What ELSE Can a Steamer Cook?
On a great website, Vegan Coach, I learned how to cook grains in a food steamer. Thanks to the clear instructions from author, Patty Knutson, I now know a steamer cooks a lot more than veggies and seafood. It's the easiest way of cooking whole grains because it's foolproof (perfect for lentils and small beans too).
To keep things simple Patty uses brown rice as an example, but the same general rules apply to steaming most whole grains, lentils, and small legumes. Here's the process:
1. First, soak your brown rice for 8-12 hours, or overnight. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
Why pre-soak grains and legumes? Because it makes them easier to digest and the nutrients become more available. There are some "grains" that are technically seeds that you don't HAVE TO soak first (like quinoa and buckwheat). But they will cook up much faster if they're pre-soaked.
2. Fill the base of your steamer to the line indicated in your steamer's instructions. It's usually to the highest water line (FULL). You may or may not have to add the drip tray, depending on the steamer. Next, add the steamer basket.
3. Now, get the rice ready. Start with 2 cups of brown rice BEFORE soaking. Since the rice will swell during the soaking process, you'll end up with more than the 2 cups you started with.
4. Since we started with 2 cups, and it's customary to add the same amount of water to cook, go ahead and add 2 cups of water to the rice-steaming bowl along with the pre-soaked rice.
(Of course, you can soak as much or as little as you like. But if you always use the same amount, you never have to sit there wondering "Dang, how much did I soak this time?")
5. Add your bowl filled with the rice/water combo to the steamer. Place lid on top of the whole shebang.
6. Set timer for 60 minutes. Many pre-soaked whole grains, lentils, and small legumes take 60 minutes to steam, but some take a much shorter time. Refer to our handy chart below for guidance. And always play around and find the tenderness you like best.
7. When timer goes off, let it sit for 10 minutes or so to cool slightly and allow any additional liquids to be soaked up.
8. Using oven mitts, remove rice bowl from steamer. Set aside to cool.
9. Scoop out what you need into a bowl to season.
10. Before storing the rest away, be sure rice is completely cooled. To speed cooling: Spread the rice out into the bottom and up the sides of a large bowl (it takes about 20 minutes or so to cool completely). Set a timer so you don't forget about it. Spoon into a jar or other container with a lid, and store in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Here are other grains and small legumes you can steam, with the approximate timing of each (based on pre-soaking first). BTW: You can mix and match because the rules are the same for any whole grain (including lentils and small legumes). Mixing and matching is a good thing-the texture contrasts make for a deliciously interesting meal. Of course, the cooking times may all vary, so just be sure to use the cooking time of the ingredient that takes the longest time to cook.
Finally, here's a short list of foods that steam perfectly (and remember, times are based on pre-soaking):
Buckwheat: 15 minutes
Barley: 45 minutes
Small Legumes : 60 minutes
Quinoa: 15 minutes
Millet : 60 minutes
Brown Rice : 60 minutes
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