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Rice - More Than A Side Dish

My parent's lineage of European descent brought very little to our rice game growing up except for one of my mom's best-loved dishes: spicy sausage rice. She would cook up a batch of mild, loose sausage like you would ground beef, mix it with some rice, and serve it. Childhood friends would request this one before coming over.

When you make good friends with someone who's culture has a deep history with rice, like Indonesia, China, or Thailand, you learn so many more ways to use it. You also learn that rice isn't just savory. The use of bitter, sour, sweet & salty all together is a staple concept in the cooking found from India to Vietnam, and the balance of those components is also the basis of health in those cultures.

Rice becomes the base of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rice is cooked with sweet coconut milk and a dash of salty cashews. Rice is topped with a sunny side up egg. Hot chilis are folded in between pillowy mounds and eaten whole, the volcanic flavored seeds and all!

With summer coming up we're going to see a new wave of edible flowers (calendula, lavender, basil, nasturtium, mallows) and chanterelle season will be starting mid-summer if we can get some rain! Let's talk about some ideas for gentle ways to mix these wild foods into easy meals using the ideas of multiple flavor layers. Just toss the below ingredients into a rice cooker or on the stove. Use any rice and start with small amounts of the add-ins until you find what you like!

Savory Rice

- fresh black pepper, dandelion/calendula petals, sunflower/pepitas, salt

- seeds from lambs quarters/dock, dried fruit pieces, bee balm dried or fresh

- stock, dried mushrooms, a splash of vinegar, sprinkle of salt & sugar, top with spicy flowers

Sweet Rice

- cashews/pistachio, flower syrup, splash of vinegar

- raisins/dates/cherries/prunes, almonds, dried chanterelle, rose water

- lemon zest, lavender/beebalm/paulownia/magnolia syrup, top with fresh fruit and cream

- cane sugar, pepper flakes, top with sweet capers

All the Flavors

- use a sweetener to cook (coconut milk, sugar, syrup)

- make sure you have a little salty something (salt, salted nuts, preserved meat)

- top with pickles (radish, carrot, parsnip)

- garnish with flowers (spring beauty, pansy, chrysanthemum)

Of course, you can add in proteins such as scrambled

eggs or a side of fish, but when you create a diverse palette of flavors AND you're adding in wild foods which are super nutrient-dense, you won't feel like you need to add anything else.

What combinations have you tried?

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