A sauce of fresh cilantro, green onions, ginger and garlic stirred into cooked rice gives the rice intense fragrance and flavor. Shiitake mushrooms add a little earthy smokiness.

Nothing too difficult about that. It's the idea that makes the difference: The combinations are creative, the results delectable, in this recipe for rice and chicken from "The Best of Cooking Light 4" ($9.95), a special edition of Cooking Light magazine.

This is a collection of 140 recipes culled from those published in the magazine last year, and they're those with the most "yum factor," editor Mary Creel writes.

These are "the ones we prepare for our own families and friends," she says. They range from potato cod cakes with Dijon tartar sauce to apricot-cream cheese braid, and they combine full flavor and nutrition with low fat and calorie counts.


For the rice and chicken:

1 tablespoon oil

2 cups quartered shiitake mushroom caps (about 6 ounces)

1/4 cup chopped green onion bottoms

1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 cups uncooked long-grain rice

2 teaspoons ground cumin

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds), cut into bite-sized pieces

3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

For the sauce:

2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves

1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped green onion tops

1 teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 garlic clove, peeled

For the topping:

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons chopped green onion tops

Cilantro sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare rice: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mushrooms, green onion bottoms, ginger piece and crushed garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in rice, cumin and chicken; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Cover and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

To prepare sauce: Place cilantro, broth, green onion, chopped ginger, salt and garlic clove in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Stir into rice mixture. Discard ginger piece.

To prepare topping: Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons green onion tops. Place the rice mixture in a large bowl, and spoon tomato topping over rice. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired. Makes 8 servings (each about 1 cup rice mixture and about 1/4 cup tomato topping).

Nutrition information per serving: 39 cal., 6.8 g fat (1.4 g saturated), 25.3 g pro., 41.5 g carbo., 1.8 g fiber, 82 mg chol., 416 mg sodium. Recipe from "The Best of Cooking Light 4," $9.95.