Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Microwave Tomato Risotto

Recipe modified by You Want Me to Cook? – September 8, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Microwave Tomato Risotto recipe originally published in Good Housekeeping – August 2011.

So earlier in the year, I tried my hand at making risotto.  I fell in love.  However, I didn’t make a lot of it because it is a tedious process.  When I found a recipe that allowed me to make it in the microwave, I was intrigued.  Still I hadn’t gotten around to making it.

Then one day, I had one of those days where if it could happen to me, it did.  I had to prepare for a wedding I was working, my neurotic Chihuahua, Lola, managed to escape from the house and I had to chase her a block, I had to fight with my town’s recycling center to pick up my container and I saw a private client. 

I figured this was a good day to utilize the microwave.

© You Want Me to Cook? 
Microwave Tomato Risotto
Looking at the picture again is making me hungry.  My rice was perfectly chewy and the tomatoes permeated throughout the dish.  When I compared it to the picture shown in Good Housekeeping, I was proud and declared success.

© Good Housekeeping
Yes, there are a couple of differences:  I didn’t add as much basil and the basil I did add wasn’t chopped as fine.  They prepared their tomatoes as petite diced where mine are a little chunkier.  Finally, I didn’t add those gorgeous parmesan curls.  I will admit that their risotto looks prettier than mine, but mine still looks delicious.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessSIGH – There’s not a lot of equipment or ingredients, but grating the tomatoes was horribly messy.  I got it everywhere, including on my curtains.  Also, I had to grate cheese, which made my pugs incredibly happy since I got a lot of it on the floor.

Start-to-Finish Time: ABOUT AN HOUR – Not great for a “quick” meal, but not longer than any other meal I’ve made.

Prep Work: LOSS OF FINGER POSSIBLE – I grated my knuckles twice – once while grating the cheese and once while grating tomatoes.  Then there’s the issue of deseeding and dicing the tomatoes while chopping up basil.  Considering that I still had a bum finger from the Smothered Italian Chicken I made, it was a very tedious task.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – If you can microwave a burrito, you can make this risotto.

OverallYUMMY – The tomato and basil are the real standouts in this recipe.  We ate it with everything from sandwiches to roast.

Recipe Information:
I am not a doctor or dietician.  I make my nutritional assessments with the aid of Spark Recipes.  I run the original recipe and my altered recipe through their calorie counter and then compute the differences I find.  My numbers are to be used as a guideline.  Anyone who is under dietary medical supervision should follow the advice of their medical professional if their opinion differs from mine.  PLEASE!

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

I’m not sure how Good Housekeeping computes a serving, but this made a TON of risotto.  I remember when I made it, I thought to myself, “I hope my husband likes this because he’s going to be eating it for a month.”

The timing was a little off for me.  Grating and chopping tomatoes took a lot longer than 10 minutes.  Add on top of that finely chopping onions and basil followed by grating Parmesan cheese… you’re going to need more than 10 minutes of prep time.  Here is how my timing worked out:
  • Prep: 20 minutes
  • Hands-on Time: 39 minutes
  • Total Time: 59 minutes
Everything took me double the time.  I’d say that is a safe estimate for all beginners to moderate cooks in the kitchen.

Nutritional Information:
  • 380 calories
  • 6 g fat
  • 2 g saturated fat
  • 3 mg cholesterol
  • 570 mg sodium
  • 70 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 9 g protein
Considering how much rice made up a serving, I was really impressed with the nutritional information for this dish.  The only thing that concerned me was the sodium level, which probably was a direct result of the chicken broth used.

I made a couple of decisions before running the recipe through the nutrition calculator.  I used unsalted butter (the recipe stated you could also use margarine).  Also, I used Arborio rice instead of the alternate rice listed.  Making those selections and plugging the rest of the ingredients into the calculator, I got the following:
  • Calories 285.4
  • Total Fat 5.9 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 3.0 g
  • Cholesterol 10.0 mg
  • Sodium 670.0 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 55.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber 1.4 g
  • Sugars 0.3 g
  • Protein 7.1 g
I was shocked to see the sodium level jump this way.  I am going to assume that the staff at Good Housekeeping used low sodium broth, but they didn’t list it that way in the recipe and I go by the recipe alone.  The rest was good news, including some beneficial Monounsaturated Fat.

