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Tomato Rice

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Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: Brown rice meets tomato, peppers and onion for a welcome break from the pasta routine.

Little girl eating tomato rice

Our house is a pasta-loving house. We should just move to Italy and call it a day. But since that's not happening anytime soon, I thought it might be time to break out of the pasta rut we've all been happily wallowing in and add some other starches to the mix.

While I'm an equal opportunity pasta sauce eater, Clara and Jonathan are both red sauce -- or "gravy," as my husband's fellow New Jerseyans call it -- devotees. I make a batch of some kind of tomato-based sauce pretty much every week to satisfy the beasts. A couple of weeks ago, instead of serving it over tortellini or fusilli as per usual, I decided to use the sauce to create a simple riff on pauljoseph's Tomato Rice -- more Italian, less Indian.

More: The only red sauce you'll ever need, from Marcella Hazan.

Tomato Rice

I also happened to have some leftover escalivada in the fridge, which I chopped up a bit and used as a base for the dish so it wasn't just rice and tomato sauce (you can also start with diced onion and red pepper, which I've done since). I used long grain brown rice because I had it in the pantry, and because I thought the nutty flavor would add a little more complexity.

The first time Clara tried my tomato rice was when she came into the office to shoot these photos. Yes, this was a risky move. Some might even call it cocky. But I was so sure she'd like the flavors and textures that I threw caution to the wind.

When I handed her a little cup of the rice, she looked at it skeptically -- why was I giving her something that looked like pasta and tomato sauce but clearly wasn't? As you can see, we did convince her to take a bite, and for the record, that cup was empty by the time the camera stopped.

Tomato Rice

Tomato Rice

Makes about 3 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 cup long grain brown rice

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom

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Tags: Weeknight Cooking, On the Cheap, Amanda & Merrill, Kids