We’ve already shared a few stories of my infatuation with novel foods. Every time I see a veggie or fruit at the farmer’s market I haven’t seen or tasted, I can’t rest until I get my hands on whatever it is. That was true of last summer’s French plums and the creamy lavender and white eggplant we found at Capay’s Sunday market stand. So, when I saw this beautiful black rice in the bulk bins at Rainbow Grocery, I knew I had to have some of it.
Lundberg Family Farms grows this gorgeous blend of black and mahogany rice grains. They describe the rice’s flavors as “nutty, mushroom-like … energized with an exotic sweet spiciness.” I don’t know about the exotic or the spicy, but this whole grain brown rice has a warm nutty flavor that works well in soup or as the main attraction in rice salads. If you visit the farm’s website, you’ll find a number of simple recipes for rice sides, mains and salads. As for me, I’m content with plain, lightly salted rice. Having a container of cooked rice on hand in the fridge makes for easy improvisations later.
According to their website, the family owned and operated farm adheres to sustainable farming practices that go beyond complying with organic farming standards. Of course, I worry that any rice production in California is out of place given the state’s precarious water resource management challenges. But Lundberg has made a serious commitment to land stewardship. On balance, we’re likely better served by supporting local farmers who care about the air, land and water we all depend on instead of importing organics from out-of-state.
This dark and beautiful rice is picture perfect. Simply cooked, it stands on its own. But I had to come up with a recipe to inspire me to use it and the dish I came up with didn’t disappoint, but I should let you be the judge. I’ve incorporated a few of my favorite flavors and another “exotic” ingredient – burdock root– to produce an earthy, complexly flavored rice dish that balances sweet and savory with just a bit of spicy heat.
Black Japonica Rice Salad with Orange Segments
1 cup Japonica rice
1 burdock root (gobo root), peeled and chopped, about 2 cups (optional)
1 star anise
1 medium carrot, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
1 medium orange–remove zest with vegetable peeler and cut into thin julienne strips, segment the orange, setting aside for the top, and squeeze the membrane into a bowl to make 2 tbsp juice
2 tbsp oil
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by cooking the rice by adding 1 cup rice and 2 cups water to saucepan. Bring to boil then reduce heat to a very low flame and cover. Be sure to keep the heat low enough that pot doesn’t boil over. Cook rice approximately 40 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Turn heat off and leave rice covered an additional 10 minutes. Allow to cool an additional 30 minutes uncovered while preparing the rest of the dish.
While rice is cooking, heat water in saucepan and add salt, star anise and diced burdock. Bring to a boil and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until burdock is tender. Drain in a colander and set aside.
In the meantime, heat oil in a sauté pan and add diced carrot, shallot and ginger. Cook over medium heat until tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add boiled burdock and sauté an additional 5 minutes. Add slivered orange zest and heat until fragrant. In a small pan add orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey, bring to a boil. Add rice and sauce to pan with vegetables, toss heating until the liquid is absorbed. Turn heat off and finish with freshly ground pepper. Set aside to cool for 30 minutes.
To serve, scoop rice onto a plate or into a bowl and top with fresh orange segments. Serve at room temperature.
Steve & Jason