When I turned 50, I bought a black dress from Vivienne Tam and a pair of black patent leather peep-toes from Nine West:

dress2 shoes








Then I threw a dinner party for some friends.

I figured the dress would stay in my closet until the next big thing. (The shoes, I knew, I’d wear whenever I could.)

Boy, was I wrong. Like all little black dresses worth their purchase price, this one finds its way onto my body for all kinds of reasons. I wear it to dinners; I wear it when working; I wear it for weekends away. It’s kind of special, kind of naughty and always unexpected.

Kind of like the dinner I made last night:

black rice dish

Pan-seared grouper on a bed of black rice.

Creamy, dreamy and glisteningly black, this rice is silky in texture and nutty in taste. Like the best little black dress, it’s unexpected (“Black?” your guests will gasp) and slightly seductive. (Who wouldn’t want to sneak a taste?)

black riceAlso dubbed forbidden rice, black rice is grown in Southeast Asia. (Mine, a Trader Joe’s brand, hailed from Thailand.) It’s high in iron and vitamin E, and has more protein and fiber than brown rice. It gets its gorgeous black hue from anthocyanin — the same pigment that gives blueberries their purplish cast and that food scientists think may help fight heart disease, vision deterioriation and circulation woes.

Never having cooked black rice before, I was expecting a challenge. But it’s beyond simple: Combine liquid and rice in a 2:1 ratio, cover and bring to a boil; then simmer a mere 30 minutes. The rice emerges as creamy as a finished risotto, with the same al dente bite to its kernels. I stirred in a handful of scallions, radishes and cilantro for color and texture, but the dish could have gone solo.

Like the best of black dresses, it needs no embellishment.

Seared Grouper With Black Rice

  • black rice veggies1/2 cup black rice
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons sliced scallions
  • 3 tablespoons sliced radishes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1-1 1/2 pound grouper fillet, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped basil
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the rice and vegetable broth in a large saute pan. Cover with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, then simmer for 30 minutes.

While the rice is simmering, prepare the grouper:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then season the grouper with salt and pepper and with the thyme, basil and lemon zest.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan. When the butter stops foaming, add the grouper, unseasoned side down. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn and cook an additional 3 minutes.

Turn the fish over once more and slip the pan in the oven for 3-5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked all the way through. (If your fillets are thin, you may be able to skip this step. You want to cook the fish just until it’s opaque in the center.)

black rice cookedBy this time, your rice should be finished. Take the lid off the pan and add the scallions, radishes and cilantro. Stir gently to combine, then spoon the rice onto a serving platter. Top with the grouper and spoon any remaining butter/oil sauce on top.