I hate to say this, but I think I may have discovered a (shudder) low-calorie substitute for risotto. No...nonono. I take that back. There is no substitute for risotto, especially not something that isnt creamily laden with butter and parmesan. But the rice dish I just ate was creamy; no substitute, but comparatively satisfying.
It came from a recent Food and Wine magazine recipe, included in an article about a French chef promoting veganism in his restaurant and repetoire (hence the lack of risottos defining ingredients in the dish). Now I may not eat alot of meat, and could easily, and do really, live without cow, but not without the milk and subsequent products from it. So I included the optional shavings of dry goats cheese on top (ok, different farm animal, but you get the idea). But the rice itself, regardless of those scant shavings, clung together as if it was binded by a whole cup of the stuff, soft and unexplicably melty.
Well, I suppose the explanation comes from the method of preparing the pilaf. After softening your onions and garlic, you add rice and herbs, cover with water and boil it for one minute. DONE! yeah, right...no, then you cover it, and let sit for thirty minutes. Coming back (I went for a little walk) you simmer the rice for yet another thirty minutes (definately not a pressed-for-time-risotto stand in, but at least allows for inattentiveness), until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed. Add in your flavours, heat through and thats it. It is moist and warm and comforting as fall starts to set in. Give it a shot, you wont believe it hasnt been to the creamery.
Almost Risotto Brown Rice Pilaf
The only changes I made to the original version of this were because of what I had to use up in my fridge: cauliflower. So I omitted the listed basil in favour of a diced yellow tomato, adding to the moistness of the dish, serving the roasted florets on top, with shaved dry goats cheese, but feel free to add all the parmesan you may feel is missing, and not be able to resist.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
10 cups water
3 cups short-grain brown rice
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup diced and yellow tomatos, seeded if big and juicy
1 1/2 cups pitted small green olives, halved (6 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Freshly ground pepper
4 ounces shaved aged goat cheese, or shredded parmiagano reggiano
In a large saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Add the water, rice, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
Stir 1 tablespoon of salt into the rice. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir in the tomato, heating through. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaf and thyme. Stir in the olives, parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the rice into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and top with roasted cauliflower and shavings of cheese.