Rice is to Asia what pasta is to the Italians. It’s our staple and our everyday meals revolve around it. If you’ve run out of ideas about how to enjoy rice, if plain boiled rice, garlic fried rice and Chinese-style fried rice have become rather boring and ordinary, if that’s possible, here are two ideas to perk up your rice repertoire. The first, Spanish rice, is based on a recipe from Elise’s Simply Recipes; my version has chicken strips making it a complete meal. The second is yet another variation of my herb-loaded rice, a dish that was inspired by Vieux Chalet’s herbed rice.
I can only describe this dish as a very light and easy-to-cook version of the traditional paella. The following recipe serves 4.
You will need:
the breast of one large chicken, deboned
2 cups of unwashed rice (I used jasmine rice)
1/2 head of garlic
1 large onion
3 to 4 large ripe and plump tomatoes
4 cups (or more) of chicken broth, depending on the variety of rice you’re using
a handful of fresh basil leaves (or about 1 tsp. of dried basil)
about 1/4 c. of olive oil
half a cup of frozen sweet peas (optional)
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and coarsely chop the onion. Dice the tomatoes. Chop the basil leaves.
Cut the chicken into strips (how large or how small depends on you but I suggest keeping them rather small so that they will cook fast). Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a cooking pot. Fry the chicken strips until lightly browned and fully cooked. Depending on their size, this can take anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Keep warm.
In the remaining olive oil, add the rice. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, basil and peas, if using. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften. Pour in the broth. Season with salt and pepper. Stir once then simmer, without further stirring, until the rice is done.
Turn off the heat. Fluff the rice with a fork. Stir in the chicken and serve.
You can make the traditional pesto from scratch, you may want to try my home-made Pinoy pesto or you can opt for ready-to-use pesto in a jar.
I used this garlic and spinach pesto that I discovered at the supermarket recently. Milder and a bit sweet than traditional pesto but definitely good.
Cook your rice the usual way but using less water to make sure that the grains are cooked through but still firm. Soggy rice, or what we call malatang sinaing, isn’t ideal for this dish.
While the rice cooks, toast some chopped garlic in olive oil. Do this over medium heat and watch the garlic like a hawk because those little bits burn fast. When they are nicely browned, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
When the rice is cooked, transfer it to a large bowl. Add add the toasted garlic, a teaspoonful of pesto for every two cups of cooked rice, salt and pepper. Toss well. If your pesto is more leafy than oily, pour in the olive oil in which you have toasted the garlic. Use some of it or all of it — don’t be scared, it’s supposed to be good for your heart.
That’s it. The kids brought some to school the other day with fried tilapia fillets and what was left, we had for breakfast.