Let your rice and beans put on their Christmas outfit, and you can serve this fun arrangement at your bigger holiday feasts and/or to keep the spirit going for lighter suppers in between. Begin with red rice, and then take it deeper into garnet-hued territory with cranberry-infused red onion - a little sweet, a little salty. This delicious, tart, burgundy pilaf becomes even more Celtic-ish when surrounded by a mélange of green beans, edamame and peas.
• There are several kinds of whole grain red rice available in natural groceries and gourmet shops—and online. I tend to alternate between Bhutanese and Wehani, each of which comes with a very cool back story.
•Wehani rice is a ruddy basmati iteration, developed by the Lundberg family; named for brothers Wendell, Eldon, Homer, Albert, and Harlan Lundberg. A dark reddish brown, it looks like a plump, blushing version of wild rice. If your curiosity is now triggered, the Lundbergs’ own description of Wehani’s aroma as reminiscent of “hot, buttered peanuts” should take you the rest of the way there.
• Bhutanese red rice is exported from Bhutan in the Himalayas. The American importers, Lotus Foods, have done double good, providing Bhutanese farmers with access to the global marketplace while protecting this beautiful, once-rare rice from extinction. It’s relatively quick-cooking (20 minutes).
• Cranberries need to be sweetened, even if just minimally, in order to be palatable. Both agave nectar and sugar will work, and I like to use a combination. When cooking this myself, I tend to add 2 tablespoons agave nectar and 1 tablespoon sugar. You can customize per your own inclinations.
• The large skillet might seem oversized at first, when you are cooking just the onion and cranberries, but you will need the space to accommodate the cooked rice. Prepare the other ingredients while the rice simmers.
• Not only is it okay to make this rice ahead and reheat it, it’s actually better that way. If you’ll be serving this with the green bean mélange, make the rice ahead, and reheat it while you prepare the vegetables just before serving.
• This will keep for several days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. It reheats well—covered, in a 250°F oven or toaster oven, or in a microwave.
2 cups Bhutanese or Wehani rice
Up to 3 ¼ cups water
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or canola oil
1 ½ cups finely minced red onion (1 medium)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 ½ to 2 cups coarsely chopped cranberries (fresh of frozen)
Up to 3 tablespoons agave nectar and/or sugar
Red Rice, Green Beans: Serve Cranberry Rice in artful combination with Green Beans, Edamame, and Peas (previous recipe). Use a large star-shaped cookie cutter as a template to fashion a red star center with a green, beany background. It takes only a little maneuvering to get everything in place, and it’s so worthwhile, especially when you see the delighted response when you bring it to the table. You can do this in larger format on a serving platter, or smaller versions on individual plates. Kids will love it. Serve with Radicchio Salad with Oranges and Pistachios (posted below).