Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update

Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions
Volume XI, Number 3 and Number 4
          Summer and Fall 2003

Spice and Rice

Rice fits into almost any cuisine. It is used as a main ingredient by more than half the world’s population. Rice is highly adaptable, taking on the flavor of the ingredients it’s cooked with. A fluffy bed of rice is nice, but it’s easy to use rice in seitan stews, tofu salads, hot and cold puddings, stuffings (for vegetables), as well as hot and cold beverages.

White and brown are just two of the colors in the rice spectrum. Wild wehani rice is a deep red-orange. Jasmati rice is a golden yellow. Thai green rice is a pale grass green, and Wisconsin wild rice can range from inky black to moss green to light beige. All rice is originally brown. Processed rice is white because the beige shell has been polished off. Converted rice has been partially boiled to remove some of the starch, to give a fluffier product. Converted rice does not cook faster than polished rice and should be cooked like any long-grained rice. Instant or quick rice is totally cooked and then flash-frozen. Nutrients and flavor are lost in instant rice.

Basmati, jamine, and jasmanti rice are long-grained rices. True basmati is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and is very aromatic. Jasmine is grown in Southeast Asia and is also very aromatic. Both basmati and jasmine should be washed in cold water prior to cooking to remove surface starch. Jasmanti is a hybrid of basmati and jasmine rice and shares the long-grained and aromatic features of each. All three can be purchased as brown or white rice.

Sticky rice or glutinous rice is short-grained. The individual grains look almost like oval-shaped pearls. Short-grained sticky rice can be cooked and shaped. Use sticky rice to make savory or sweet hot rice cakes, rice pancakes, savory or sweet rice balls, or grilled rice shapes. Sake, mirin, and rice vinegar come from fermented sticky rice.

Wild rice, the seed of a wild grass not actually related to brown rice, can range from beige to red, crimson, dark brown, and black. Wild rice is nutty and chewy and adds color and texture to rice blends. Wild rice can be purchased as giant with long grains, fancy with medium grains, and the most versatile or select, which is short-grained and good for soups and crepe batter. Grown in California and Washington, wild rice is a New World specialty. Wild rice can be served on its own, but it really shines when added to other rices, pasta, barley, or other grains.

Simply steaming rice in a commercial steamer, in the oven, or on top of the stove is just fine. The simmering method is another way to prepare rice that allows for the addition of flavor while cooking. The cooking liquid, which can be water, stock, or court bouillon is brought to a boil. The rice is added, as are fresh or dried herbs and spices. The mixture is returned to a fast boil and then covered. The rice is allowed to simmer with a low heat until all liquid is absorbed.

The preparation of risotto originated in Northern Italy. Risotto uses arborio, short-grained, starchy rice. The risotto method allows the rice to become creamy and custardy. There are different types of arborio. Work with several different types of arborio until you get the texture that goes well with your menu.

This is the basic way to make risotto, usually made with arborio, but can be prepared with short-grained rice, barley, quinoa, or buckwheat:

  1. Bring liquid, usually a flavored stock, to a simmer; hold warm.

  2. Sauté onions, shallots, or garlic in a heavy saucepan. Do not brown.

  3. Stir in rice until all the grains are coated with oil. Continue to quickly stir to coat rice, but do not toast the rice.

  4. Slowly add stock, about 1/2 cup at a time. This is where culinary patience comes in. Stock must be added very slowly and stirred until completely absorbed. This may take up to 20 minutes. Some chefs like to partially cook risotto, so customers do not have an excessive wait.

  5. Stir in flavoring and ingredients, such as olive oil, minced mushrooms, soaked saffron, etc., as soon as risotto is creamy and soft.

  6. Serve immediately.


Risotto is the creamy, luxurious dish made with arborio rice. An elegant risotto can be prepared with mushroom or vegetable stock and a hint of shallots and olive oil.

