FROM THE RICE FIELD TO THE TABLE
As soon as rice is harvested it undergoes the so-called “pilatura” (threshing), an operation that consists of removing the pericap (or seed capsule) and the germ in order to stop any rapid deterioration of the cereal, above all in hot countries.
The first product obtained in the threshing process is called ”riso vestito” or “risone” (unhulled rice): the outer glumes of the grain are eliminated during this first operation which strips them away with a machine built for this purpose called a “sbramino” or rice huller.
This husked brown rice, still covered by the pericarp, contains the germ with all its mineral salts and vitamins and is a foodstuff with a high biological value. However, its roughness and opacity make it an unattractive proposal for the consumer. It also contains a high percentage of fats which can become rancid resulting in an unpleasant taste.
After this first process most of the pericarp and germ is eliminated, but together with them almost all the fats and vitamins. In this second phase, the rest of the pericarp, part of the aleuronic layer and the peripheral endosperm covering are also eliminated. During the third and fourth cycles the aleuronic layer is completely removed and thus refined white rice is obtained.
In macrobiotic diets and in all Oriental recipes, wholegrain rice, with its grey-brown look, is widely used. In this case the woody outer husk (“lolla”) has simply been removed from the grain to leave the covering chaff (“pula”) intact. The cooking time for this kind of rice increases by about an hour, but to make up for this the rice is rich in vitamins and proteins and has an accentuated taste.
RICE IN THE KITCHEN
From starters to desserts, rice allows a vast range of more or less hearty dishes, all tasty and healthy. The important thing is to choose the rice best adapted to the kind of dish. The cooking method is also extremely important:
1. Boiled rice: bring a sufficient quantity of water to a boil, add salt and pour in the rice. Cook uncovered, stirring at first with a wooden spoon. Strain “al dente”, i.e. while still slightly resistant, and serve at once.
2. Rice for salads: as soon as it is cooked, cool the rice with cold water and dry it on a clean cloth.
3. Rice in broth: the same method as seen in point 1 but using broth instead of water.
4. Steamed rice (the method used in India and other Asian countries): cover the rice with water and let soak overnight, strain it and place it in a colander over a pan of boiling water so that the steam cooks the cereal.
5. Pilaf rice (the preparation is very ancient and comes from the Far East): sauté the rice in a pan with a condiment usually consisting of butter and onions; cover with boiling stock, cover the pan hermetically and finish cooking in the oven.