Posts Tagged With: Rice

333/365: National Rice Cake Day*

Take today’s food holiday with a grain of salt. Or, more accurately, a grain of rice. November 29 is National Rice Cake Day!

It is also National Lemon Cream Pie Day, but if you’re like us, you had plenty of pie yesterday to tide you over for awhile. In fact, you’ve probably still got leftovers today. A light, tasty, low-calorie and low-fat rice cake sounds much more appealing on Black Friday!

Rice cakes are very popular in Asian culture. They may be made with rice flour, ground rice, or whole grains of rice compressed together. Rice cakes can be sweet or savory, and are available in a variety of flavors. Rice has been cultivated for over 7000 years, and is primarily grown in warm, humid climates. In Pacific Rim countries especially, rice is the basis for many meals and snacks. Sweet rice cakes called mochi were eaten by Japanese nobility as far back as the 8th century, and really began to flourish by the end of the 12th century. Once Tokyo became the capital of Japan during the Edo Period (1601-1868), rice cakes became a popular festival treat, and began appearing at roadside stands throughout the country. To this day, many Asian street vendors sell variations of rice cakes made with vegetables, seaweed, and seafood that are fried to order. In the U.S., puffed rice cakes are common. These are considerably healthier, and are a popular low-calorie substitute for pastries.

We picked up a bag of white cheddar flavored rice cakes to celebrate. This is my favorite flavor; I often enjoy rice cakes for a snack, and today was no exception!

National Rice Cake Day

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Categories: Grains, Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

221/365: National Rice Pudding Day

There’s more than a grain of truth to this declaration: August 9 is National Rice Pudding Day!

Rice pudding is a surprisingly simple dessert that consists of just three ingredients: rice, milk, and sugar. Sure, you can add other ingredients like vanilla, rum, raisins, nutmeg, or chicken bouillon granules, but sometimes simplicity is best. Not surprisingly, rice pudding originated in Asia, where rice was first cultivated thousands of years ago. The dish gained popularity during the Middle Ages, as it spread through Europe like the plague. Err…oops, that was in poor taste. It’s still too soon for plague jokes. The first written records of rice pudding are found in medical journals dating back to ancient Rome, where it was prepared with goat’s milk and used for medicinal purposes. Because rice was once an imported luxury, elaborate dishes were prepared using fancy spices and other ingredients. As the grain became more commonplace, ingredients were scaled back, and nowadays the dish has a reputation for blandness. And yet, some cultures revere it. In Dutch and Flemish folklore, heaven is described as a divine place where you can find a never-ending supply of rice pudding, to be eaten with a golden spoon. And in Sweden, children put out rice pudding for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Famous writers like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Walt Whitman all mention rice pudding in their literary works, and in Douglas Adams’¬†The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the supercomputer Deep Thought claims the existence of rice pudding is derived from first principles. Seeing as how I haven’t read the book I can’t really tell you what that means, but I’m sure it’s deeply philosophical and stuff.

To celebrate, my mom made rice pudding from scratch. In a strange twist of events, she wasn’t even there to enjoy it, but we were. And we did. Good stuff!

National Rice Pudding Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

169/365: International Sushi Day*

There’s something fishy about today’s food holiday. Fishy in a good way! June 18 is INTERnational Sushi Day! We’re branching out and going global today.

International Sushi Day is a relatively new food holiday, having been created in 2009 after a successful Facebook campaign. I may just have to start a page to promote National Ketchup Day, which – as I’ve mentioned – does not exist. There’s something fishy about¬†that, let me tell you.

Anyway. Today is also National Cherry Tart Day and International Picnic Day. We chose to celebrate sushi because A. we are sick of desserts, and B. we have to work, and the weather might be showery this evening, so a picnic isn’t in the cards. Besides, I love sushi! Tara does not…but when has that ever stopped us?

