Chef Karen Evenden unveils a few of her favorite rice-centric meals, the perfect starchy companion to your galley creations.
Rice has long been the staple food for a significant part of the world’s population, but I confess I was blown away when I first learned that there are 40,000 varieties of this essential grain. And I thought I was being extravagant by stocking my pantry with four or five of my favorites. Rice, the seed of a specific species of grass, is said to have grown in China as far back as 2500 B.C. Then, throughout the centuries, cultivation spread to Sri Lanka and India, and by the Middle Ages—thanks to Arab traders—it was introduced to Spain and Italy. With its appearance in those Mediterranean countries, new cooking methods and flavor combinations were born. Welcome, paella and risotto.
Both of those rice-based dishes are steeped in the customs of their lands of origin. A classic Valencian paella is still made with traditional local ingredients (think seafood or rabbit, with beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and saffron), cooked over an open fire fueled by orange branches, pine boughs, vines, and pine cones. Then, some time later in Milan (which had been under the rule of paella-loving Spaniards), Italians brought their traditional slow-cooking methods to the rice table. That new method, combined with a locally grown, short-grain rice, and their richly flavored ingredients resulted in Risotto alla Milanese. Today this dish continues to be created around the same core components: rice, soup stock (usually chicken), onions, butter, wine, parmesan, and saffron.
These days, though we may occasionally crave a traditional risotto or paella, we are inspired to use our own local ingredients to create and enjoy new combinations of rice and spice—simple, easyto-clean onboard meals.
AVOCADO TOPPED SHRIMP WITH LEMON-SAFFRON RICE Serves: 4
Over medium-high heat, pour the olive oil into a large saute pan (a 10inch pan works well) and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the onion and red pepper and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the rice, oregano, salt, saffron, paprika, cayenne pepper, and broth. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. tablespoons olive oil 21 cup diced onion ½ cup diced red pepper 23– cloves garlic, minced 1¼ cups long-grain rice 1½ tsp dried oregano ¼ tsp kosher or fine sea salt Large pinch of saffron ½ tsp paprika ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional) 2¼ cups chicken broth 1 pound peeled and de-veined large shrimp 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen) 2 tsp fresh lemon zest 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and diced
Fluff the rice with a fork and stir in the shrimp and peas. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the shrimp turn pink. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Spoon onto warm serving plates, top with diced avocado, and serve.
FULL OF FLAVOR CHICKEN WITH RICE Serves: 4
Ingredients¾½ 4 Salt6 quarters2 2 and tsp tsp garlic boneless,tbsp large pepper cumin coriander(per olive carrots,cloves,to personoil skinlesstaste minceddiced served): chickensmall thighs, cut in 1 vertically½ 1 mediumcup cup and red long-grainsliced pepper– thin large rice onion, cut in half 2 1 or frozen), cupscup cut chickenfresh green vegetables:broth beans, zucchinipeas (freshor a combinationFresh parsley, chopped 1 lime or lemon quartered In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, coriander, garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub the seasoning on the chicken pieces. Over mediumhigh heat, pour the olive oil into a large saute pan, and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Remove the
Saffron, an extremely valuable spice, is the stigma of the saffron crocus. Harvesting is tedious and time-consuming as the stigmas— or threads—must be plucked by hand, carefully piled, and dried. It is used in various cuisines as a seasoning— it imparts an earthy, pungent flavor—and a coloring agent. One of the world’s most costly spices by weight, it is believed to have originated in Asia Minor but it was first cultivated in Greece. chickento medium from and pan add and the set carrots,aside. Reduce onion, the and heatred pepper and then cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, mix well and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining vegetables and return the chicken, along with accumulated juices to the pan. Cover and simmer until the rice is just tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lime or lemon on the side. Karen Evenden has cooked aboard boats from the U.S. to Europe. She and her husband now cruise the west coast aboard a Kadey-Krogen. She has self-published A Taste of Croatia and Ojai’s Table, both available at Amazon.com.