Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Healthy Eating: Brown Rice Bowl

A semi-embarrassing thing happened during the three months that I lived in London last year. I gained a some "love pounds" as my husband affectionately terms it. About thirty of them, to be exact. I figured when I made it back to Cali and fresh produce and miniskirt-wearing weather, the pounds would just melt away. Not so much. I've never been one for diets; I exercise regularly and I don't snack very much. Still, I figure it won't hurt to try out some healthy recipes...as long as they happen to be fantastically tasty too! So over the next few months, I plan on adding some spa food from Canyon Ranch and The Golden Door and some vegetarian recipes from Greens in San Francisco and 101 Cookbooks to the mix. And I'll kick things off with one of my healthy faves.

London may have been a bit heavy on the curries and fry-ups, but ironically, it's also where we discovered the following brown rice yumminess, at a fabulous chain of fast-food eateries called Leon. And if fast-food makes you think of transfats and Super Size Me, think again. Leon is more like speedy Slow Food: seasonal ingredients, simply cooked. Somehow, this particular dish is the exact right proportion of protein, (complex) carb, and greenery to keep you alert, satisfied, and energized for hours without weighing you down.

Brown Rice
Make about one cup of brown rice if you're feeding two people. I use Trader Joes brown jasmine or brown basmati and cook it in my rice cooker on the brown rice setting.

Cole Slaw
Once I started making these brown rice bowls, I started collecting cole slaw recipes. The trick to any cole slaw, I think, is to shred the cabbage very finely and dry it well. I also skip any recipe that calls for mayo, which is possibly the only ingredient I can think of that I don't really care for. I'm also not nuts about shark, but we won't be using any of that either today. This recipe is adapted from the Leon cookbook, which can be ordered from Amazon UK (be aware, however, that the measurements are metric).

Open Sesame Slaw (adapted from The Leon Cookbook by Allegra McEvedy)

VEGETABLES (makes enough for two people)
¼ head of a large cabbage (about 2 cups), sliced finely; I usually use Savoy
1 carrot, peeled and grated
Small handful frozen lima beans (defrosted)
Small handful frozen peas (defrosted)
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

The original dressing calls for a clove of grated garlic, which you're certainly welcome to add. I've scaled back on the raw garlic lately because the benefits (improved tastiness) don't outweigh the drawbacks (24 hours of bad breath and thirstiness) for me.
3½ tablespoons soy milk
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ tablespoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, ground or roughly chopped
1 teaspoon nigella seed (also called black onion or kalonji)
Pinch of salt, pepper
Grated garlic clove (optional)

Whisk ingredients together until emulsified. Toss vegetables with dressing and allow to sit for 15 minutes to an hour.

Other Options:
Thai Cole Slaw from Attic Magazine
Lime and Peanut Cole Slaw from 101 Cookbooks
Green Onion Slaw from Smitten Kitchen (Recipe by Bobby Flay)
Winter Veg Slaw from When Harry Met Salad (Recipe by Jamie Oliver)

Marinate one chicken thigh or breast per person in your favorite marinade (mine is included below). Cook your chicken on a grill pan over high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side. If the breasts are really thick, you may have to cut them in half (not downwards, imagine cutting a deck of cards, i.e., across). There should be no trace of pink when your chicken is done. Set aside to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

Vietnamese Marinade (adapted from Andrea Nguyen as printed in the Washington Post blog)
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
4 Thai birds eye peppers, sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Juice from one lime
½ tablespoon peanut oil
2 to 3 boneless chicken thighs (or breasts)

Mix ingredients together and marinate chicken for about an hour. Then cook as directed above.

Variation: Halloumi

Say you don't have an hour to let your meat marinate. Or say your husband consumes cheese like a shark tears through chum. You can also use halloumi as your protein.

Halloumi with Chili (adapted from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson)
1 package halloumi (a Middle Eastern grilling cheese)
2 red jalapeno peppers (if available) or serranos, diced finely
1 tablespoon of good olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt

Mix the last four ingredients in a small bowl to make a dressing.

Grill the halloumi per the package instructions, about 3 minutes a side in a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat. Halloumi should turn golden brown, but not burn. Place grilled halloumi on a plate, drizzle over the dressing and serve.

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