My friends from French class and I used to meet at Chez Kristina every Tuesday to practice our French grammar and practice our vocabulary and speaking fluidity. Since last Summer we took an indefinite break from our weekly get-togethers and I truly miss them.
Kristina was gracious enough to open up the doors to her house each week and also usually made us dinner. Many times we offered to help and these reunions were the reason or excuse for many recipes shared here – Mushroom Goat Cheese spread, Cranberry Trifle, “Shrimp” Creole, and the Pita Pizzas made with Spinach and Tomato Sauce. But many times, Kristina surprised us with a creation all her own.
One of these creations was what I lovingly call Arroz Kristina – a rice Kristina made in the oven so little tending in necessary. The flavor is spectacular and it’s great to make for yourself or for company, just like Kristina made it for us. I tried a few times before this recipe with little success. It was mostly my fault for screwing up the liquid measurements to accommodate for whole-grain rice. But recently I discovered Texmati rice, whole grain basmati-style rice apparently grown in Texas that cooks almost exactly was white long-grain rice – similar in texture, liquids to use, time to cook. This rice is FAST!!!
After discovering Texmati rice and having a pint of mushrooms in my fridge about to spoil, I decided to give Arroz Kristina another serious try… and the results were as good as the original.
¾ cup of Texmati whole-grain brown rice 1 pint button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced ½ red onion, diced ½ green bell pepper, diced 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 tbs ume plum vinegar ½ cup frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh baby spinach ¼ cup walnuts, chopped – you can use any nut you wish… I’ve used pecans also 1 cup water or vegetable broth About 2 tbs olive oil Salt and Pepper to taste ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
- Pre-heat oven to 400F
- In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, pour about 1 tbs of olive oil and sauté the diced onions and peppers. After a few minutes, add the garlic cloves. Stir to combine. Add the mushrooms and stir so the olive oil in the pan coats them and so the garlic doesn’t stay all together in the bottom to potentially burn.
- After a few minutes of cooking and the mushrooms browning a bit, add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes for the mushrooms to absorb the flavors and cook completely. After a few minutes, set aside to cool a bit.
- In a glass casserole dish, add the rice, frozen spinach (no need to defrost at all) or chopped fresh baby spinach leaves, walnuts or pecans, cooked mushroom mixture and water or vegetable broth. Mix together to blend and season with a bit of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Be careful here and try to avoid over salting… remember you seasoned the mushrooms so keep that in mind. Cover with foil paper.
- Place in oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. At about the 1 hour mark, check the rice and fluff and move a bit if necessary. Keep covered and leave in oven the additional 15 minutes.
- After time has elapsed, uncover, add the cheese, cover again and turn off oven. Let the cheese melt with the residual heat in the oven.
The color of the dish might be a monotone brown, but the flavors are really good. You could also use fresh spinach and the color would be greener… but using frozen spinach is just as good and super easy to have always at hand in the freezer.
I want to thank Kristina for always opening up the doors to her house for our French extra-curricular rendez-vous. I am extremely grateful for her hospitality, but most of all for her friendship. Hope that we can retake these weekly meetings, if not in her house, possibly in mine. And possibly start sharing once again new recipes we can all share with you…