Rice dishes better than anything from a box

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Dan Bolyard/courtesy photo Rice and pasta don’t have to come from a boxed mix.

Nearly everyone has tried that famous named boxed rice side dish. You know, the one that features the cable car from that city in California. Did you know it is really easy to make, without the aid of the box? In fact, with a little practice, this is one of those recipes you can start to make without a recipe. I actually made up a batch off the top of my head once and found I had made a tastier version than I had ever found out of the box. I think the biggest difference is the fresh flavors of the background vegetables, versus the dried and powdered versions in the flavor packet. I‘ve also noted a few recipes online that have no veggies at all. They rely on powdered garlic and dried parsley to do the job that carrots, onion and celery do in my version.

The biggest challenge I had was taking spaghetti noodles and cutting them into tiny pieces. I ran small amounts that I had broken up in my food processor. They didn't break up as consistently small as I would have liked, but went with it. Next time I might purchase some orzo pasta in place of the spaghetti. After running the pasta through the machine, I sent a medium onion through it until minced, then did the same for the carrot and celery. I measured out what I needed and placed the rest in a zip-top freezer bag in the freezer for future use. From there, making up the dish was much like what the box mix calls for, except that I browned the vegetables in butter a bit before adding the rice and pasta. To speed up the cooking process, I had a saucepan on the stove with the chicken stock at a simmer. When the rice and pasta had browned, poured in the hot stock. I quickly stirred the pot and covered it. Before serving, I adjusted the seasonings, which in this case was adding a bit of salt.


DAN'S RICE AND PASTA

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup minced carrot
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • About 1/2 cup half inch spaghetti pieces
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups chicken stock

In a large frying pan, over medium-high heat, place the butter and heat it through. Add the vegetable and garlic and allow to lightly brown, stirring as needed. Pour in the pasta and rice. Stir to coat with the butter. Heat the chicken stock in another saucepan over medium heat. When the pasta and rice have started to brown, pour in the heated stock. Stir to mix well and cover the pan. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed. Adjust seasonings before serving.


RICE PILAF

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 to 5 sprigs parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup, or so, of canned diced tomato
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Greek olives, sliced
  • 1 sprig parsley, chopped

Sauté garlic and parsley in olive oil, add tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil. Add rice; season to taste. Cover and lower heat. Cook until done. Garnish with olives and parsley.


DIRTY RICE

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, small diced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 celery stalk, small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 8 ounces chicken giblets, cooked and chopped fine
  • 8 ounces chicken livers, cooked and chopped fine
  • 8 ounces pork breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock

Sweat vegetables in fat. Add rice and seasonings. Add giblets, liver, and sausage. Add stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover tightly. Cook 20 minutes or until rice is done. Remove bay leaf before serving.

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