Comfort food, guilty pleasures, and my recipe for saffron rice

We all have them—guilty pleasures. And you KNOW I am talking about food. They evolve as we grow, I guess, and personally, I can handle most of my own. There is, however, one guilty pleasure I have never outgrown and that is a bowl of warm, fluffy rice. Oh, yes.

If you’re wondering why rice is something to feel guilty about, you may have not heard about “bad” carbs. If you’re wondering what makes it such a pleasure, you may have not had a bowl of steamed white rice as it should be prepared.

For me, white rice was comfort food mainly because it was always in the cabinet in our kitchen in Venezuela. Even during difficult times, when there wasn’t much to eat around the house, there was always rice.

So it was a lot of times for me, my afternoon snack. Not a good idea. And to make a ‘bad’ carb worse I added butter and/or cheese.

Now that I thrive on a healthy lifestyle that includes a wholesome diet, I have to find ways to replace some of my guilty pleasures. Ingredients like butter and cream are never on my shopping list; and my dishes never need them!

To give my comfort dish a healthy makeover I now prepare it using only olive oil and quickly sauté the rice before serving to give it that ‘buttery’ look.

My favorite part: the feta cheese softens up when slightly immersed in the rice. Nothing sophisticated, but for me it is just comfort in a bowl.

I have actually made this same dish with other grains like quinoa, farro, and bulgur wheat. And I encourage you to give it a try.  Hope you like it!

Well, it’s been great having some time at home and writing more posts. I get on the road again this Friday! I am heading to our Nation’s Capital for the Washington D.C. International Wine and Food Festival where I’ll be doing a special appearance. If you’re in the area, make sure to stop by and say hello!! (All my fans get $15 OFF with promo code ALEJ15).

XO

Saffron rice with sautéed spinach and feta cheese.

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thinly or minced
  • 2 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves
  • ½ cup (packed) feta cheese, broken in ~ ½” chunks
  • 8 kalamata olives
  • Optional: juice from 1 lemon

Preparation

Rinse rice with cold water a few times, until water is clear; strain it and set aside.

Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat; add saffron, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and 1 ½ tsp of salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low, carefully add rinsed rice and stir once with a wooden spoon. Cover tightly with a lid and simmer for about 15 minutes or until all liquids have been absorbed. Remove from heat and let it stand, covered, for 2 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork onto a platter and allow cooling off slightly. Fluff again.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and spinach; sauté for 2 minutes, stirring leaves carefully until mostly wilted. Season lightly with salt. Add cooked rice to the pan and mix with spinach.*

Season with freshly ground pepper and top with feta cheese chunks and olive. You may drizzle some extra olive oil and fresh lemon juice for an extra layer of flavors.

I have actually made this same this with other grains like quinoa, farro, and bulgur wheat. And I encourage you to give it a try!

* If you don’t have a pan big enough for the full serving, do it in separate batches

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