Monday, July 22, 2013

Risotto for Meatless Monday

Those are really chickpeas, black ones that I found at the Boulder Farmer's Market.
Risotto has a rather intimidating reputation. You must stir it, constantly! for 25 minutes or so. Or else! What, you'll end up with sticky rice? Which is really the point. Risotto is made with a short-grain rice called arborio which has lots of soluble starch. That's what makes it creamy (not cream or butter or cheese, though these things don't hurt). Fact is, you don't need to stir it constantly but you do have to stir it a fair bit to release the starch. It's also important to have enough hot stock to add in increments as the risotto cooks. Making risotto is a process - not a difficult one - but it will take you about 30 minutes. I think it's worth it, especially on Meatless Monday. The creaminess of the rice makes risotto so rich, even when no cream or cheese is added.

Risotto is adaptable to many additions: vegetables (some raw if quick cooking, others cooked), cooked meats, seafood, beans, mushrooms, and the ever popular cheese.

Arborio rice can seem a little pricey, but compared to meat, it's quite economical. You can find it now in many supermarkets, Whole Foods,  and gourmet shops. If you buy it in bulk, you will get the best price. Also check out Cost Plus World Marketplace, if they have stores in your area. They usually carry it and at the best price I've found.

In this recipe, I've used chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, and some greens. No cheese, no cream. Just a little bit of olive oil and butter.

Risotto with Chickpeas, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Greens
(serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as an entree)

3 ½ to 4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (can use the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar)
1 bunch of scallions or 1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ cups arborio rice
2 cups coarsely chopped greens such as spinach, escarole, or chard (about 2 oz.)
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned are fine; rinse and drain them first)
½ cup coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil (about ½ a 8.5 oz. jar)
1 Tablespoon butter
leaves from 1 large sprig basil, chopped
1 large sprig rosemary, chopped
½ teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste, you may not need any if the stock is salty

Heat the stock in a medium saucepan and keep it at a simmer.

Heat the olive oil in a small stockpot or a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir in the oil until it is coated in the oil. At this point, you'll need to pay attention for about 20-25 minutes. Add ½ cup of the hot stock to the rice and stir it around. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir it every few minutes. When all the liquid is absorbed, add another ½ cup of stock and do it again. Keep doing this until the rice is just done, not mushy and not hard in the center. Just right!

Add the greens, chickpeas, tomatoes, butter, herbs, and black pepper. Taste it before adding any salt. Many stocks are very salty and you will not need to add any more.

If you must, you can stir in some Parmesan cheese or goat cheese. :-)

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