I switched things up a little.  I used an organic vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  Seriously, what’s the point of making a vegetarian dish if you’re going to use meat products in broth?  Also, I used a block of Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan.  With the changed ingredients, the nutritional information computed as follows:
  • Calories 288.5
  • Total Fat 5.5 g
  • Saturated Fat 2.5 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 2.3 g
  • Cholesterol 9.9 mg
  • Sodium 450.9 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 55.8 g
  • Dietary Fiber 1.4 g
  • Sugars 0.3 g
  • Protein 6.8 g
The sodium is now more manageable and the calories, fat and cholesterol are within healthy eating habits.  I was shocked to see that the tomato-heavy dish didn’t have any large vitamin counts that came with it.  Just goes to show you that you have to look at the nutritional information to gauge how healthy a dish really is.

Changes denoted by red text

© You Want Me to Cook? 
Microwave Tomato Risotto - ingredients
1 can (14 to 14-1/2 ounces) organic vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 tablespoon margarine or butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice (Italian short-grain rice)

1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
5 medium (8 ounces each) ripe tomatoes
1 small wedge Pecorino Romano cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Fit Wash

Ingredient Notes:
Vegetable Broth – The original called for chicken broth, but using vegetable broth makes it a vegetarian dish… and I have several in my family and as friends.  One of the benefits of using organic broth is the lower sodium.

Arborio Rice – The original recipe gave you options for the rice used: Arborio or Carnaroli.  Both are types of risotto rice, so I went with the Arborio which is the highest regarded rice for risotto.

Pecorino Romano
  • The original recipe called for parmesan, but I couldn’t find any whole pieces.  Looking for alternative, I turned to romano, which is similar to Parmesan and Asiago.  Romano has a nuttier, sharper and saltier flavor, but it is often grated onto pizza and pasta dishes, both of which have high tomato content, to add flavor.
  • Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk, if you’re wondering.
  • The recipe called for ¼ cup and it turned out to be .95 ounces of cheese.
Fit Wash – You don’t NEED a cleanser to clean your tomatoes.  I just feel like it takes off the waxy build up you can sometimes find on fruits and vegetables.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting Board
Sharp Knife
Box Grater
2-quart Covered Saucepan
Plastic Wrap
Wooden Spoon
Medium Bowl

Equipment Notes:
Nothing that needs explaining

(1)   Prep ingredients including cutting 2 of the tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks and grate 1/4-cup of cheese to use in the recipe (plus more for serving if you like).

(2)  In 2-quart covered saucepan, heat broth and water to boiling on high.

(3)  While broth mixture heats on range, in microwave-safe 3-1/2- to 4-quart bowl, combine margarine, oil, and onion.

(4)  Cook, uncovered, in microwave on High 2 minutes or until onion softens.

(5)  Add rice and stir to coat; cook on High 1 minute.

(6)  Stir hot broth mixture and half of basil into rice mixture.

(7)  Cover bowl with vented plastic wrap; cook in microwave on Medium (50 percent power) 10 minutes.

(8)  While rice is cooking, make tomato juice:
(a)  Cut off a tiny bit of skin from the bottom of the tomato opposite the stem.
Doing this exposes the flesh of the tomato and makes it much easier to get the grating started.
(b)  Holding tomatoes at stem ends, grate 3 tomatoes, 1 at a time, on coarse side of box grater, into medium bowl; discard skins.
To make the grating go much smoother, place the box grater on its side.  The three tomatoes will yield approximately 2-1/2 to 3 cups of tomato juice.
(c)  Cut remaining 2 tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks; set aside. This is done during prep.

(9)  Stir 2 cups tomato juice into rice mixture (reserve any remaining juice to add to risotto later).

(10)  Cover bowl with vented plastic wrap, and cook in microwave on Medium 11 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed.
The original recipe stated 8 minutes, but it took longer for the liquid to absorb.
(11)  Meanwhile, from wedge of Parmesan, grate enough to equal 1/4 cup to use in recipe plus additional for serving. If you like, with vegetable peeler, shave enough Parmesan from wedge to use for garnish. This is done during prep.

(12)  When rice is cooked, stir in grated Parmesan, salt, pepper, tomato chunks, reserved tomato juice, and remaining basil.

(13)  Serve with additional grated Parmesan. Garnish each serving with Parmesan shavings, if desired.

If you love tomatoes, you’re going to LOVE this risotto.  As I was making my notes, my initial thought was it should be a side dish, but as I was scribbling furiously, I ate two heaping spoonfuls.  I guess you can make it an entire meal.

I’d like to add that the microwave didn’t save that much time and it could have easily been done on the stove, yet for first time risotto makers, this probably doesn’t seem as daunting.

If I were to make any changes, I would:
  • Add more onion, possibly another small one.
  • Throw a little bit of garlic into the mix.
  • Juice four tomatoes out of the five, instead of only three, leaving one for chopping.
This is a must-try dish for tomato-loving beginners, and as always… Happy Cooking!!!

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