When I went into the kitchen this afternoon, Paige came running in, dragging a chair behind her. “Mommy, I want to help.” I was there to clean, and told her so. “Then I’ll watch.”
And she did, waiting patiently until the counters were wiped clean and the dishes in the sink were washed or transferred to the dishwasher. She knew what was coming when I was done: cooking.
Paige and Will both revel in helping me in the kitchen. Even if it’s as simple as washing basil at the sink or transferring chopped veggies to a bowl, they’re happy to be involved in any way. And as a result, they know the difference between kale and lettuce, eggplant and pepper, and so many other foods.
It’s a good thing too. Whereas some foods do give me pause, the kids are unaffected. Eggplant in this dish? Yum. Mushrooms? Paige’s favorite. Peppers? Oooh. This rice dish could have been a hard-sell, but it wasn’t.
Will and I really enjoyed the flavors and textures of this Tomato Basil Veggie Rice. Really, anything with the vibrant combination of tomatoes and fresh basil is a favorite for me, but this rice also had that richness that you want with fall and winter foods. Paige wasn’t as into it though … but that’s okay. She ate quite a bit anyway.
This is a one pot dish that takes a little more than 30 minutes to whip up (most of it is hands off time), which makes it totally weeknight friendly. The rice cooks in a bath of vegetable stock and the juices from a can of diced tomato, rendering tender grains with a hint of sweet gravy. It’s a complex, contrasting story of flavors and textures: sweet and savory, meaty without meat, substantial without heaviness. The bits of diced tomato are a shock of sweet next to the meaty mushrooms and eggplant bits.
We eat this as a side dish with chicken, but the recipe could be a meal in of itself too.
Tomato Basil Veggie Rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup rice (I use jasmine)
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the eggplant and the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
Stir in the diced tomatoes (with the liquid), bell peppers and rice. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetable stock. Cover. reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes.
Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes.