Patti Bess: Back to simplicity | TheUnion.com

Patti Bess: Back to simplicity

Patti Bess
Columnist

Patti Bess

Every year I start the holidays with such good intentions and end with a few more pounds than I started with. Most of us have been on a culinary sojourn from elegant desserts, to cheeses, wines, and overcomplicated (but delicious) feasts with family and friends.

The only thing I feel at all inclined to eat or cook this week is a bowl of rice. It feels like coming home, and my digestive system would welcome it. Just give me a bowl of rice and vegetables, and I'll be happy for the next couple of weeks.

Many years ago I bought a book entitled, "One Bowl." Somewhere among the many moves and readjustments of life, it was lost. But I think of it now and again.

Rice on the brain

It was written by a Buddhist monk. He advocated eating a simple bowl of rice in silence — focusing on gratitude and the texture and flavor of each bite. It's funny how the need to nourish the body gets somehow lost in our passion for tasty, exotic, ever new dishes.

The wisdom just makes sense after so much abundance of the last few weeks.

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Rice is the staple food for more than two thirds of the world's population. Only in the last three decades has it grown in popularity here in this country.

Rice may not be a nutritional powerhouse, such as spinach or kale, but it has impressive credentials. It contains a quality protein similar to other cereal grains. It is a good source of essential nutrients such as thiamin, niacin, iron, and B vitamins.

When rice is milled just enough to remove the outer husk, but still retain the bran and germ layers, it becomes brown rice. Brown rice has more protein, calcium and vitamin E than white rice, but the most important reason for using brown rice is that it has more than twice the fiber of white rice. The extra fiber means it takes longer to digest, giving a full sensation which benefit weight watchers.

In our typical high protein American diets most of us are in need of fiber. Whereas, in Asia, where white rice is commonly used, this is not the case as the diet contains more plant sources (in general).

My automatic rice cooker is going on 20 years old. I use it regularly because the rice cooks perfectly and you don't have to worry about the pan spilling over. Put your rice in the pot and walk away. It's useful to have extra in the refrigerator for quick and easy meals. Enjoy!

Ragout of greens & rice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

2 turkey or chicken sausages, sliced lengthwise and cut into bite-size pieces

1 bunch kale, chard or a combination of greens

2 cups cooked rice

3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth or the juice from a can of whole tomatoes

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Parmesan cheese, sour cream or yogurt (optional)

Sauté onion in a large skillet with a tight fitting lid. Add the sausage, garlic and red pepper after a few minutes.

Add the washed greens leaving the moisture on them, broth, salt and pepper. Cover, and simmer until greens are softened but not mushy. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt or parmesan cheese.

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and cookbook author. Questions or comments at bess.pattia@gmail.com.