Why, WHY have I not discovered the greatness of cotija cheese earlier? It’s like feta and parmesan (two of my greatest loves) met and had a baby. It’s salty and firm and crumbly and tangy all at the same time. And when used in this Mexican-influenced brown rice risotto, it creates a super creamy and salty base that smothers every bite.
Truth be told, I made this recipe kind of by accident. I bought the cheese for shrimp tacos the other night, but when we were through eating the tacos, I realized I had forgotten to use it! I had a block of this delicious cheese I needed to use, in addition to some fresh corn and a red bell pepper and rice. So, this Mexican risotto was born.
It’s cooked in much the same way as traditional risotto (which is extremely simple and easy to do), and has red bell and jalapeno peppers, sweet fresh corn, cilantro, and cotija cheese in place of parmesan. And, a little cayenne pepper for some kick. It’s made with 100% real, clean, unprocessed, whole ingredients and it’s 100% YUM!
This is one of those recipes I know I will make again and again and again. I love risotto, because a) it’s incredibly rich and delicious, and b) it’s easily adaptable to using whole grains and real food. Traditionally, risotto is made with arborio rice– and it’s very delicious. But arborio rice is a type of white rice, which means its processed and not technically a whole grain. Using brown rice (or even farro or barley, like in barley risotto with asparagus, basil, and lemon recipe) makes the risotto much healthier and more nutritious (and still extremely delicious!).
Heres the thing, though. Brown rice takes a long, long time to cook- much longer than its white counterpart. A simple trick to cutting the cooking time of (most) whole grains down by almost a half? Pre-soak them. Yup, just like you would with dried beans!
If you soak the brown rice in water (enough to cover the rice by one inch) overnight in the fridge, some water will be absorbed into the rice and it will take much less time to cook. Normally, brown rice takes about 30-40 minutes to cook. Pre-soaked brown rice should take only about 20 minutes, making this meal under a half an hour to cook from start to finish.
If you’ve never made risotto before, don’t be scared of it. It’s extremely simple- but it is one of those meals that takes some tending to. And it makes GREAT leftovers- make a big batch of this and take it to work all week!…