A Spring Treat: Thai Purple Rice with Strawberries and Pistachios
It’s warming up, thankfully, and high time for me to embrace Spring and hug it so hard it screams. Maybe it’s just me, but the long Minnesota winters just make me love Spring with a fervent abandon. The trees have buds, the grass is greening, and the freaky snow showers of this week melted as soon as they ended.
It is Spring.
In the spirit of getting outside as often as possible, I’m opting for as many simple, fast dishes as I can. No “fast food” for me, just “fast to prepare food.” You know that I love my whole grains, and I am missing brown rice like a lost pet (see my post about arsenic in brown rice.) In the spirit of mixing it up, I’ve really been getting into pigmented rices.
Pigmented Rice is a category of rice varieties, all of which have color in their bran layer. Essentially, they are just like brown rice, but the brown outer layer has extra pigments that make it colorful. Shades of black, purple, red, and even green make pigmented rices both appealing and nutritious.
You see, the pigment molecules themselves are antioxidants. Black and purple rice have the same anthocyanins that make blueberries antioxidant all-stars. Sticky Purple Rice should not be confused with Forbidden Rice, which is a medium grain, Chinese rice. Thai Sticky Rice is a dessert rice in its home country.
Thai Sticky Rice is a glutinous rice, which means it is higher in Amylopectin starches, which make rice sticky, than in Amylose starches, which make rice firm. If you have ever bought a bag of it and tried to cook it the same way you cook long grain brown rice, or even black rice, it probably frustrated you terribly. This rice is born to be sticky, even when it is whole and has a sturdy layer of bran to hold in the starches.
For fun, I tried this blend, it looks to be about half white rice (shocking, I know) and it is pretty tasty. It’s a dessert, after all.
Cooking it with a little coconut milk brings out the natural sweetness of the grain, and the purple pigments stain all the white rice a lovely shade.
Since the strawberries are just getting good, and we may not see a Minnesota berry until June, I got some big berries at my coop. A simple twist on the classic Thai Sweet Rice dessert, this one has berries and pistachios, instead of mangoes or other tropical fruits. The almost-instant dressing of coconut milk and palm sugar lets you taste everything, while adding that exotic caramel flavor of the palm sap.
Palm sugar is no slouch when it comes to whole foods nutrition. Made from the boiled sap of the sugar palm, palm sugar is lower in glycemic load than most sugars, and rich in nutrients that are removed from refined sweeteners. Yes, it is a sweetener and acts like carbs in your body, but you just use a little and it adds a unique flavor.
So dig in to the sweet, rich, purple rice and forget about how good it is for your bod. The soft, comforting texture of the rice is a puffy pillow for sweet and tart strawberries, and the pistachios give it some lively crunch.
Go purple, and savor a dessert for Spring.
Thai Purple Rice with Strawberries and Pistachios
3/4 cup full fat organic coconut milk (half of a 15 oz can) divided
1 1/2 cups water
big pinch salt
1 cup purple rice or purple rice blend
2 tablespoons crushed palm sugar
2 cups whole strawberries, or more to taste
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
lime zest curls
Measure 1/4 cup of the coconut milk into a 1 quart saucepan and add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then add the rice. Return to a boil and cover, turn down to low and cook according to the package directions or about 25 minutes. When all the liquids are absorbed and the rice is tender, take off the heat to cool.
In a small pan or a microwaveable cup, mix the remaining coconut milk with the palm sugar, and heat just to melt. Let cool.
Serve 3/4 cup of rice in each bowl, topped with halved berries, drizzled with a couple of tablespoons of the coconut milk mixture, and sprinkled with pistachios and zest.