Sunday, December 13, 2009

Since it may get a little sugary over the next few weeks,

how about I tell you what we had for dinner? Because, as much as I wish sugar cookies and banoffee pie could take up the highest percentages of my daily caloric intake, they just can’t. At least not every day. My half-ass attempts at pilates and walks to the grocery store can only take me so far before I stop fitting into my clothes.

Right--so thanks to Ellie Krieger, Garden Risotto has become a staple in our house. It’s creamy. It’s fairly quick. It’s good for us. It’s easy.

That’s right, I said risotto is easy. And no, I’m not going to take it back. The only thing difficult about this recipe is stirring the Arborio rice without a break. It does get a little tedious, especially when your kitchen is the size of a shoe box and you feel like you might pass out from heat exhaustion, but it’s totally worth it in the end. Frequently stirring short-grained rice like Arborio helps the grains shed their starches and in turn, thicken the rice’s cooking liquid. Thusly does one achieve creamy rice without the addition of actual cream!

Let me tell you, I didn’t want to like Ellie Krieger initially. When I saw ads for her show on Food Network, I figured she’d be the token “health food” show-host that would try to convince me with a plastered smile that food without salt or butter or chocolate tastes just as good when in fact, it does not at all. And, given that I’m one of those people who thinks everything in moderation is better than completely eliminating certain foods from one’s diet, I wasn’t really interested in hearing anything of that sort… But that kind of ‘all or nothing’ mentality isn’t her style at all. She won me over with this recipe. It eliminates nothing and instead allows healthier ingredients—like spinach, asparagus and peas—to share lead roles with otherwise more crave-worthy items, like creamy rice. Also, those healthier ingredients in this recipe just taste good. It’s that simple.

The one thing I’ve changed about this recipe is roasting instead of steaming the asparagus before adding it to the risotto. If you don’t think you like asparagus, you just might after roasting it. I won Dad-in-law over by cooking it this way, and that’s really saying something. And it’s hardly any added effort since the asparagus can roast in the oven while you stir your rice.

This risotto is great on its own, but since my lumber-jack, meat-and-potatoes husband never feels satisfied without a hearty piece of animal protein on his plate, I like to serve it with a link of spicy Italian chicken or pork sausage on the side.

Garden Risotto
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
Yields about 6 servings, but can be halved easily to make 3
Add more or less vegetables according to what you like. I added more asparagus and baby spinach tonight. You’ll know the risotto’s done when the rice looks creamy and tastes al dente. The whole process should take a little over 30 minutes.

• 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning asparagus
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 3 lightly packed cups baby spinach leaves
• 1 cup frozen peas
• 1/2 pound asparagus
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven 425° F. Cut asparagus into ¾ inch pieces, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of the hot broth, the salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper and simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding more, until rice is almost tender and creamy-looking, about 18 minutes.

Add the spinach and peas and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the roasted asparagus and cook just until the vegetables are hot. Stir in the Parmesan and more broth if the risotto seems too thick. Serve with extra parmesan, if desired.


hanner said...

mm, this sounds like a risotto recipe that we really like, except made with barley and no peas and spinach. i think we'll add those next time!

Andrea said...

yum Hannah! I've always wanted to try making barley risotto... With roasted vegetables. Mmm. Maybe we will have that this week--sounds hearty and wintery.

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