816 North Diversions

Quick-cooking brown rice can cut the time to get Weeknight Paella on the dinner table

An Asian stir-fry has long been considered a healthful choice.

But the idea of combining rice with a small amount of meat and lots of vegetables exists in other cultures, too.

The Spanish paella (pi-AY-yuh) is a nutritious one-dish meal that includes saffron-flavored rice, bite-size bits of seafood, chicken and sausage as well as tomatoes and peas.

Like a stir-fry, which is made in a wok, paella is typically made in a special wide, flat, two-handled pan. But unlike a stir-fry, paella is not a quick dish to prepare. Even a “simple” paella recipe at www.spain-recipes.com takes 60 to 90 minutes.

The Star’s Weeknight Paella uses quick-cooking brown rice to speed things up. While quick-cooking versions shorten the amount of time needed to get dinner on the table, brown rice pumps up the nutrition. The whole grain contains fiber (1 cup has 3.5 grams), B vitamins and trace minerals manganese and selenium.

The USA Rice Federation (www.usarice.com) confirms that quick-cooking varieties have virtually the same nutrition as long-cooking brown rice. Brown rice also has not had the bran covering removed, so it is less fluffy than white rice but has a nuttier flavor.

Shopping tips:

Saffron is pricey and can easily bust a budget. If you don’t want to make the investment, doubling the amount of turmeric used is an adequate substitution.

We used mild smoked turkey sausage; if you want to kick it up a notch, add optional hot pepper sauce.

Cooking tip:

For testing, we used Minute Brand quick-cooking brown rice; it cooks in about 10 minutes.