Congee with Spinach, Shiitake and Ginger
When I’m craving comfort food but looking for something a little lighter, I love this traditional Chinese rice porridge. It’s especially soothing when I’m under the weather. I’m fortunate to live near some authentic Chinese restaurants and used to walk over to procure a quart. I soon discovered how easy this was to make for myself and haven’t looked back! I also love bringing cuisines from global cultures into my kitchen. The flavors and aromas fill the senses and it’s so rewarding to have varying flavor combinations to draw from when I’m recipe developing or simply playing in the kitchen.
This dish simply calls for traditional long grain white rice. You may customize your mix-ins and garnish, and may go vegan, vegetarian or omnivore (shrimp and or pork or chicken are popular additions). Rice is one of my go-to pantry staples and I love to keep a variety on hand. This long grain white rice is US Grown, so you know it is going to be a quality product and you can support American farmers at the same time!
Starting with a good stock is your best bet. I love saving all of my veggie scraps, including corn cobs, throughout the week (I store them in the freezer). When the bag is full, I’ll allow it to simmer for a few hours and always am able to have a delicious vegetable stock on hand. Anything I don’t use within a few days, I’ll freeze, sometimes in ice cube trays for flexibility, for later use!
•Years ago, a dear friend advised me to wash rice in a bowl by hand, changing the water every few “swishes” until it runs fairly clear. I’ve been doing it this way ever since.
•As the congee simmers, you may adjust thickness and add more liquid as you like but be sure to add liquid that is already heated so as not to lower the temperature of the entire pot.
•If you allow it to simmer for more than 90 minutes, no worries. Add more liquid if desired and remember to stir occasionally to keep any rice sticking to the bottom in clumps as these can burn (and you don’t want clumps).
1 cup long grain white rice
8 cups vegetable stock, or stock of choice
1 1/2 ounce knob of ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 clove garlic, sliced thin (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
Two large handfuls baby spinach
Two large handfuls shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1-2 scallions, sliced
Sesame oil, to drizzle
Soy sauce or gf tamari, to drizzle
Cilantro or Parsley
Chili sauce (with garlic)
Flaky sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1- In a large bowl, wash rice and change water until it runs clear.
2- In a 4 qt (or similar) heavy bottomed pot, add rice, ginger, salt and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stir well and cover. Cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent any rice from sticking to the bottom and burning. Finished product should be nice and creamy. If thicker than you like, adjust with additional heated broth or boiled water (you want to maintain temperature).
3- Remove ginger if thick sliced, you may allow it to stay of you love it. Stir In spinach and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil and garnish as you like!
I love to set out an assortment of ingredients so everyone may customize their own. My kids have always loved this approach to mealtime and I find they opt for colorful veggies and are more willing to experiment with new flavors when they get to choose!