i love risotto. it's quick and easy to make, and so versatile. whatever vegetables i'm fancying go into the pot. in the summer, it's often zucchinis. a mushroom risotto is nice and earthy on a cold fall day. the classic, for me, is a risotto with leeks, carrots, and peas. it's even better if you have some homemade vegetable stock, which i love making in the colder months. for tonight, we did the classic risotto and a side of steamed asparagus with lemon spritz. we had some leftover french baguette from last night's dinner, so we toasted that up with oil, garlic, and hot pepper.
classic vegetable risotto: serving size for 4 as main dish (or 2 with lots of leftovers)
1 cup risotto arborio rice
4 carrots, diced (un-peeled if organic)
1 small onion, diced
1 bunch leeks, quartered and sliced (white parts and little bit of green)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 cup frozen peas
4-5 thyme sprigs
olive oil + butter
salt + pepper
hot pepper flakes
6 cups vegetable stock (use homemade - trust me, it tastes so much better!)
2. soak sliced leeks in bowl of cold water. this allows the dirt/sand to fall out. while soaking, prep carrots, onions, and garlic. heat oil and butter in large cast iron pot. add garlic and hot pepper flakes, and cook until toasted. add carrots, onions, and leeks (pulling them out of the water, not through a strainer/drainer) and salt and pepper and sautee for 5 minutes until tender.
3. add risotto arborio rice and toast lightly for about 3 minutes. add thyme sprigs and then ladle two scoops of stock to risotto. the art of risotto is all in the stirring. too much or too strongly, and it gets gummy. too little and it will not cook properly. typically what i do is ladle in two scoops, let it simmer for about 30 seconds to a minute and then gently stir with a wooden spoon (more like folding) for the next couple of minutes until most of the stock is cooked into the rice. then add more stock and repeat until you've used all of it. occasionally i have had to use a little more than 6 cups, but that amount is pretty standard.
4. cook risotto until it is al dente but creamy. some people like it more soupy, but i like it with most of the stock soaked up. taste and salt and pepper again if necessary. the thyme will have fallen off during the cooking and stirring, and you can take out the stems.
5. turn the heat off, add peas and a good amount of grated parmesan cheese, and gently stir in. cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
6. serve with crusty bread and another side of crispy vegetables if you like (asparagus, salad, etc). you can add a little more grated cheese as garnish on top of each portion serving. the best thing about risotto is all the generous leftovers it makes - yumm!!