By Marsha Fottler –
Even when I could have owned one for free, I resisted acquiring a rice cooker. To me it seemed just one more single-use appliance that would take up too much room on the kitchen counter and would gobble up way too much real estate in the pots-and-pans pantry. Then, my bachelor son (who loves to cook) asked his sister for a rice cooker for Christmas and began using it like crazy. I have to say I’ve become a convert and now I’m happy to see the new cookbook 300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes by Katie Chin. My son will end up with the book, but not before I try some of the recipes.
Besides recipes for one-pot rice meals, the book also includes recipes for couscous, cracked wheat, oats, black beans, chick peas, lentils, quinoa and lots more grains and legumes, some a bit esoteric such as spelt and farro.
Author Katie Chin, an Asian-American chef and caterer (and mother of twins), notes in her introduction that rice cookers have been a staple in Asian-American households since the 1940s and have become more versatile and efficient over the years. Her useful book goes over the various types of cookers so that you can choose the best for your personal needs, and she includes a comprehensive rundown of types of rice. There are rice cooker tips too. Additionally, the reader can reference charts for measuring, soaking, rinsing, storing and mixing rice blends and grains from the cooker.
Recipes are divided into breakfast foods, appetizers, soups, salads, stews, main dishes, risottos and pilafs, steam cuisine and even desserts. The soft-bound book is easy to use and there are plenty of colorful photographs to inspire and guide.
If you intend to experiment with a rice cooker, buy this book. It will take you through years of delicious recipes cooked in an appliance that I think is probably highly under valued. Here are a few recipes from the book to get you started.
Curried Squash Soup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons minced ginger root
1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups diced peeled butternut squash
1 cup dried red lentils, sorted and rinsed
6 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Set the rice cooker for the Quick Cook or Regular cycle. When the bottom of the bowl gets hot, add oil and swirl to coat. Saute garlic, onion, and ginger for abut 3 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add curry powder and cumin; saute for 1 minute; Add carrot, squash and celery. Saute for five minutes. Stir in lentils and broth. Close the lid and reset for the Regular cycle. Set time for 40 minutes. When timer sounds, check to make sure lentils are tender. If not, continue cooking checking for doneness every five minutes. Switch to Keep Warm cycle. Stir in coconut milk, cilantro and lime juice. Season to taste. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.
Grits with Currants and Almonds
1 cup coarse stone-ground grits
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons liquid honey
¼ cup currants
¼ toasted slivered almonds
In the rice cooker owl, combine grits, salt, molk and honey. Set the rice cooker for the Porridge cycle. Stir thoroughly two or three times while the grits are cooking. When the machine switches to the Keep Warm cycle, stir in currants and almonds. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve immediately or hold on the Keep Warm cycle for up to 1 hour. Stir thoroughly before serving.
Dolmades with Lamb and Mint
1 ½ pounds lean ground lamb or beef
2 cups finely chopped onions
23 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained
? cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed
Tzatziki (recipe below)
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish
In a large bowl, combine and lamb, onions, rice, pine nuts, m int, salt and pepper until well combined. Gently open up a grape leaf and place rib side down on a work surface. Place a rounded tablespoon of lamb mixture in the center of the leaf. Gold the bottom of the leaf over the meat, gold in the sides and roll into a tight cylinder. Repeat with the remaining filling. You might have leaves left over. Place two grape leaves in the bottom of the rice cooker bowl.Arrange rolled dolmades in stacks in the rice cooker, seam side down. Place a plate on top to keep the dolmades in place and from unrolling. Pour in enough water to cover dolmades. Set the rice cooker for the Regular or Steam cycle and set a timer for 50 minutes. Check occasionally while cooking and add enough water to keep the dolmades covered. When the timer sounds, check to make sure the dolmades are no longer pink inside. If necessary, continue cooking and checking every five minutes. Turn the machine off and let it cool for 10 minutes. Serve the dolmades warm, with tzatziki on the side. (tip: for extra sweetness and texture add 1/2 cup golden raisins to the lamb mixture).
(a cool and creamy dip that is the traditional complement to Dolmades or any Greek food. You don’t need the cooker for this one.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed anise seeds
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
1 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup diced English cucumber
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 fresh dill sprig
In a medium bowl, combine garlic, anise seeds, salt, pepper, yogurt and lemon juice. Stir in cucumber and dill until well combined. Garnish with dill sprig. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until chilled. Keeps for two days.
(300 Best Rice Cooker Recipes by Katie Chin, Robert Rose Publisher, $24.95).