I can’t say I was ever much of a rice person when it came to cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE rice – all kinds of rice dishes. Risotto, paella, bibimbap, biryani, jambalaya… The list goes on. But finding good rice and cooking it well was always a challenge for me. So when I learned that Blue Moon Acres was growing delicious Certified Organic rice, I knew I had to figure out a way to master all my favorite rice dishes at home.
What I really love about this local New Jersey rice is the freshness and the flavor. Yes, rice actually has flavor when you get it fresh, and I believe the aroma plays a big part in that. I think we’re overdue for a rice renaissance! it’s easy to overlook it at the grocery store. Who knows how long it’s been sitting there on the shelf, getting rancid. Not to mention the arsenic issue (yikes) is enough to turn any health-conscious rice lover away. Thankfully, due to the unique growing style on their farm in Pennington, Blue Moon does not have that issue. Plus, they mill it fresh twice a week so the quality of the oils in the bran and germ are never compromised.
On my rice journey I have learned several things, and several things I thought I knew have been confirmed. At the top of this list: I am an impatient person! So in the past when I steamed rice, I could not just let it sit on the stovetop bubbling away. I just had to check on it every 10 minutes to make sure it wasn’t burning on the bottom. That was my first mistake (as any rice cooking expert will tell you) and after sitting on my hands for the first time I figured out why. Every time you check on the rice, it loses steam and you disrupt the cooking process. When I just let it cook, I made the fluffiest batch of rice I ever made! How’s that for easy? Don’t touch the steaming rice. What a novel idea. I also found that cooking in a tight-lidded cast iron skillet with a tea towel helped with the texture as well.
The first dish I had to try with Blue Moon Acres’ rice was risotto, because it’s a dish that has always come easy to me (perhaps because it requires constant checking on?)
Risotto was one of my favorite dishes growing up. My dad makes an amazing seafood risotto that sticks out in my mind to this day. It also accompanies one of my all-time favorite meals, Osso Bucco Milanese. Over the years I have prepared it at least 20 different ways: pea, mushroom, tomato & basil, asparagus & lemon, artichoke, spring onion… And now with zucchini!
1 cup Blue Moon Acres Vialone Nano rice
1.5 cups grated zucchini
1 large heirloom tomato
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Buckingham Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris*
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Small handful of basil leaves, chiffonade
Preheat oven to 400 and quarter tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until soft.
While tomato is roasting, bring stock to a boil in a small saucepan.
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat and add the chopped onions. Cook until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the risotto rice and let the rice get toasty, about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir.
Once the wine is absorbed, keep ladling in hot stock, about half a cup at a time. Stir once in a while, but not constantly. As soon as stock is completely absorbed, ladle in some more. Keep doing this until the rice gets an al-dente texture. When you get it to this point, fold in the grated zucchini and add your last ladle of stock. Let the liquid get absorbed and turn off the heat.
Grate or mix in your Parmesan cheese, stirring to distribute. Finish with a small pat of butter if you like it extra creamy. Top with roasted tomato and basil and serve!
*I felt this wine made a big difference in the overall flavor. I typically use dry and not overly sweet wines, but this one paired perfectly.