Black Rice with Edamame, Sweet Potato and Cashews

Have you checked out the whole grains section of your supermarket? No more will you only see brown or white rice, but quinoa, millet, farro, freekeh and even black rice. My Asian parents have mentioned black rice but never cooked with it because of the higher cost. This black-purplish rice is also called “forbidden rice” because only the richest of society in ancient China (i.e., emperors) were allowed to eat it.

Thankfully times have changed; I easily found it at Trader Joe’s and a client Patrick had bought it at Ocean State Job Lot. Patrick first inspired me to cook with it. He had come to me moderately overweight with cholesterol levels in the 300s and said that despite drinking green smoothies from a Magic Bullet and walking more, his cholesterol wouldn’t budge, which he wrote off as being genetically inherited. He refused to take a statin so we tweaked his diet to increase the fiber with more whole fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and whole grains while avoiding saturated fat and excess cholesterol. He started a regular exercise regimen (he chose P90X which could be done at home). After 4-5 months, his cholesterol dropped to 165—better than mine! Patrick is just one of several folks I’ve counseled who were convinced their genes caused the bad numbers…but were proven wrong when adjusting their diet and exercise level. Some but not all were also using medication. Food is healing!

Black rice is colored by its anthocyanin content, an antioxidant that also pigments blueberries, purple grapes, red wine, tart cherries, plums and eggplant. Black rice, similar to brown, retains the outer high fiber bran layer so its texture is chewier and nuttier than white. Research shows that anthocyanins can decrease inflammation in the body, and therefore may reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Nutrition-wise it’s comparable to brown rice with more fiber, protein and iron than white rice. I simply love the taste!

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Patrick shared this favorite cholesterol-lowering recipe for Forbidden Rice Salad by the Get Off Your Tush & Cook blog, which I made today as you can see in the photos. Very easy to prepare with a quick dressing. The only things I changed were using canola instead of sesame oil, and adding cashews instead of sesame seeds. Also, though I would have loved the flavor of roasted sweet potato, I didn’t feel like turning on the oven so I microwaved them for 6 minutes. The edamame and crispy bell peppers rounded out the flavors and textures. The dish tasted great warm, chilled or at room temperature.

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A few notes about preparing the black rice: Because the package didn’t specify to rinse the rice, I only rinsed quickly before cooking. I noticed the water immediately turned purple throughout cooking. I used a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part rice. After the 30-minute cook time, the texture was perfect but it looked gloppy. So I rinsed off the excess glop and it was fine. In the future I plan to rinse the rice well before cooking and reduce the cooking water (1 3/4 water to 1 cup rice). Try out the recipe if you enjoy brown rice, I’m sure you will love it!

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