Some stories are destined to become classics. Like when my mother, visiting me at college, took me to a restaurant that specialized in stuffed potatoes.
“We’d like two vegetarian studs,” she told the handsome boy who served us.
“SPUDS!” I yelled.
Or my best friend’s tiny, graying, bespectacled mother, who sauntered up to the bar of her daughter’s favorite hangout and sweetly proclaimed: “I’d like Two Screaming Orgasms and a Sex On The Beach.”
Yes, some tales bind generations.
Some recipes, too. My mother’s Italian meatloaf still graces my table. Her Texas chocolate cake knows no peer.
I thought about recipes and longevity today. Some are fads: Mere flashes in the nonstick pan that we look back on with wonder. (Like sex-themed fruity drinks.)
Others — because of technique, ingredients or a combination of the two — hang around. They’re the recipes we turn to again and again. The recipes we share with our friends and teach to our children.
I put this rice dish in that category: Fat and tender Arborio rice, tossed with the Mediterranean flavors of pine nuts, currants and capers, then baked with a cloak of Parmesan cheese. It’s warming, hearty and perfect for a cold March night.
A night when you’d like to lay on the beach. (Stud not included.)
Mediterranean Baked Rice (Adapted from “Gourmet” magazine)
The original recipe has you stuffing this rice into barely blanched escarole. It’s pretty good, but its flavor doesn’t make up for the extra work. I prefer to bake the rice in a greased 8- by 8-inch pan. The top and sides get crusty while the middle remains moist and tender. A side of crusty bread and a simple glass of wine are all you need for company.
- 3/4 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup currants
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the Arborio rice. Boil for 10 minutes, then reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the rice in a sieve and set it aside.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
Add the pine nuts and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. When the pine nuts turn golden, add the garlic and stir for another 30 seconds or so.
Add the Arborio rice and stir to combine. Let the mixture cool slightly, then add the egg and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
Turn the mixture into a greased 8- by 8-inch pan. Drizzle the reserved cooking liquid over it, then the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Shower the remaining 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese over the top and finish with a few grinds of fresh pepper.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is toasty gold. Cool slightly before spooning onto plates.