menu, open till 7pm for early dinner. She’s excited to feature local farmers and ranchers. And there will be an herb and edible-flower garden just outside the door.

 

Nicole adds, “I am really committed and believe strongly in clean, local, small-scale food; in the best-quality products; in sustainable practices. It’s the way I live.”

 

To me it’s a miracle — to have not only the best bread you could find anywhere, but also to see Pangaea return with such a flourish. But I know this revival is driven by the hard work, grit and determination of our wonderful hometown baker— Nicole Marshall. Thanks!

 

Pandemic adjustments

 

What’s another challenge for Nicole? To help you cope with the pandemic, Pangaea now offers:

  • Call-ahead ordering and curbside pickup at 928-227-2791

  • All-day breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, salads and Roman-style Pizza al Taglio

  • Whipstone Farm-fresh vegetables and flowers

  • “Because We Care" organic sliced sandwich bread for $4.99, produced at cost to support the community

  • Beeler’s Bacon, Red Bird Chicken, and fair-trade organic coffee from Prescott Coffee Roasters

  • Central Milling organic flour

 

Pangaea Bakery

1260 Gail Gardner Way, Prescott

Menu, bread schedule and delicious photos at facebook.com/PangaeaBakery.

Open every day 8am-4pm

 

Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott’s creative food activist and teacher. As Chair of Slow Food Prescott she champions community gardens and sustainable food education.

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