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TIP OF THE DAY: Riso Venere, Black Venere Rice

Black rice turns dark purple when cooked.
Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

 

You may have come across black rice in a Thai restaurant as an optional side. Black when harvested, it turns dark purple from the heat of cooking.

Black rice is an easy way to add excitement to a dish, from main courses to desserts like rice pudding. And now there’s a new black rice variety from Italy.

Riso venere (REE-zoe VEH-neh-ray) is a medium-grain hybrid that has a naturally black pericarp (the outermost skin of the grain). In Italian, the name means “Venus rice.”

The variety was created by Dr. Wang Xue Ren, a Chinese hybrid specialist. It is not genetically modified (that is, it is non-GMO) but is a hybrid of forbidden rice, also called emperor’s rice, a species that has grown in China for centuries. Until the 1800s it was cultivated only for the emperor and the nobility (hence, “forbidden” to others).

The Chinese cultivars of black rice could not adapt to cold European winters, but the hybrid does well in the Lombardy and Piedmont regions of Italy. Some Americans call the new hybrid “black vernere rice” or “black Venus rice.”

 

The heat from cooking turns the anthocyanins* in the hull from black to dark purple. Beyond the stunning color, the whole grain rice has a nutty, sweet taste.

If you can’t find it locally, you can buy black venere rice online.

Under the brand name Tenuta Castello, an organic-certified brand, the rice is produced using artisan techniques. The grain kernels are left largely intact, without polishing or shining. The result is great flavor and texture.

Rice is a complex carbohydrate; black rice is a whole grain. In addition to fiber, the hull contains magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and phosphorus, plus 4 times as much iron and twice the selenium† as white rice. There is no cholesterol, fat or sodium.

*Anthocyanins are flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

†Selenium is an important antioxidant: It helps to improve immune response, slow the aging processes and potentially reduce cancer risk.

 

WAYS TO SERVE BLACK RICE

Dramatic color is the name of the game. It is equally successful with bland colors (chicken, halibut, squid, tofu) and vibrant ones (Arctic char, salmon and shrimp). Serve it:

  • Instead of white rice, potatoes or noodles
  • With bright vegetables: green beans or peas, red cherry tomatoes
  • Indian style, as a side dish with green or yellow curries or with tandoori chicken
  • Italian style, with grilled artichoke hearts, fennel, radicchio and a garnish of pine nuts
  • In a rice salad, with complementary colors (green onion, red bell pepper or cherry tomatoes) and cubes of mozzarella cheese
  • In a risotto
  • With red or white beans for a new take on “rice and beans” (perhaps with some corn as well)
  • In rice pudding
  •  

    Black rice makes a beautiful bed for proteins, like this wild Alaskan salmon. Photo courtesy ILoveBlueSea.com.

     

    HOW TO COOK BLACK RICE

    Like brown rice, black rice contains the hull so requires a longer cooking time than white rice.

    1. RINSE one cup of black rice; soak for 1 hour in a pot with 1-3/4 cups water. Do not drain.

    2. ADD 1/2 teaspoon salt, bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes.

    3. REMOVE from heat; allow to sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff and serve.

    It takes longer to cook if it has not been presoaked, and less time in a pressure cooker.

      





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