Funny to say – but true! If you can boil rice you can make this flavorful, colorful and delicious side dish, inspired by bright cuisines of the Mediterranean. Tomatoes and peppers are an important part of warm weather foods, and this recipe includes both. The garlic and red onion are full of antioxidants, and although we usually use brown rice in our recipes, we are staying close to the original by using a short-grained rice called Valencia or Paella rice. The list of other items in this recipe helps balance the white rice and add extra nutrition.
One of the ingredients you may notice is the dried oregano. Why dried? For two reasons. One is because unlike many other spices whose fresh counterpart tastes the same, dried oregano has a unique flavor that we associate with tomato sauce. And the other reason is because when cooking food more than a half hour you should use dried when cooking, and the fresh herb to garnish. Cooking fresh herbs too long causes them to break down and lose their flavor. Using the dried version allows you to infuse your food with flavor.
And not only does oregano have the taste we think of as tomato sauce, it also is packed with thymol and an acid called rosmarinic acid which are potent antioxidants. There are preliminary studies that show oregano may benefit the cardiovascular/ nervous system and relieve inflammation. For example, in cell culture studies, oregano extracts protected cells from oxidative stress and DNA damage. Anytime we can eat foods that have potential health benefits, we try and add them into our dishes. So this recipe is two fold….. a crowd pleasing side dish, and chock full of healthy ingredients!
Mediterranean Red Rice
2 TB Olive Oil
2 Cups Valencia or Paella Rice (you can find this in your local grocery store)
1 Chopped Red Onion
1 Garlic Clove, minced or grated
4 Cups Veggie Stock
1 TB of Tomato Paste
2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp Dried Oregano
1 Tsp Sea Salt
½ Tsp Black Pepper
In a large stockpot, brown the rice in olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and cook and stir until fragrant. Stir in the paprika, oregano, salt and pepper.
Add the stock to the rice and bring it to a simmer, cover and let cook about 20 – 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
Spay a small mold or ramekin with non-stick spray. Pack the rice into the ramekin and turn over onto a plate. OR spread the rice on a platter as we have done here, and garnish with grilled tomatoes.