Coconut Rice

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

Coconut rice is a near-universal staple, for two reasons: In many rice-growing areas coconuts grow wild, so the combination is a natural. Even the simplest version, which follows, is incredibly delicious. A few other touches make it even better. (And many rice recipes can take on the flavor of coconut simply with coconut milk substituted for all or part of the liquid.)

You can make your own coconut milk Coconut Milk, but canned is easier. And if you don’t have quite enough, just top it off with a little water or stock.

3 cups coconut milk or 11/2 cups coconut milk plus 11/2 cups water

11/2 cups rice, preferably short-grain

Salt

Combine the coconut milk and rice in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn’t stick or burn.

Uncover and continue to cook, stirring, over low heat until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy. If liquid evaporates before the rice is done, stir in water, about 1/2 cup at a time, and cook until done.

Variations

Sweet Coconut Rice. A real treat: Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar in Step 1.

Spicy Coconut Rice. Bigger: Add 1 tablespoon each peeled and minced fresh ginger, garlic, and fresh chile like jalapeo or Thai; or about 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes to the mix. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro leaves.

Coconut Rice with Coconut Bits. Crunchier: While the rice is cooking, toast 1/2 cup shredded coconut in a dry skillet, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned. Stir into the rice just before serving.

Coconut Rice and Beans. With steamed vegetables, a meal: Step 1 remains the same. Stir 1 cup of moist cooked kidney, pinto, pink, or black beans into the rice about 5 minutes before it finishes cooking.

Coconut Brown Rice. The main recipe or any of the variations can be made with brown rice: Use 11/2 cups coconut milk and 2 cups water; increase the covered cooking time to 20 minutes and the uncovered time to about 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Alternatively, start with parboiled brown rice and treat it exactly as you would the white rice.