Sushi dates back to the 4th century B.C. in Southeast Asia. When fish were caught they were cleaned, gutted, and salted, and wrapped in rice; the natural fermentation of the rice acted as a preservative to keep the fish edible for months. When ready to eat, the rice was discarded. Sushi was introduced to Japan in the 8th century A.D. The Japanese liked to eat rice with their fish, which was still partially raw, so instead of a method of preparation, sushi became a meal itself. They began mixing vinegar in with the rice to recreate the tangy flavor without having to wait for fermentation to occur. Vegetables and other preserved foods were added to the mix, with each region of Japan relying on local ingredients to create specialized recipes. By the 19th century sushi had evolved to include fresh fish and seaweed, and finally resembled the dish we are familiar with today. Sushi didn’t appear in the West until much later. In 1953, Japan’s Prince Akihito introduced sushi to Britain and America (it was served at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.). During the 1970s Japanese businesses began expanding to the U.S., and sushi restaurants were opened to cater to their tastes. Sushi was a tough sell in America – few people could stomach the idea of eating raw fish – so the California roll was developed, consisting of cucumber, (cooked) crabmeat, and avocado. This was the perfect introductory vehicle for the American palate, and allowed people to gradually experiment with other types of sushi, notably raw fish. Sushi gained popularity in the U.S. during the health-conscious 1980s, and nowadays is a very popular dish both here and abroad.

We’re fortunate, because Fred Meyer – our local grocery-slash-everything-else-store, has a very good sushi bar. I go there often for a quick, tasty, and healthy lunch.

International Sushi Day

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

86/365: National Spanish Paella Day

Spain is the birthplace of bullfighting, foam parties, and today’s food holiday. It’s National Paella Day!

Paella – Spanish for “pan” – was invented by Spanish peasants, who would gather the cheapest ingredients they could find, throw them together in a big pan, and cook them over an open fire. Traditionally, this included chicken, duck, rabbit, and snails. When the meal was ready, laborers would gather ’round the pan and eat from it directly using long, wooden spoons. After awhile, the Spanish were like, “Wait a minute…why are we eating snails when there’s a bounty of seafood available off the coast? What are we,¬†French?!” The recipe evolved to include rice, beans, spices, tomato, and seafood. Mixed paella – incorporating both meat and seafood, along with fresh vegetables, and flavored with saffron – became the norm, and is considered ¬†Spain’s signature dish. It is a popular custom to cook great, big pans of paella at festivals and other public gatherings in Spain. Chefs use enormous¬†paelleras¬†(specialized paella pans) to cook and feed the masses.

They're going to have leftovers for days!

Paella was one of those dishes that looked intimidating when we skimmed over the food holidays before kicking off this challenge. My only experience with the dish was a quick reference to it in a Seinfeld episode. The exchange was brief but memorable.

GEORGE: Ok, fine. It’s going to be very interesting, very interesting if they don’t show up tonight. You know my mother made all this Paella.

JERRY: What is that anyway?

GEORGE: It’s a Spanish dish. It’s a m√©lange of fish, and meat with rice. Very tasty.

So, with that basic bit of information to go on, I researched recipes – and discovered you can add just about anything to a paella. There were hundreds of recipes to choose from, but I decided to freestyle-it and adapt my own recipe from one I found. The essential ingredients were the same: rice, saffron, chicken, and seafood. From there I could get creative, and that’s exactly what I did. After work I stopped by the grocery store and bought shrimp and scallops. I couldn’t get clams though, and the reason is bizarre and sad. The seafood monger told me their clam supplier in Alaska suffered a tragedy recently: a boat sank killing every crew member but one, and the lone survivor refused to go out clamming anymore (smart dude) – so Fred Meyer is fresh out of clams.

A moment of silence for the lost clammers, please.

As for the paella? It sure looks good in this picture. There was a lot of work involved, and I think it could have benefited from a few changes – more seasoning, the addition of some chorizo, etc. But all in all, it wasn’t bad. Just a lot of work for a Wednesday evening. And one of our more expensive dishes: the tiny jar of saffron alone cost $10. Plus the seafood, chicken, etc….
Spanish Paella
Categories: Poultry, Seafood | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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