Number 1: Risotto is almost always gluten free. Number 2: The flavors and colors of this dish are a celebration of spring! Number 3: Risotto is comfort food. So, this was the perfect entree for our book group gathering on an unreasonably chilly evening in mid-April. (The Dinner by Herman Koch generated spirited conversation!) Hopefully you can harvest herbs from your garden; if not, splurge on a variety of nice ones, taking care to include fresh mint.
Spring Vegetable Risotto with Arugula Pesto
7-8 cups hot chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup good quality olive oil (or splurge and go half butter, half olive oil)
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 cups julienned carrots
2 cups Arborio Rice
6 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ lengths on the diagonal
1 cup Haricot Vert (thin green beans), ends trimmed, and cut into 1″ lengths
3/4 cup fresh peas (use “fresh frozen” and thaw if need be)
1 cup Broccolini, ends trimmed and cut into 1″ lengths on the diagonal
1/2 cup 3 varieties fresh chopped herbs (MINT, sage, rosemary, chervil, parsley…) firmly packed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional, but if you don’t use it, make extra broth to use instead)
1. Start to heat the broth in a sauce pan on a back burner.
2. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions, carrots, and cook for a few minutes before adding the garlic. When the onions are translucent add the rice, and stir to coat with oil and heat through.
3. Add (about 6 cups of) the hot broth, one cup at a time, stirring gently and fairly consistently over a medium heat until each 8 oz. portion has been almost absorbed before adding the next cup. As the rice is stirred, the “polish” will come off in layers, creating the creamy texture of a risotto. It should take about 20 minutes to incorporate 6 cups of broth and render the rice tender. If it’s too al dente, add a little more broth.
4. JUST before you think the rice is cooked through, add the asparagus, green beans, peas, broccolini, and fresh herbs. Cook for 3 minutes.
4. Stir in the cheese and second 1/4 cup of olive oil (or butter); turn off the heat and cover to let the risotto “rest” for 5 – 10 minutes.
5. Reheat, adding the heavy cream and/or an extra 4-8 ounces of broth to achieve the consistence you desire. Serve immediately with Arugula Pesto, extra grated cheese, and toasted pine nuts. Heating the bowls or plates prior to serving will help maintain the creamy consistency.
2 cups packed baby arugula, washed and trimmed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pinenuts
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste
1. Combine the arugula, garlic, parmesan, pinenuts, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down as necessary.
2. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Scrape down, and blend again until the texture is consistent.
3. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust the “brightness” with extra lemon juice if needed.