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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hello Spring! - Lemon-Basil Risotto

Welcoming spring always seems best done with food...

However, after an exhausting week and un-restful weekend, I woke from a 3 hour nap on Easter Sunday afternoon with no idea what to make for dinner, and very little energy with which to whip up something appropriate for the occasion.

Thank goodness for having trekked to farmer's market Sunday Morning! After digging through the pantry and assembling a pile of fresh goodies picked in the fields mere hours before, I found that I had more than enough for a simple and delicious dish that tasted entirely of springtime.

*Note the giant peep bunny supervising in the background - a plush toy that somehow found it's way into the household and has tricked many a sweet-toothed guest*

There can be many variations on this same theme, and the basic template for this risotto is as follows:
  • 1-2 cups chopped greens (rainbow chard, spinach, kale...)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2-3 cloves crushed/minced garlic (a handful of chopped onions would fit well here too)
  • 4 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (14 oz) arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups stock (your preference, I used chicken)
  • grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a hearty handful chopped fresh basil (no basil? try a smaller handful of parsley, thyme, rosemary...maybe a few spoonfuls of pesto...)
  • optional top-secret nontraditional ingredient - 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed to pale green-white section, tough outer leaves removed, smashed slightly with the flat of a knife then cut into approx. 1 inch sections
  • more extras - 2 tbls butter, grated Parmesan cheese
Bring water to a boil (depending on the size of your steamer, you may need to start with half of the water and add more as it boils off) add optional lemongrass. Over this, steam the chopped greens - when greens are just wilted and tender, remove from heat and set aside. Reserve the two cups water, and add to it the 4 cups of stock - keep this mixture at a simmer.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the garlic/onion in the oil over medium-high heat until it is soft. Add the steamed greens and cook for about 1 minute. Increase the heat slightly and add the rice; stir for 2 minutes. Add the wine, and when it has been absorbed, gradually add just enough boiling stock to barely cover the rice.

Now, all that is required is patience. Stir frequently - as the liquid is absorbed, gradually add more.

After about 10 minutes, add the lemon rind, stirring well.
(I have found with risotto that the trick is to hover. Watch closely and you will see that the process begins slowly, and you will wonder if that much rice can possibly absorb that much liquid, but as soon as you see the rice begin to soften and expand, it will become easier and easier to tell when to stir and when to add more liquid. Towards the end of about 15-18 minutes, absorption will slow, and it is often best to turn off the heat just after adding the last ladle-full of stock. Keep stirring!)
After the last of the stock, add butter, grated cheese, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper to taste. A slight drizzle of balsamic vinegar can add a nice twist, and I have to admit, it was hard not to wish for some grilled salmon alongside. Next time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Allison, this sounds divine. I shall add this to my list of delicious things to make. Thanks again for the sweet gift card. Keep it real, sista!