Rice — with all the newfangled grains catering to the health-conscious out there, it's become the equivalent of the forgotten stepchild of the dinner plate. According to Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, co-authors of Grain Mains, 50 percent of the rice produced in the United States each year is exported. Another 16 percent is used to make booze, and another 10 percent is used for pet food. After all, who wants to eat rice when grocery store shelves are full of tasty fiber- and nutrient-packed options like quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, farro, wheat berries, and — the latest trendy grain — freekeh?
That's too bad. Because rice is really easy to make, doesn't take much time to prepare, and can simmer away in the background while you're making a main dish. But it's not just limited to side dishes — it can be the main event, as in the case of risotto, or, if you're really creative, a dessert.
So who won this week? Well, it was a tough call, but we think top marks should go to Carly Goldsmith's Cuban Rice and Beans, a classic dish that can easily be turned into a meal with the addition of some grilled pork chops or a store-bought rotisserie chicken and some salad. Her dish is one that should be in every cook's repertoire of basic recipes.
If cooking rice mystifies you, or if you end up with a bunch of burnt grains at the bottom of the pot every time, or soggy, mushy rice, you can invest in a rice cooker, which makes it a no-brainer. Or, you can read up on how to do it the right way — click here to see How to Cook Rice. It's easier than you think.
All of the recipes featured here can be made at home for about $36 or less, excluding the cost of small amounts of basic ingredients such as butter, oil, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and other dried herbs and spices.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.