arancini di riso (baked rice balls)
Brown rice, peas, cauliflower and caramelized onions in a delicious little package that you can take on the run. Doesn't that sound perfect!? I don't usually go for fast food, but I do love portable food that you can bring in the car or to a picnic. When I was living in Rome, I ate arancini almost everyday for lunch. The pizzerias would wrap them in paper that would be wet with grease from the fryer and it was crispy and piping hot and almost as big as a softball. SO YUMMY!
But I am not a single woman living in Rome, and walking the streets eating fried food anymore. I am in Maine. WIth kids. And fried food is a treat nowadays. So I made my own version. And my whole family loves these rice balls! Traditionally, arancini are made with arborio rice, but the health benefits of brown rice are too good to pass up. If you slightly overcook brown rice, it will give you some of the sticky texture you are looking for!
I made mine about egg size. It was the right size for my one-year old to pick up comfortably, but still large enough to wrap in foil for my 3 year-old to walk around and eat :) But I promise, these arancini would be delicious in any shape or size.
for the rice...
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon Himalayan pink sea salt
for the filling...
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon honey (or sweetener of choice)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped cauliflower
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup milk of choice
2 cups frozen peas
2 eggs (or flax eggs)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (I like a combination of both to equal 1/4 cup)
salt and pepper
For the coating...
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/4 parmesan or nutritional yeast
Preheat oven to 375°
Prepare the rice. Bring water or broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rice and salt, cover, and lower the heat to simmer. Simmer for 1 hour or until rice is done. Let cool. Remember, you want the rice to be slightly overdone. Mushy rice is a good thing in this case!
Next, caramelize the onion by heating oil on low in a saute pan. Add onion and honey and red pepper flakes. Cook on low for about 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so. If the onions begin to burn on the edges, lower your heat and you can add a teaspoon or two of water so they do not stick. After the first 15 minutes, add your cauliflower to the pan and cook on low stirring occasionally for another 10 minutes or until your cauliflower is soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add milk and cook for 1 more minute. Salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine your rice, your onion and cauliflower mixture, eggs, cheese, and frozen peas (no need to cook the peas, they will cook in the oven!). Then take a hand emulsifier (or food processor) and process for about 20 seconds. I like having some whole peas and chunks of rice in my arancini, but this is where you can be sneaky if you know your kids won't like seeing chunks of veggies. If this is the case, puree this mixture until it is smooth as can be!!
Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper, and drizzle with olive oil.
Combine the coating mixture on a plate. Roll your rice mixture into "egg" like shapes, and then roll through the breadcrumb coating. If the balls do not come together easily because they are too wet, or too dry, this is where you have to use a little intuition! Too wet, add some breadcrumbs. Too dry, add milk or water!
Place on the baking sheet, and give each arancini ball a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, turning them halfway through. Serve with a marinara dipping sauce, or on their own. BUON APPETITO!