We're nearing the end of the CSA tomato season, which is a bummer. I mean, hi, New Jersey tomatoes are the best tomatoes, no if ands or buts. But it can still be a struggle to keep up, and at the end of the season, not get beat down by the abundance.
Last week, the day before CSA pick up, I decided to make Smitten Kitchen's stuffed tomatoes with rice, because I realized that I still had a few tomatoes left from the week prior, and I also had arborio rice on hand. As I was making the filling, which is essentially rice cooked in the tomato innards whizzed up with a stick blender, I realized I'd made too much rice to stuff in all the tomatoes (that's what happens when you eyeball amounts when cutting down a recipe). As the stuffed tomatoes finished in the oven, I finished the leftover rice stuffing on the stove, and dumped a bunch of cheese in it.
The stuffed tomatoes were excellent, as nearly all Smitten Kitchen recipes are, but I realized that I far preferred the leftover rice that was finished on the stove to the stuffed tomatoes. I always like the idea of stuffed veg--tomatoes, peppers, squash--but I never actually am all that pleased with the end result. There's something about the veg holder-of-stuffing that bugs me, and I am always happier just picking the sausage stuffing out of the mushrooms in the end.
But that's when I realized that for this recipe, the stuffing alone was already a dish in itself--risotto. Why bother with sticking the good stuff into the tomato when I could just eat the good stuff as is, but you know with cheese and butter thrown in?
So this week, when the tomato bounty came due, I made tomato risotto, and immediately wondered why the hell I hadn't done this before.
Because I wasn't going to stuff anything, I didn't bother keeping the tomatoes intact, but instead buzzed them all with a stick blender in a glass jar. (BTW, love these tall wide mouth glass ball jars for everything from impromptu blending to snack storage to water glass. ) I did peel the tomatoes though, but since they were ripe-to-overripe the peels just pulled right off and I didn't bother with ye old "score the bottom with a knife and drop into boiling water for a second" tomato peeling trick. Also, I didn't care if they looked pretty or not because hi, blending.
I added a shit-ton of salt and pepper to the buzzed tomatoes. I got a head start on the recipe and did this around lunchtime, and so I popped a lid on the jar and stuck it in the fridge to wait for dinnertime. Since it was going to be a while, I threw in a smashed garlic clove, because hey, garlic. All told, I had about 2 cups of seasoned tomato goop.
Finally, dinnertime rolled around and for the life of me I could not remember "proper" risotto proportions, so I did what anyone would do: googled it. (It's 1 cup rice, to about 4 cups liquid, by the by. )
I still winged it though, because hi, I'm lazy and while precision is necessary for baked goods, just say fuck it when it comes to the savory side of things. It'll be fine, just err on the side of slightly less cause you can always add more liquid if need be.
I've made risotto before, the truly traditional way, where the liquid is stock that's simmering on the stove beside the risotto pan--which is always tall--and you stir stir stir stir after each addition until it's absorbed and yadda yadda yadda. I get it. It works that way, but it also doesn't need to be so damn involved.
America's Test Kitchen has tested it, and so has Kenji Lopez-Alt, of the damn fine The Food Lab at Serious Eats (he also has a cookbook, just out, The Food Lab--affiliate link--which I just got for JBB for his birthday and it is AWESOME). If you're into it, check out Kenji's post on risotto methodology which is a quick and interesting read.
So along their lines, but nowhere near as methodical, I did my own lazy girl's risotto method. First, I used my beloved saucier. The best pot in the kitchen, for sure--wide sloping sides that curve into a flat bottom, perfect for things to be stirred.
I melted a chunk of butter and a solid glug of olive oil in the saucier, while I chopped a small onion. I sauteed the onion with a big pinch of salt, then a few smashed cloves of garlic, and then dumped in a cup of arborio rice and gave it a good stir to coat with the oil and aromatics, and turned the heat to low to let it toast a bit.
While the rice was toasting, I threw the glass jar of tomato goop into the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off it. Don't judge, it's FINE. Room temp liquid worked just as well, and one less pot to wash.
Once the rice had the pale edge taken off it, and it smelled a bit toasty but didn't have much if any color, I poured in about a cup or so of wine--whatever was open in the fridge, in my case some rose. Give a stir, let that simmer a bit on very low until the rice absorbed most of the liquid. Then I added about 3/4 of the tomato goop, gave a stir, let it simmer. I topped off my jar of goop with some water, and threw in two decent bouillon cubes since I didn't have any stock on hand. If you want a truly vegetarian main, use veg bouillon. I used chicken, cause that's what I had.
Once the rice has sucked up the liquid in the pot, but isn't totally dry, give a good scrape on the bottom, and dump in some more liquid and stir again. I did the rest at this point, cause why not. I came back and stirred every once in a while, just to keep the rice from sticking on the bottom, but also to test the texture of the risotto. I like a fairly stiff risotto, not too soupy, but I don't play with any kind of crunchiness of the rice at all.
When all was said and done, the risotto was done at about 20-25 minutes on the stove. The real key to good risotto isn't the cooking method, per se, but all in how you finish it. Me? I took it off heat, threw in a good sized lump of cold butter and grated a shit ton of parmesan on top with a microplane. Top that with a ton of black pepper, and a good stir, and you have successfully "mounted" your risotto, and it's ready to serve.
I ate my bowl of it too fast to bother with the toasted breadcrumbs I'd thought about but not actually made. Ah well, next time.
All this, plus a thumbs up from the peanut gallery, even the non-tomato fan. (I am not stupid. I did not tell him it had any tomatoes in it.)
inspired by Smitten Kitchen's rice stuffed tomatoes
4-6 medium tomatoes, peeled
- 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, divided. 1 smashed, 3 chopped (or garlic pressed, I won't tell)
- 4 tbsp butter, divided (2 tbsp for finishing)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (or a big shallot if you have one)
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 cup wine
- 1-2 cups water or stock (or water plus bouillon cube)
- 1-2 oz grated parmesan (for finishing)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, plus 1 tbsp butter (optional)
Blend the tomatoes into a puree with a stick blender or a regular blender. Add 1 tsp salt, and one smashed garlic clove. Set aside.
In a saucier, wide saucepan, or deep skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Saute the chopped onion or shallot until translucent; add the garlic and saute just until fragrant. Add rice, and stir to coat. Cook gently on low heat, stirring occasionally until rice is fragrant and just toasted.
Add in wine, stir, and cook on a bare simmer until wine is mostly absorbed. Add in tomato liquid, stir, and cook until mostly absorbed. Add in half the water or stock, stir and cook until mostly absorbed. Test rice for doneness by tasting it. If it's not done, add the rest of the water or stock, stir and cook until mostly absorbed. Check texture of risotto, if too loose for your taste, cook a bit longer. If too stiff, add a bit more liquid.
When risotto is your desired texture, remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and the grated parm. Taste for seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
If desired, melt a tbsp of butter in a skillet, and toast the breadcrumbs, stirring often, until golden brown. Top risotto with breadcrumbs.