I’ve always had a weak spot for those ubiquitous mounds of refried beans and orange-y/red rice found alongside the entrees at so many Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. But I’ll admit, it never once occurred to me that the coloring of that tender, flavorful, bright-red rice was from tomatoes. And let’s be honest, at most places it probably isn’t, or at least not real, non-powdered tomatoes. I think it was watching Rick Bayless on TV where I learned what this dish should be, so I got to work on my own recipe for how it could be. Fresh tomatoes are the star here, meaty Roma tomatoes are particularly nice, and are often available year round (just make sure you have a few days to let them finish ripening on your counter). As long as you remove the seeds, just about any variety of tomato will do, even canned! The other vital requirement is really rinsing your rice well, like, really well. I’ve never had good luck with pilafs, probably because I’m a bit lazy and never rinse my rice long enough, if at all – and if you don’t get rid of the external starch, you’ll never be rewarded with those pillowy individual grains. The addition of onion and sazon provide a subtle, underlying flavor to tie it all together. I hope you give this a try, perhaps from the last round of tomatoes in your own garden, and enjoy it as much as we do on your next Taco Tuesday!
Helpful hint: Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes, it will make them mealy and bland. Let them ripen on your counter for a few days and you’ll be amazed at how much better they are.
2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed well
3 cups fresh roma tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped (about 3-4 tomatoes)
1 cup white onion, roughly chopped (about one-half an onion)
1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water (you might not use full amount)
2 tablespoons vegetable or light olive oil
2 sazon packets (I prefer Goya’s sazon with pepper/con pimiento)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Scallions and/or cilantro to garnish, optional
- In a fine-mesh strainer, rinse your rice under cool running tap water until the water draining out is no longer cloudy, this will take upwards of 5 minutes (but it’s worth it). Set aside.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the chopped tomatoes and onions then pulse/blend until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick, splash in a bit of chicken stock or water to help the machine loosen it.
- Transfer the tomato-onion puree to a large measuring cup/bowl and top with enough stock or water so there is a total of 4 cups of liquid. Set aside.
- Warm the oil in a large saucepan (one with a lid) over medium heat. Add the rice and sazon packets and cook for a few minutes until all the grains are coated and the rice is fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato mixture and salt, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 18-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Fluff the rice with a fork, cover, and let rest for another 5-10 minutes.
- Serve as is or topped with sliced scallions or cilantro to garnish, then nosh!