Six recipes from F&W's Marcia Kiesel that show off the most popular ingredient in the world.

Steak, salmon, eggs, more steak, even bacon—for the past few years, protein has been king. Carbohydrates, meanwhile, were dethroned and exiled. But things may be about to change. Nutritionists think the pendulum has swung too far and say a correction is overdue. No, the French Fry Diet isn't on the horizon, but there are signs that rice is on the rise.

Most nutritionists recommend that we get about half our calories from carbohydrates. Rice is loaded with carbs, making it a great source of quick energy, and has almost no fat. (If you want to make your nutritionist really happy, eat brown rice, which is rich in fiber.)

And while other foods your doctor recommends just make you feel virtuous, rice makes you feel good. For one thing, it's said to boost the brain's level of serotonin, a natural mood-lifting chemical. More to the point, rice is deeply familiar. After all, for two-thirds of the world's people, rice is the foundation of home cooking. Supermarket shelves now hold dozens of varieties from around the globe—Thai jasmine, Italian arborio, Bhutanese red—that can be deployed in countless dishes.

In fact, rice is one of the most versatile of foods, as these recipes from Marcia Kiesel, of the F&W Test Kitchen, demonstrate. Her creamy rice-and-lentil stew is inspired by the Venetian dish Risi e Bisi, while her hot and sour shrimp soup is a dead-simple take on Vietnamese pho. Like rice itself, these dishes are homey and worldly at the same time.