Here are some risotto variations to serve as an entrée or as accompaniment dishes:

  1. Classic Risotto Milanese: dry white wine, saffron, and vegan soy Parmesan cheese
  2. Risotto with peas and toasted almonds
  3. Risotto with asparagus tips
  4. Traditional risotto with raddichio and olive oil
  5. Smoked tempeh or mushroom risotto with chopped parsley
  6. Pesto risotto with pine nuts
  7. Mediterranean risotto with raisins and almonds
  8. New World risotto with pecans and orange zest
  9. Risotto with toasted pumpkin seeds, white wine, thyme, and garlic


Pilafs originated in Persia, traveled through the Middle East and the Mediterranean, and made it to the New World via the Caribbean. It is the preferred method of rice cooking in many parts of the world Pilafs are most popular with rice, but they can be done with any grain or vegetable that can stand up to heat and liquid.

This is the basic way to make pilaf:

  1. Sauté the rice (or barley, quinoa, mushrooms, couscous, etc.) in a small amount of vegetable oil or vegan margarine.
  2. Simmer in just enough liquid to allow the grain to become tender.

That’s it! You can add fresh or dried herbs, minced garlic or vegetables, saffron threads, or your favorite seasoning mix. To serve five people, you’ll need 1 cup of rice (or grains) and about 2 cups of water (or vegetable stock). Spray some vegetable oil in a pot, add rice, and sauté it for about 2 minutes or until most of oil is absorbed. Boil the liquid, pour over the rice, and allow it to simmer until soft. Some people like to sauté onions or garlic in the oil before adding the rice. Some people like to cook the rice on the stove until it is just soup and then bake it, covered, until it becomes dry.

Pilaf Tips

  1. It is better to make a pilaf in a wide pan than a tall pot. The surface area is better for absorption of liquid.
  2. If using onion, dry it on a paper towel after it’s cut, so there’s not a lot of extra moisture.
  3. To prevent sticking, stir as little as possible.
  4. If you have to stir, use a fork. This incorporates more air and makes a fluffier pilaf.
  5. If adding vegetables to your pilaf, cut them up as small as possible. This ensures consistent cooking.
  6. You can prepare pilaf up to two days ahead of time and just reheat it as needed.

To get the most flavorful, textured rice, use the appropriate size pot or pan and the right amount of liquid. If preparing rice with hard, alkaline water, add a small amount of lemon juice or white vinegar to keep rice from turning gray.

When figuring out raw amounts, no matter what the cooking method, one cup of raw white rice equals 3 cups cooked rice. One cup raw brown rice equals 3-4 cups cooked rice and 1 cup raw converted rice equals about 2 cups cooked rice.

To mold or shape rice for a buffet presentation, place cooked rice in an oiled mold. Place the mold in a hotel pan with 2 inches of water. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or until set. Allow to cool and unmold. You can use leftover pilaf or flavored rice mixes for rice molds. Add chopped cooked mushrooms, shredded vegan soy cheeses, minced onions or shallots, crushed pineapple, parsley and garlic, chopped chestnuts, almonds or pistachios, saffron, chopped tomatoes and bell peppers or chilies, or diced celery to white or brown rice to create new side dishes. Additional ingredients can be steamed or cooked with rice or sautéed and added after the rice is cooked.

Spice It Up

You can combine white or brown rice with any of the following:



Make Your Own Rice Spice Blends:

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Excerpts from the Summer and Fall 2003 Issue:
How to Feed Just a Few Vegetarians at Weddings, Parties, Restaurants...
By Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD, CCE
Vegan Food Products
Food Service Hotline
Vegetarian Quantity Recipes
- Banana Split Salad
- Walnut and wild Rice Salad
- Basic Pilaf
Spice and Rice

Click here to go to the main foodservice page (Vegetarian Journal's FoodService Update and Quantity Cooking Information with links to each issue).

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Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.

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Last Updated
Nov. 23, 2004

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