This recipe continues with the theme of grain-based vegetarian dinners, a celebration of the new garden season in my kitchen. It combines the old and sturdy (giant, wintered-over carrots and leeks) and the new and delicate (broccoli rabe or chard).
Like the other recipes I’ve passed along, risottos can incorporate nearly any vegetable. You can also add bits of cooked chicken, ribbons of ham or small raw shrimp, which will cook easily in the hot broth. Leafy vegetables can cook right in the softening rice, too. Firmer ingredients may need to be cooked a bit first, although the carrots softened just fine when I added them at cup 2 ½ of stock, roughly the halfway-cooked mark. Classic Arborio or carnaroli rice is authentic, but you might find a short-grain brown rice to try if you look around.
It’s important to warm the stock (just nuke it in a glass measuring cup) so that the cooking temperature of the rice stays constant. Stir and be patient, but constant supervision is overkill. You can certainly prep a salad while the risotto simmers and absorbs the stock. *Use good chicken stock, vegetarian stock or even part water if you prefer.
The last flourish of cheese should be Parmesan, but try other hard cheeses if you like. Just don’t overdo it. And most herbs should be sprinkled on top at the end, as should the grated rind of a lemon, if you’d like.
Spring Vegetable Risotto
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 small onion, 1 leek or 1 large shallot, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups rice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 5-6 cups stock*
- 2 cups carrots, diced
- 2 cups broccoli rabe or chard leaves, chopped
- ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan or other cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons minced parsley or chive
- grated rind of one lemon (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
In a wide pan, gently sauté the onion, leek or shallot in the butter and oil. Stir in the rice for about a minute. Add the wine, continuing to stir until it evaporates. Now add the warmed stock, a cupful at a time. Add the diced carrots after about 2 cups so they have time to cook. Rice absorbs at different rates so you may not need all of the liquid. Stir and cook gently for about 25 to 35 minutes, adding stock as needed, until the rice is almost tender to the bite. Stir in the broccoli rabe or chard until it wilts. Taste, add more stock if necessary, stir. When the rice is tender and somewhat creamy, add cheese and chopped herbs. Season to taste.