I made this tasty, vegetable-packed dish today as a different take on the usual greasy, starchy fried rice. It's still got oil (olive) and rice (brown, whole grain) but with this many veggies, healthier fats and grains, flaxseed and optional protein, it's a tasty and colorful alternative to the usual stick-to-your-butt-no-matter-how-often-you-bike options in restaurants in Taipei.
It turned out fantastic - both flavor-wise and appearance-wise, with a lot of colorful veggies including pumpkin, red and yellow bell pepper, carrot and purple and green beetroot leaves. It was like a harvest-time reinterpretation of the fried rice genre!
1 cup brown rice
olive oil - need not be extra virgin or fancy (the flavor of extra virgin would get lost in cooking)
a pat of butter (optional)
1 whole bell pepper (or 1/2 each of two different colors of bell pepper)
2 cups of beetroot leaves (they're the ones in the market that are purple on one side and dark green on the other)
1/2 large carrot
1/2 small pumpkin (the gourd-like ones sold in Taiwanese day markets)
1/2 small sweet onion
To taste (optional): Thai fried shallots, black bean sauce, Lao Gan Ma, huajiao "flower pepper", salt, black pepper, fresh red chilis, sesame oil, soy sauce, paprika, vinegar, lemon juice, de-stemmed chopped cilantro, chopped fresh garlic, pulverized fresh ginger
three tbsp ground flaxseed (optional but really good for you)
a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil to taste (optional)
Begin the long process to cook brown rice (it takes quite a while), adding a bit of salt, pepper and paprika to the water. Remember that brown rice requires more water (about 50% more), more heat, more steam and more time than white rice.
Set some water to boil to cook the pumpkin (if you want to be super-cool, cook the pumpkin chunks, including peeled skin, first, take out the skin and throw it away, set the cooked pumpkin aside and use the water to cook the rice to give it more nutrients and more flavor).
Wash and chop the onion and bell pepper, set aside
Wash, de-stem and chop beetroot leaves, set aside
Wash and grate or julienne carrot, including skin, add to beetroot leaves, set aside
Use a peeler to de-skin the small pumpkin, scoop out seeds, cut into chunks and boil until just cooked.
Wipe down a wok with just enough olive oil to comfortably cook, add chopped and powdered spices/salt to taste (no liquids yet, but you can add black bean paste, Lao Gan Ma etc). Cook on low/medium until it smells good. Immediately add bell peppers and onions and stir in thoroughly. Add soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice to taste. Raise to medium heat.
When that is almost but not quite cooked, add beetroot leaves and grated carrot and cook until the leaves go a bit soft (not too soft). Add pumpkin. Mix well on medium (adding a bit of water if it gets a bit dry and threatens to burn).
Add cooked brown rice (ideally you prepared the rice well in advance as brown rice takes forever). Mix well and add flaxseed, stir in.
Add pat of butter and/or any flavoring oils at the end and stir well until it melts evenly into the mix.
The pumpkin should disintegrate somewhat and provide some consistency to the fried rice, but if you like the kind of rice that can be shaped into a dome, mix in one egg and mix well until thoroughly cooked in.
You can also add 1/3 cup cooked yellow lentils and/or walnuts, almonds or cashews if you want some protein (you can also add meat for that matter)!
Note: you can substitute or add vegetables - mushrooms would be great, as would small chunks of cauliflower or sweet potato leaves in lieu of beetroot. You could add tomatoes, bok choi, corn...really whatever you want.