It’s true. Try as I might, I have never been that fond of brown rice. I have a similar relationship with whole wheat pasta. To me, both tend to overwhelm the flavor of most other ingredients with their whole grainy-ness. And I refuse to incorporate them just because some study tells me they’ll lengthen my life by five years or reduce my risk of contracting various diseases by 8 to 15 percent. I don’t like haughty ingredients.
I usually go for the more agreeable starches like arborio or jasmine rice or semolina pasta, which never elbow their way into the spotlight and always play nicely with the other ingredients. But I recently came across a recipe for brown fried rice with kale and scallions from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook that inspired me to give it another try.
Steamed kale stands up to the hearty brown rice with its almost bitter, verdant flavor. The sharpness of the scallions and the salty soy sauce make the dish wonderfully savory. I made some adjustments–adding beaten eggs and sesame oil for richness and a little Sriracha for heat–and I was really happy with the result.
It also helped that I was patient enough to cook and cool the rice ahead of time. Fried rice always tastes best with rice made several hours beforehand. And brown rice has a nice hearty texture when cooked properly.
To cook brown rice, I bring 2 1/4 parts water and 1 part brown rice to a boil with a pat of butter and a little salt, then cover and simmer it for 35 minutes. I then turn off the heat and let it steam, covered, for another 10 to 15 minutes. For the best results, cook the rice the night before and keep it in the fridge till you’re ready to make fried rice.
Fried brown rice with kale
1 large bunch kale (about 10 leaves), stemmed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
5 scallions, finely chopped on a diagonal (reserve a handful for garnish)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cooked brown rice (see instructions above)
2 eggs, beaten well
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
Sriracha, for topping
Method: Cut the kale leaves in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into thin ribbons. Heat a large saucepan with 1/4 inch of water in the bottom over high heat. Toss in the kale and steam for 3-4 minutes. Remove, and place in a bowl to dry and cool slightly.
Wipe out the pan, return it to the stove over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Add the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add the kale and cook for 2 minutes to heat through. Add the rice, and a bit more oil if needed, and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour in the eggs and stir until the rice is evenly coated. Cook for 2 minutes until the egg starts to look opaque. Add the soy sauce, black pepper and sesame oil, stirring to combine. Cook for another 30 seconds. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed.
To serve, pile the rice in deep bowls and garnish with the reserved scallions and a drizzle of Sriracha. Make sure there’s soy sauce and Sriracha on the table for passing. Serves 3 to 4.