Do you guys remember the Choose Your Own Adventure stories as a kid? As I was figuring out this dish, I was immediately reminded of them. I would say this dish has Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern influences, and there were tons of “choice points” in throwing together this meal where you can substitute something fresher, healthier, that you have a preferred taste for or happen to have around the house.
The inspiration for the dish came from a favorite meal of mine, which is stuffed zucchini cooked in tomato sauce. I had picked up baby zucchini from Trader Joe’s earlier in the week, so I thought I would make a deconstructed version using other ingredients I had available. It was hearty and filling, and perfect for a cooler summer night, but it would also be super comforting in fall or winter. A versatile winner!
Dirty Rice + Tomato Stewed Veggies
1/2 lb Sweet Sausage (Hot sausage would work great too, and you could add more if you wanted the rice to be meatier)
14 oz Crushed Tomatoes
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup Rice (I used Trader Joe’s Basmati Rice Medley, but you could use any rice pilaf or even a plain rice)
2 1/2 c Chicken Broth (Vegetable Broth or even water would work too. I think the broth just gives it a bigger kick of flavor)
Small package Baby Zucchini with ends cut off (So many veggies would work here: chopped zucchini, green beans, butternut squash, etc.)
2 Russett Potatoes peeled and chopped into small pieces (Again, sub sweet potatoes, or leave out the extra starch and add more veggies!)
1 Chopped Red Onion (Any color works!)
3 tbsp Olive Oil (Butter could work too)
2 tbsp Fresh Herbs (We used rosemary, oregano, and thyme. You can use whatever herbs you have available, or even dried herbs could work)
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper (Optional if you like heat like I do)
Salt + Pepper to taste
*Cook rice according to directions. The Trader Joe’s blend called for 1 c rice, with 2 c chicken broth and a drizzle of olive oil. Bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
*Next you’re going to get two different burners going: Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a frying pan, and another 2 tbsp to a medium sized pot.
*A brief note about cookware. I love using our enameled caste iron pot, as well as a regular cast iron pan to cook with. They cook food more evenly and are an easier clean up. We have a Le Cruset pot we got from our wedding registry eons ago, but this one from Amazon is cheaper and just as effective.
*Heat both. Add 1 part of the minced garlic and half the chopped onion to the frying pan, and 2 parts of the minced garlic and the other half of onion to the medium pot.
*Add crushed tomato and 1/2 c chicken broth to the pot once garlic/onion fragrant and then add potato chunks and zucchini. Add a few dashes of salt + a few turns of pepper. Add crushed red pepper, and herbs. Bring to a boil, cover and then simmer for 20 minutes.
*Squeeze sausage out of casing and into frying pan once onions/garlic fragrant. Add a dash of salt + a few turns of pepper. Keep stirring until browned and cooked through.
*Combine sausage and rice, and cover on a back burner until ready to serve.
*Test zucchini and potato to ensure soft, and you are ready to eat!
*I served both the rice and stew side by side, but you can also serve the stew right on top.
I would love to hear the “choose your own” food stories you all come up with in adapting this recipe. Share any new spins on this below!