I really do love my rice cooker. I got it at a yard sale in a student's apartment in Cambridge, MA on my lunch break from the kitchen more than 12 years ago, and it is still going strong! I rarely cook rice in a pan or pot anymore, since the rice cooker does it so much better! I figure if most of the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese people I know use then, then it must be the best way to cook rice, and for more than a decade that has proved right.
I rarely do anything more than cook plain rice in it though. Brown, white, long grain, short grain, sweet, basmati, etc. But on occasion I decide to use it more like a crock pot and throw in a bunch of spices, some beans, onion or other seasonings, and cook a whole meal in it.
Yellow Rice with Green Olives, Red Beans
and Broiled Trout with Fresh Herbs and Spinach
This is one of those "a little bit of this, a little bit of that" recipes. Nothing is really set, use what you have and make it your own. For this version I sauteed some onion in a pan (you could try doing this in the bottom of your cooker too) added some turmeric, paprika, salt, pepper, and half a jar of tomato sauce (that was about to spoil in the fridge), then the water for the rice. (see the note about rice/water proportions below). I poured this over the 2 cups of rice in the cooker added some green olives, a can of drained and rinsed red kidney beans, shut the top and clicked "cook". when it was done about 20 minutes later it clicked itself to "keep warm" and I let it steam for 5 minutes before serving.
While it was cooking I thawed some frozen trout in warm water. rinsed it well, sprinkled with salt and pepper, a little olive oil and put it on a cookie sheet under the broiler when the rice was done cooking. I had to prop it up close to the flame to get it to brown a touch but not over cook, but it worked.
I served it up with some spinach (which could have been added to the cooker too), but I opted for fresh, and we had a great simple dinner on the front steps. My son declared it one of the best dinners ever, which made me smile, but I knew it was just because he was really really hungry, and everything tastes great when you are hungry!
Note: for white rice in a rice cooker I use 1cup rice to 1cup water, for brown rice I use 1cup rice to 11/2 cups water. When you add cooked beans to a recipe you usually need to add a little more water (not more than a few tablespoons). If you are cooking rice in a pan, try sauteing the rice with the onion until it becomes opaque, then add your spices and liquid. Cover and cook without removing the cover until the water is absorbed about 20 minutes, (add 20 minutes to the cooking time for brown rice) In a frying pan bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce heat to low, simmer covered until water is totally absorbed and rice is tender, turn heat off and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.