Rice may be common fare, but it never needs to be bland. This tasty mixed rice dish becomes festive with flavorful dried fruits and nuts.
Rice blends sold in bulk at some stores, such as Whole Foods, provide both great taste and texture with a combination of brown, white, long grain, short grain, and wild rice. You can enjoy it with as little seasoning as salt and pepper, or you can turn a common dish into something special with a few easy additions.
Rice, Dried Fruits, and Nuts: A Great Mix
Rice by itself may not impart a wow-factor of flavor, but throw in a few sweet, salty, and nutty additions and the fantastic taste comes alive. Dried fruits and nuts are great with rice, not only because of the taste and texture they provide, but also because they stand up well to the hot, cooked grains when added in the last few minutes of cooking.
Tips for Fluffy Rice
Tip 1 for fluffy rice: If your rice tends to be a bit sticky and clumped together instead of fluffy with loose grains, you may be using too much liquid. I’ve found many recipes call for more water or broth than is actually needed to cook the rice without overloading it with sogginess. Try stirring the rice in a little hot olive oil in a skillet, then spreading it out over the bottom of the pan. Add just enough liquid to barely cover the rice.
Tip 2 for fluffy rice: Use a skillet. When you cook rice in a small, deep saucepan, it doesn’t have room to spread out, and neither does the liquid. Using a skillet with shallow sides allows plenty of space for the grains to cook without being jammed together in a heap.
Tip 3 for fluffy rice: To help loosen clumpy rice, let it cool to room temperature, then spread it out on a plate and refrigerate for an hour or so. (The chill loosens the grains.) Place the cold rice back in the skillet with a small amount of olive oil and warm gently, uncovered, over low heat. Stir the rice frequently to fluff the grains as it warms.
Mixed Rice with Dried Fruits and Nuts
- 1 cup mixed rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped celery
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp crushed fennel seed
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup chopped dates
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 1/3 chopped walnuts
- Place the rice in a strainer and rinse thoroughly, then set the strainer in a bowl of cold water and let the rice soak about 30 minutes.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.
- Add the onion and celery and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently until the vegetables just begin to soften.
- Remove the rice from the bowl of water and rinse again. Drain and add to the skillet along with the salt, pepper, and fennel seed. Stir well 1 minute.
- Add the chicken broth, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Let the rice cook slowly, about 40 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the grains fluff easily with a fork.
- About 5 minutes before serving, stir in the dates, cherries, and walnuts.