Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pesto Risotto Cakes

Pesto Risotto Cakes

Sometimes the best things come out of something that was originally only so so. Case in point, recently I was flipping through Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (my new favorite cookbook since I've gone cheap and rarely buy meat), when I came across the section on rice salads. Listed was a pesto rice salad made with arborio rice. Interesting. On a whim I had purchased some pre-made pesto from Central Market. And because I always have arborio rice in the house (I love risotto!), I decided to make the rice salad for dinner.

Outside of a risotto, I can't remember using arborio rice for anything else. I was a little unsure if the rice would cook properly being boiled but it turned out fine. A little blah at this point but that's what the pesto was for! The recipe called for 1/4 cup of pesto but I thought it needed a little bit more. I also added a tablespoon of grated parmesan because...well because I just love cheese.

Pesto Rice Salad

I was a little disappointed with the rice salad. It seemed a little plain even with the pesto and extra cheese. Perhaps arborio rice isn't the best choice for a rice salad. It didn't have a chance to get really creamy like you expect a risotto to be. It was also a little mushy in a not good way. Good for a risotto but not so much for a rice salad. Maybe brown rice or even regular old white would be better for this salad. The fresh mozzarella I served on the side was really the star of that meal.

I packed the leftovers away with the thought of dealing with it later. The next night I was searching for something to make for dinner when I saw the slightly green rice sitting in the fridge. The only thing I could think of to save it was to turn it into risotto cakes. I had attempted them once before and was pleased with them for the most part.

I had about a 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs leftover from another dish so I added about a teaspoon of grated parmesan and a pinch of dried basil to them for the outside coating. Before I shaped the cakes however, I was struck by another thought. I need to add more cheese! I had a half of ball of fresh mozzarella left from another meal (same as the panko). I cubed up about half of that and stuck the cubes in the middle of the balls of rice. I flattened them slightly when I put them in the panko.

I cooked them in a bit of olive oil until golden brown on each side (about 4 minutes per side). To finish them up, I put them in a 350° for about 10 minutes until crispy all over.

After the disappointment of the rice salad, I was almost afraid to be hopeful that these would turn out. I just new they would be either too greasy from the oil or still just plain. I was wrong. Oh boy was I wrong! They were crispy on the outside and creamy and gooey on the inside. The mozzarella had melted perfectly. Absolutely delicious!

See? Sometimes the most delicious things really do come out of something pretty blah. Give leftovers another chance!

Pesto Risotto Cakes

Pesto Risotto Cakes

3 cups of cooked arborio rice
1/4-1/3 cup pesto (store bought is fine)
1 T grated parmesan
1/4 of a ball fresh Mozzarella, cubed (I'm not sure on the exact measurement, I winged it)
1/4-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs mixed with a 1 tsp of grated parmesan and pinch of dried basil

Mix all ingredients together except for the mozzarella and panko. Chill for at least 2 to 3 hours or overnight if possible. When ready to cook, take about a 1/4 cup of rice and make a ball. Indent the ball and place a cube of mozzarella then press the rest of the rice around the cube. Coat the ball in the panko, pressing slightly to flatten (not too much or the cheese will  melt out when frying!). Fry in olive until golden brown on each side about 3-4 minutes on each side. Place in a 350° for about 10 minutes until crispy all over.

 You can skip the oven if you want, they are just fine as is.  I just like them a little crispier all around and the oven also helped dry out the extra oil from the frying.

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2 Treats for Charlie:

Megan said...

Awesome use of leftovers - and I agree, sometimes the leftovers are better than the original recipe!

Jaime said...

oh wow. these look delicious

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