Rice-O-Rama: Three Seasonal, Mostly Local Rice Bowls

Rice bowl with mint, thyme, feta, golden beets, and chickpeasSeveral times in the last few weeks, brown rice from Massa Organics has been the base for main dishes. I mix rice, cooked vegetables, cheese, herbs, and other flavorings, and serve it hot with a salad or other side dishes.

The first one was inspired by Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks website and Super Natural Cooking (a great cookbook, by the way). The dish has a somewhat Middle Eastern sensibility, with mint, thyme and feta providing strong notes on top of a subtle background of beets, rice and chickpeas (and it also had some subtle beauty, as the pigment from the golden beets bled into the rice, giving it a yellow hue).

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Start cooking a batch of brown rice.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Peel a few beets (preferably golden to prevent the rice from turning pink) and dice them in 5 mm cubes. Toss with oil, season with salt and pepper, and turn out onto a baking sheet. Bake until tender.  (This is the quick method described in a Melissa Clark column in the New York Times in January.)
  3. Cook a batch of chickpeas, or open a can and drain it.
  4. Slice and wash a leek (or mince an onion). Cook in oil until softened.
  5. Chop a handful of mint and the leaves from a few thyme sprigs.
  6. Crumble some feta cheese.
  7. Just before the rice is done, reheat the beets, chickpeas, and leeks.
  8. When the rice is done, combine everything into a serving bowl.

Except for the chickpeas, everything came from the Berkeley farmers market, so this was a nearly completely local main dish.

My next rice dish was basic and hearty: sauteed onion, sauteed mushrooms, cheese curds (from Spring Hill Dairy), wilted spinach and cooked bacon. Simple and tasty, but missing something (perhaps I should try again during tomato season).

My most recent attempt was a riff on the picadillo I made for chiles en nogada eighteen months ago.  It has  complex flavors, with spices, sweet fruit, and rich cheese curd.  I used these ingredients:

  • Sauteed onion and diced carrots;
  • Dried fruit: raisins soaked in warm water and drained; sun-dried tomatoes soaked in hot water, drained, and diced;
  • Cheese curds;
  • Herbs and spices:  cinnamon, thyme, ground red chile, Mexican oregano (which is actually not botanically related to European oregano, as I wrote about in a post about the several types of oregano).

It was definitely a winner.  Alongside a bowl of beans and some braised greens, an excellent and relatively simple-to-prepare meal.

More on Brown Rice
The San Francisco Chronicle had a few articles about brown rice in last Sunday’s food section (it still feels weird to type ‘Sunday food section’ after so many years of Wednesday food sections).


  1. You mentioned cheese curds. If they came from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery – then you had the BEST! The Governor of Wisconsin gave them the title “Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin”! That pretty much says it all! SO YUMMY!

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