Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rice is Nice


Most celiacs are intimately familiar with rice. They eat rice in its original form: white, brown, wild. And, they eat it in the form of pasta bread, crackers, cookies, cereals and cakes made from rice flour. Last week I tried to go gluten free for a whole week in order to better understand Lillie's condition. I was struck by how many rice products I ate. This great grain really kept me going, but I suppose it could also be boring if eaten plain, in frequency.

I had a pretty lousy week last week culminating in Rosie taking a trip to the Emergency Room in an ambulance due to a bad asthma attack. I had an ear infection, and the other kids were sick as well. My cleaning lady quit (where I come from a reason to don mourning black), and a few other minor misfortunes. So, it wasn't the best week to try to radically change my diet and go gluten free. But, I had been reading Elisabeth Hasselbeck's book The G-Free Diet: A Gluten Free Survival Guide, and she's just such a cheerleader I decided to just do it starting Sunday night.
Well, I found I ate a lot of rice products, and what Lillie complained about was true. She is always complaining that we don't have crackers for her---and sometimes a rice cake just doesn't cut it! She had a stomach flu last week, and all I could offer her was gluten free bread toast. Which, she refused as she seems to disdain all the brands I put before her. When you're sick and celiac, you just don't have time to order gluten free saltines off the Internet!

What I took away from my gluten free week (which lasted 6 days as I hit a wall on Friday when I realized I had only 2 hours to make Shabbos after returning from the ER, that not being enough time to make gluten free challah), was that little Lillie had to be building inner strength from this whole experience. G-d gave her the very special challenge of going through her childhood with celiac disease for a reason, and I truly believe it will only make her stronger. I'm glad I went gluten free this week, especially this very hard week, as it made me see how much planning and sacrifice a celiac has to make in order to feel well and preserve their health. As I bit into a glutteny (yet egg, nut and dairy free) cookie with a contented sigh Friday evening, I glanced over at the curly, redheaded fireball that is Lillie, and felt "gluten guilt". I could switch back to eating all my glutenfull favorites, and now truly appreciate the ease in which they are available. But, little Lillie could not. I felt a new respect for her and the difficulties she goes through on a daily basis. Now when she has temper fits over a cracker, I will understand better, and just try to weather the storm.

The upside of last week was that I found two nice cookbooks for 50 cents each on sale at my local library. To my surprise and delight, in Graham Kerr's Kitchen (remember the "Galloping Gourmet"? That's him!), I found a recipe for a savory pie crust made out of rice! He recommends it for quiches and any savory sort of pie. It's a lot easier than rolling out a temperamental crust, and contains much less fat than a traditional shortening and flour crust. FYI you can now get his book for 1 cent on I overpaid!

You must pre-cook the rice, but keep it slightly undercooked, so the crust won't be mushy.

Basic Rice and Cheese Crust
Graham Kerr's Kitchen, page 131

3 cups water
2/3 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 lightly beaten egg white

Pour the water into a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, add the rice, and boil for 10 minutes. Drain through a metal hand sieve or colander. Pour about 2 inches (5cm) of water into the same saucepan, bring to a boil, set the sieve of rice on top, cover, and let steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the rice to a bowl and immediately stir in the remaining ingredients, blending thoroughly. Place the mixture in a nonstick p-inch pie pan. Press it firmly into the shape of a crust, starting at the center and moving out. Raise the sides about 1/2 inch above the pan rim. It's ready to be filled.

Note: When it's time to add the filling, pour in two-thirds of the quiche filling and let it partially bake. Then pour int he rest of the filling and finish baking. This helps to set the custard and provide a great-looking full-to-the-brim top.

The other book I found was a tiny little booklet entitled, Popular Food from Israel 2000 by Ruth Sirkis. It has all the classic Israeli foods written up in simple recipes. I am a fan of M'jadarah (many variations in spelling of this dish), a savory lentil and rice dish popular across the Middle East. It is Middle Eastern comfort food at its best! Before the fast of Tisha b'Av, I made the Veganomicon version, which used allspice and cinnamon. I subbed brown rice for white, and it was fine. The meal held me over very well for the next 26 hours. The recipe below, is easy, very nutritious and delicious! Remember, the combination of legumes and rice is a complete protein. Try this for a vegetarian entree or a side dish.

Popular Food from Israel, p. 46

1 cup dried lentils
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 onions
1/3 cup olive or canola oil
2 cups cooked white rice

Rinse the lentils and soak them in water for 30 minutes. Drain and place in a medium sized pot. Add 2 1/2 cups fresh water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain the remaining water. While the lentils are cooking, chop the onions finely and fry them in half of the oil until golden brown. Remove to a small bowl. When the lentils are ready, add the rest of the oil to the skillet and saute the lentils, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, until the lentils look dry and crisp. Add the rice and half of the fried onions and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes, tossing gently. Put in a serving bowl of platter, sprinkle the remaining onions on top and serve hot.

Yield: 6-8 servings as a side dish

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