It’s the first blog post of 2019! And I am proud to say, it’s a healthy one!!
I know that winter is defined by comfort foods- it’s only natural. They keep our bellies warm, and our hearts even warmer. But at the same time, if we listen carefully, we can hear our bodies also pleading for some healthy, lighter dishes, to balance out all the carby yumms!
Back in November I posted the recipe for Chicken with Garlic, Dates, Olives and Oregano. A total dream of a chicken dish, with it’s over the top flavours, contrasting between the sweet and savoury, as well as the ease of preparation. When I served it the first time, it was with this fantastic rice dish. Forget fantastic. It is beyond stellar!! I promised that I would share the recipe, and now I can finally fulfill that promise.
We love rice in all its forms: stir-fried, pilaf’ed, even a simple simmer in chicken stock makes me very happy. But Yotam Ottolenghi is the master of the baked rice dish. In almost every one of his books there is a version of baked rice. Baked Rice is the easiest rice to prepare, since the oven is doing all the work. No worrying about it turning into a clump in the pot. It never fails, when rice is baked, the texture is perfect. Add to that, is the delicious flavours that this special dish brings to the table. Because baked rice is always prepared by being covered with foil while in the oven, the residual steam helps ensure that the grains are perfectly separated and fluffy.
This baked rice dish actually starts out as a confit of veggies, mostly tomatoes and garlic. How to Confit: Confit’ing is actually taking anything (from salmon or duck legs to certain veggies, adding a good amount of olive oil (or other oil specified by the recipe) and cooking them at a low temperature. The heat goes from the oven to the oil, which surrounds the item being confit’ed and cooks them evenly. Nothing will be over-cooked this way- so meat is always tender and juicy. You can see this take place if you follow my Salmon Confit with Chermoula Sauce. In today’s recipe, cherry tomatoes and peeled garlic (the hardest part of this recipe is peeling the garlic!) are the main veggies, but then shallots, cilantro stems (my new favourite flavour addition!), thyme leaves, and cinnamon sticks are added. As you can imagine, this is going to be a flavour packed dish- the aromatics alone make me want to swoon! These all get tossed in olive oil in a baking dish with salt and pepper, and are baked on a low temperature until softened. Seriously when this comes out of the oven, you could easily serve it as a wonderful vegetable side dish- the confit definitely stands on its own. But this is a rice dish, so there’s more!!
After the baking dish is taken out of the oven, the rice gets sprinkled over. Don’t toss it though. While the oven temperature is increasing to the new heat, you will boil up some water. This will get poured over everything, along with a bit more seasoning. Then wrap tin foil tightly over the top and back into the oven it goes. In less than a half hour, you have a pan filled with the best baked rice you will ever taste! I mean it! The veggies add their flavours, as do the cinnamon sticks and cilantro stems. Each grain of rice is perfect. Sprinkling chopped cilantro leaves over the finished dish before bringing it to the table, and you will have a dish that will impress the most distinguished guests. Or Jim.
Seriously, this is so good, that I make the entire recipe, even though it is just for the two of us! (the recipe will feed 6 as a side or 4 as a main) We will eat this rice on it’s own. Obviously it is amazing with chicken or I could see it as a side for braised lamb shanks, grilled lamb or pork kebabs, etc. This rice dish is season-less- I will be just as happy to eat this in July as January! Thankfully all the veggies for this dish can be easily found year round these days. That’s the joy of cherry tomatoes! Leftovers warm up perfectly, and yes, I have been known to sneak spoonfuls of it from the dish right from the fridge. This dish has been on constant replay since we first had it, and it just won’t grow old.
So, while it may contain carbs, I contend that all the veggies and greenery push this dish over to the healthy side of life. And if we can eat like this 80% of the time, then the 20% reserved for treats and indulgences will be that much more sweet and somehow a tad less guilt-inducing! Have a great 2019! I plan to! 😀
Baked Rice with Tomato and Garlic Confit
An aromatic and flavour-packed side of baked rice and a confit of tomatoes, garlic, shallots and aromatics. It is so versatile as a side dish, but don't be surprised if you end up just wanting to eat this as your main meal! It's that good!!
- 1 3/4 lb (800 grams) cherry tomatoes
- 12 large garlic cloves or 25 small, peeled and cut in half if large
- 4 large shallots cut into 1 1/4 inch (3 cm) pieces
- 1 1/4 cups cilantro stems cut into 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) lengths. Save the leaves for garnishing
- 3 tbsp thyme leaves
- 4 small cinnamon sticks if large, break in half
- 7 tbsp (100 ml) olive oil
- kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) basmati rice
- 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) boiling water
Preheat the oven to 350F
Arrange the tomatoes, garlic, shallots, cilantro stems, thyme and cinnamon sticks in a large high sided casserole or baking dish. (it should be about 8x12 iches or 20 x 30 cm)
Pour in the olive oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.
Place in the oven, uncovered, for 1 hour, till softened.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the rice all over the vegetables, but do NOT stir them together. Set aside.
Increase the oven temperature to 450F
Sprinkle 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper over the rice.
Carefully pour the boiling water evenly over everything. Seal the dish tightly with tinfoil.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked.
Remove and set aside for 10 minutes. Do not remove the foil. The residual steam will finish the rice off perfectly.
Remove the foil, sprinkle with chopped cilantro leaves, stirring them gently into the rice.
Recipe from Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi.
I state that this recipe will feed six as a side, or four as a main. Even though it is just two of us at home, I make the entire dish, as it keeps well and reheats perfectly. Trust me, you will want it all. But if necessary, it is a recipe that can be easily cut in half. But why??