A Risotto For Any Season

Another Plug and Plate Recipe ©

This looks too good to be this easy!

April 21, 2021.  Dear Daughters– If you recall last week’s episode, I introduced the Plug In Play recipe- a recipe that lets you easily swap out seasonal CSA or other ingredients and plug in new ones to make dozens of delicious variations of that recipe. We started off with a seasonal Vegetable Peeler Salad recipe and this week we move on to a main course with a Risotto For Any Season.

The spring season “Plug-Ins” I’m using for this risotto are petite peas, tarragon, parmesan, pea shoots and wasabi peas.  Other spring options might include Asparagus Risotto topped with a Soft Egg, Quick Pickled Shallots and Minced Chives or Artichoke Risotto with Pecorino topped with Toasted Almonds and Baby Arugula dressed with a Gremolata (a sauce of parsley, lemon and garlic)- whatever spring combo you like.  As the world turns (literally, on its axis) through the seasons, your Plug-Ins can include sweet corn, parmesan, cilantro, jalapeños and corn nuts for summer; butternut squash, asiago, sage, lemony or crispy kale and toasted walnuts for fall and crimini mushrooms, thyme, fontina, lemony micro greens and crispy shiitakes for winter- let the seasons be your guide. 

Risotto has a dramatic and dire history for anyone who watches competitive cooking shows- some people are made into “idiot sandwiches” for overcooking risotto, some are summarily “chopped” for undercooking risotto and even more are curtly asked to pack their knives and go for a variety of risotto sins.  But in reality, as opposed to stories presented on TV or social media, risotto is a dish with a big payoff that is relatively easy to master, as long as you continue stirring in your broth and don’t get distracted by texts, Tik Tok or whatever else that’s on your phone that’s more important paying attention to than life, said the Dad. This recipe will not only get you on your way to risotto perfection, it also offers an award winning technique (more award winning in spirit than reality) that uses a puree of the vegetable featured in the risotto to add vibrant color and a luscious “creaminess” without the need for a cow.

Prep Time: 20  minutes

Cook Time:  20 minutes

Servings: 4

GET YOUR STUFF OUT

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, about 6 ounces
  • 3-4 cups bite sized, seasonal vegetable Plug-In, blanched, sauteed or roasted- for spring, I plugged in about 16 ounces of blanched, petite peas 
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice- or even sushi rice, if you must
  • 1 cup dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
  • 4-6 cups light colored and low sodium vegetable stock
  • 1/2-1 cup, or to taste, Sumptuous Risotto Embellishment(s) Plug-In, optional- I plugged in 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese– see Lecture, which includes a link to vegetarian parmesans and other cheeses
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced fresh seasonal herb Plug-In, optional- for spring, I plugged in 2 tablespoons minced tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons, or to taste, fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cups of Bright and/or Crunchy Risotto Embellishment(s) Plug-In, or to taste, optional- I plugged in 1 cup of pea shoots tossed in a bit of lemon juice and 1/2 cup crushed wasabi peas– see Lecture
  • Vegan option:  Substitute another tablespoon of olive oil for butter and 1-2 teaspoons of white miso, or to taste, and 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, or to taste, for parmesan cheese.
The pea shoot mix had some other micro greens tossed in, which added a nice contrast in color to the dish.

COOK AND PLAY

Let’s keep it green by listening to a little Vivian Green to keep you company as you stir your risotto into creamy, green goodness.  Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!

  1. It All Starts With Just an Onion.  Preheat a large, deep sided saute pan over medium low heat, add oil, butter, a pinch of kosher salt and onion, and cook, stirring a few times, until onion softens, without much color- about four minutes.  
  2. A Nice Touch.  It’s optional, but while the onion cooks, I suggest pureeing 1/3 of the cooked vegetables with 1/2 cup, or as much as is needed for everything to come together, vegetable broth with a blender or food processor to set aside to add to the finished risotto.  Add broth or remaining broth to a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, adjusting heat to keep it at a bare simmer.
  3. A Touch of Wine.  Once onion is softened, add rice, stirring from time to time to lightly toast- just a few minutes- then add wine, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and stirring continually until wine is mostly absorbed.  
  4. Cup By Cup.  Add 1 cup of broth, continuing to stir so rice will release creamy starch and adjusting heat to a bare simmer until most of the broth is absorbed by rice.  Repeat with additional broth, one cup at a time, making sure most of each cup of broth is stirred continually into rice before adding the next cup and until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes- you may have leftover broth and that’s OK.  If you like your rice softer- keep adding broth and cooking until you’re happy. The best way to make sure your rice doesn’t turn to mush is, once you have added 3 cups of broth, to taste test a few grains of rice right before adding more broth.    
  5. Make It Even Better.  Once the rice is creamy and al dente, stir in pureed peas, whole peas, tarragon and cheese.   Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon juice, cheese and consistency with broth.
  6. Plate It Up!  Portion risotto into serving bowls and top each bowl with pea shoots tossed in a bit of lemon and wasabi peas. If you have it, serve grated parmesan on the side.
I tried to “puree” the peas with just a fork to save dishes and then really pureed them using a stick blender. I like the smoother puree, but feel free to mash and save on dishes for a more rustic finish.
This is the risotto simmering away before the pea puree was added. Now go back and look at the title picture to see how much the colorful puree adds to the presentation of the dish and all for just a few more minutes of prep!

