With a little imagination, the old comfort food stand-by, macaroni and cheese, takes on a whole new profile. Arborio rice, the short grain rice commonly used to make risotto, cooks up quickly in a pot of salted water, much like cooking pasta. Years ago, when I first started cooking Chinese food, I found cooking brown rice, with this same method,to be easy and fool-proof.
This little side dish or main meal, depending on your proclivity, calls for garden ripe tomatoes, minced garlic, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. Simple, delicate in flavor, quick and easy to prepare. I used the less expensive cow's milk fresh mozzarella packed in water for this dish. Using the pricier buffalo milk mozzarella is fine, but not necessary. I prefer to save the buffalo milk variety for Caprese salad or other straight from the container application. The cow's milk cheese is great for mixing with pasta or rice and perfect for topping a pizza. And remember, the buffalo milk mozzarella is not only twice as high in fat content but close to three times as expensive!
Italian Rice Tossed with Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
2 cups Italian short-grain rice
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic minced, more if desired (I desired)
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, minced (use chiffonade technique)
1/2 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 - 3 large ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 egg-size pieces fresh mozzarella, cubed
Bring a pot of filtered or spring water to a boil, add salt and then add the rice a little at a time, bring back to boil and stir once, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until it is al dente. 15 - 18 minutes. The rice will be slightly chewy, light and delicate.
As the rice cooks, heat 2 TBS of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and the basil. After a couple of minutes, mix in the salt, pepper, vinegar and tomatoes. Gently turn the tomatoes once or twice in the flavored oil to warm them. Don't let the tomatoes cook down. This isn't a sauce, just flavored tomatoes.
Drain the rice in a colander, leaving it a bit wet. Turn it into a serving bowl and immediately sprinkle in the cubes of cheese, a few at a time, stirring with each addition so they don't clump together. Then gently mix in the tomato mixture from the skillet, taste for salt and pepper and serve.recipe adapted from The Outlaw Cook
This is a mild, delicate dish. Don't expect overwhelming spiciness. It's intended to highlight the soft, moist, texture of the melting fresh cheese against the sweetly acidic taste of perfectly ripe tomatoes gently kissed with the basil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. The rice adds a slightly chewy counterpoint, tying the dish together for a simple main dish or fantastic side dish. With summer here, fresh from the garden meals, allowing the produce to be the star, guarantees some great meals!
Till next time . . . keep on cooking.