Once, while teaching a cooking class to a group of men in their early twenties, I was asked what makes Arborio rice so special. Without thinking, I replied “When Arborio rice cooks, it shoots out a creamy, rich-tasting white liquid.” Needless to say, they cracked up and my cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
Though my poor choice of words probably had Freud rolling over in his grave, I was speaking the truth. Arborio rice, a short-grain rice native to Italy, is perfect for dishes like arancini or risotto or because it does most of the work for you in cooking. In this recipe (which was adapted from The Barefoot Contessa’s version), cooked, cooled Arborio rice is stirred into creamy yogurt, eggs, mozzarella and fresh vegetables and formed into sticky cakes, which are dredged in bread crumbs and lightly fried. They are crisp on the outside and creamy and flavorful on the inside. I serve them over lightly-dressed greens to provide a little relief from the richness of the cakes.
Serve these as a starter to a multi-course meal or as a vegetarian main course.
- 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice $2 for 14 oz.
- 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt $1.50 for 6 oz.
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten $1.50 for 12
- about 12 fresh chives, chopped (plus extra for garnish) $1 for a bunch
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely $1.50
- 1/4 medium onion, diced finely 0.50
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella $3.50 for 12 oz.
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper Pantry
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs $1.50 for 10 oz.
- extra virgin olive oil Pantry
- 3 cups mixed greens $1.50
- juice of 1/2 lemon $0.50
- Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add rice, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is very tender.
- While rice cooks, whisk together the yogurt, eggs chives, bell pepper, onion, shredded mozzarella, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Rinse rice under cold water until cool to the touch and drain.
- Stir the rice into the yogurt-cheese mixture.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Once mixture is very cold, remove from the refrigerator. Heat about 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Place the bread crumbs on a clean plate next to the frying pan.
- Use an ice cream scoop or a large spoon to scoop up about 1/8 cup of the risotto mixture. Form into a patty and dredge in the bread crumbs, patting gently to help them adhere. Place the risotto cake into the hot oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining ingredients, working in batches and cooking the cakes until they are golden-brown and crisp on the outside (they should be creamy and soft on the inside).
- Keep warm in a 200 degree (F) oven until ready to serve.
- To serve the risotto cakes, toss the greens with the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Divide amongst plates (or place onto one large serving platter). Top the dressed greens with the hot risotto cakes and a sprinkle of chives.