THE LECTURE

Veggie Love.  It’s Not Easy Staying Green.  Be aware when cooking most, if not all, green vegetables, you can lose that vibrant green if you don’t “set” the color by “blanching” them.  To do this, set up a big bowl of water with ice and get a big, and I mean big, pot of salted water boiling. Add vegetables to boiling water and as soon as they are firm tender, scoop out with a sieve or spider and plunge into ice water to stop cooking and set color. It doesn’t take that long to cook bite sized veggies to firm tender- in the case of fresh peas, only about a minute. It will take even less if using frozen peas, which, if I’m being honest, is what I used when I cooked for this post, since fresh peas weren’t available. Also, if I’m being completely honest, I just thawed the frozen peas by soaking them in boiling water for a few minutes because the peas were already blanched as part of their processing. You also don’t need a chart to tell you how long to boil your vegetables, just carefully fish a piece out after a minute or so, cool it in the ice water and taste- if it’s good, get everything into the ice water- if not- keep checking periodically until they are as you like. If for some reason your puree isn’t as green as you like, try this Dad Tip- blend in a handful or two of baby spinach, which offers some serious green color with a mild taste that won’t compete with the other flavors of the dish.  If you don’t need to blanch your vegetable, explore roasting or grilling for a deeper flavor.   

Pureeing Your Veg.  I think the best part of this recipe is the healthy “creaminess” and vibrant color a vegetable puree adds to this dish.  I’m sure there are some vegetables, like zucchini and summer squash, that aren’t proper candidates for pureeing, so if you want to use these types of vegetables, simply omit the pureeing step in the recipe and stir in all the vegetables into the finished risotto.

Sumptuous Risotto Embellishment Plug-In.  Although it’s certainly not necessary, especially when using a “creamy”, vegetable puree, risotto is often finished with a sumptuous flourish- like more butter (plant butter), cheese (miso/nutritional yeast) and/or cream (coconut milk/cashew cream).  It’s up to you and your health/taste views to decide if this works for you.  If you do, and you’re feeling cheesy, Parmesan works extremely well with many vegetables, but feel free to use any cheese that suits your tastes.  A few last words for my vegetarian- as you know, some cheeses contain rennet, which is basically stomach juice from animals, like cows, that firm up the cheese. Side Note- Gramps called milk “cow juice”, but he didn’t mean this!  In any event, not to worry because here’s a very detailed list of vegetarian parmesan (with a small “p”) and most other cheese that don’t require the sacrifice of any animal in the making of the cheese. 

Bright and/or Crunchy Risotto Embellishment Plug-In.  A pop of brightness and/or crunch is a nice contrast to the creamy and not so crunchy texture of risotto, so topping a risotto with a small “salad” of bright greens and/or herbs and/or something crunchy, like wasabi peas, fried grains, nuts, or fried shallots, is a tasty idea to consider.

Super Dad Size It!  While a generous bowl of risotto, with a perhaps a side salad would make a meal for most, it generally leaves this Dad craving a bit more, so, if you want to eat like a Dad, just “Super Dad Size It” with a hunk(s) of good food on top-  Grilled Salmon or Roasted Carrots and Spring Parsnips atop Spring Pea Risotto;  Seared Scallops or Grilled Bell Peppers and Summer Squash atop Summer Corn Risotto; Seared Shrimp or Roasted Cauliflower Steak atop Fall Butternut Squash Risotto; or Miso Glazed Cod, Fried or 6 Minute Egg or Soy Glazed Tofu atop Winter Mushroom Risotto.

Keywords: rice, spring, seasonal, Italian, risotto, vegan option

© 2021 All rights reserved.  Dad’s Dinner Diary

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