I have to confess here… I do not necessarily enjoy watching Sandra Lee’s cooking at the Food Network, but I do identify a lot with her philosophy of Semi-Homemade. I love the idea to make everything from scratch, but if there are products that fit my dietary requirements and at the same time can help me along time-wise – hey why not use them?
I’ve had a box of Arborio rice in my pantry for the longest time. I am fortunate this rice comes vaccum-packed, because if it was not, I am sure it would have spoiled by now. Why would I leave a perfectly nice box of rice unused in the cupboard for so long??? Because there are pretty nice packaged risottos varieties that allow me to make this wonderful rice dish, without the need to dirty at least 2 pots (one for the stock and another one for the rice) or to stand in front of the stove stirring. I know I will indeed try it someday; however, that day has not come yet.
I used to buy the Lipton bag of Creamy Garlic Parmesan Risotto – it was superb. When the nice parent company started tweaking with the brand and flavors, for some reason the perfect risotto bag disappeared from the supermarket aisle. I used to have 2 bags of this at hand ALWAYS…
Enter our good ol’ friends at Target – they make the nicest boxed risotto mixes now. They have risotto mixes with asparagus, with red pepper, with butternut squash. But my favorite is the 4 cheese blend. It’s a nice clean canvas for us to embellish with the flavors we’re in the mood for, making this the perfect semi-homemade meal, in my humble opinion.
This time I’ll show you my version using fresh baby spinach and fresh tomatoes…
SPINACH, TOMATOES AND 5 CHEESE RISOTTO
1 box Archer Farms’ 4 Cheese Risotto 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and spun dry 15-20 grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved About 2 oz of cream cheese ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese A tiny bit of garlic salt to taste – optional
Prepare Risotto mixture according to package directions in a medium heavy bottomed pot.
When the risotto is about 10 minutes to be done… add the cream cheese in little pieces to help it melt in the sauce. Mix it together well.
When the cheese is mostly integrated into the sauce, add the spinach and the tomatoes. Mix it well so the spinach wilts and the tomatoes integrate into the rice and sauce.
Wait a few minutes , by this time, the rice should be done according to the package direction timing. Turn the stove off. Add the grated parmesan or pecorino. Cover the pot and let the rice stand for at least 10 minutes so the sauce thickens a bit.
In my opinion… if you wait about 30 minutes after the stove is turned off, the rice will be perfectly cooked, the sauce would have thickened and it will be warm enough to be able to eat without burning your tongue and enjoy the flavors of the risotto.
To me this is a very simple dinner I can make in a jiffy, even when I am busy doing other stuff. Taking something store-bought and adding fresh ingredients to make it your own is my interpretation of the semi-homemade meal.
I have a full line-up of other flavors we can play with in the future… just wait and see.