But I do try to limit what I call “pointless carbs.” White bread, refined sugar, Twinkies. That sort of thing.
And I run into a problem when it comes to rice and pasta.
On the one hand, white rice and white pasta definitely count as pointless carbs. They’re made from grains — in the case of white rice, they are grains — that have had most of the icky fiber and nutrients processed out of them, leaving behind only the glucosey goodness.
On the other hand, I think brown rice and whole-wheat pasta taste like peat moss.
So a few years ago, Ingrid and I went to a restaurant with a wonderfully elegant solution to this problem. (The Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo, if you want to know.)
They had mixed brown and white rice.
And ever since then, that’s how I’ve been making rice. Pasta, too. Half brown, half white.
I actually think it tastes way better than the plain white rice and pasta that my Midwestern palate was nurtured on. You get this lovely complexity of flavor and texture with the mix. The stronger, earthier flavor of the brown gives a nice balance to the milder flavor of the white, and vice versa. And you get the dense, rough texture of the brown, without feeling like you’re chewing through a hay bale. It’s definitely a best of both worlds deal, a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
I realize that plain brown rice and plain whole wheat pasta would probably be better for me. But I don’t like them, and I’m not going to eat them, and it’s not better for me if I don’t eat them. Mixing is a good compromise. The harm reduction model of healthy eating.
The only tricky part is the timing. Cooking times are different for brown and white rice and pasta, so you have to finesse that. It’s really not hard, though. You can cut the Gordian knot if you like: make the brown and white in separate pans, and mix them when they’re done. But if you want to cook them in the same pan, just put in enough water for both, put in the one with the longer cooking time, and then put in the one with the shorter cooking time later, timed so they finish together.
Example: If your whole-wheat pasta takes 12 minutes and your white pasta takes 10, just start cooking the whole wheat pasta, and put in the white pasta 2 minutes later.
Or for rice: If your brown rice takes 40 minutes and your white rice takes 20, start cooking the brown rice, and add the white rice 20 minutes later. Be sure to start with the right amount of water for both. (I know, your mother told you never to remove the lid when you’re cooking rice; but really, nothing terrible will happen if you just do it once.)
Anyway. This works really well for us, and I thought I’d pass it along. If you try it, let me know how it goes.