by guest blogger Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times Recipes for Health columnist and cookbook author
The following recipe is featured in The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking: Templates and Lessons for Making Delicious Meatless Meals Every Day.
When it comes to making risotto, when and how you introduce the vegetables that define your dish will be recipe-specific. Sometimes the rice is cooked along with a vegetable ragout of sorts. In other vegetable risottos, the vegetables are introduced halfway through the cooking so you don’t overcook them. Yet, no matter how the defining ingredients are prepared, the basic method for the rice is always the same, and the end result should be creamy, not stodgy, the rice al dente.
The Basics: Arborio Risotto
Makes 4 to 5 servings
- 7 cups well-seasoned Simple Vegetable Stock, Garlic Stock (see recipe below), or Porcini Mushroom Stock
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup minced onion
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
- ½ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
- ¼ to ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan (1 to 2 ounces)
1. Bring the stock to a simmer over low heat in a saucepan, with a ladle nearby or in the pot. Make sure the stock is well seasoned.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook gently until it is just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not brown.
3. Add the rice and garlic and stir until the grains separate and begin to crackle. Add the wine. It should bubble right away, but it shouldn’t evaporate too quickly. Stir until it is no longer visible in the pan.
4. Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about ½ cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice, and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, adding more stock and stirring when the rice is almost dry. You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often and when you do, stir vigorously, because it’s the stirring that coaxes the starch out of the rice, and the starch is what makes risotto creamy. When the rice is no longer hard in the middle but is still chewy (al dente), usually in 20 to 25 minutes, it is done. Taste now and adjust seasoning.
5. Add another ladleful of stock to the rice. Stir in the Parmesan and pepper to taste and remove from the heat. The mixture should be creamy (add more stock if it isn’t). Serve right away in wide soup bowls or on plates, spreading the risotto in a thin layer rather than a mound.
Advance preparation: You can begin up to several hours before serving. Proceed with the recipe and cook halfway through Step 4, that is, for about 15 minutes. The rice should still be hard in the middle when you remove it from the heat, and there should not be any liquid in the pan. Spread the risotto in an even layer in the pan and keep it away from the heat until you resume cooking. If the pan is not wide enough for you to spread the rice in a thin layer, then transfer it to a baking sheet. Fifteen minutes before serving, bring the remaining stock back to a simmer and reheat the rice. Resume cooking as directed.
Whole cloves of garlic, uncut and simmered gently for an hour with aromatics, yield a mild, sweet-tasting, comforting stock that makes an ideal vegetarian stand-in for chicken stock.
Makes about 2 quarts
- 2 heads garlic
- 2 quarts water
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- A bouquet garni: a bay leaf, a couple of sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a fresh sage leaf tied with a string or in cheesecloth
1. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice and water. Separate the heads of garlic into cloves and drop them into the boiling water. Blanch for 30 seconds then transfer to the ice water. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then drain and remove the skins from the garlic cloves. They’ll be loose and easy to remove.
2. Combine the 2 quarts water with the garlic cloves and remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Strain. Taste and adjust salt.
Advance preparation: This can be made a day ahead and freezes well. It’s at its best, however, if used the day it’s made.
Substitutions and additions: For a more pronounced flavor, instead of blanching the garlic cloves to peel them, crush with the flat side of a knife and peel, the way you do when you’re going to mince the garlic. The skins will easily pop away from the cloves when you crush them. You can also cut the heads in half horizontally and not peel the garlic at all.
Celebrated James Beard Award–winning cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman writes the critically acclaimed New York Times column Recipes for Health. She has written more than 25 cookbooks and is an expert on all things flavorful, healthy, and delicious. She lives in Los Angeles. Find out more at http://www.martha-rose-shulman.com.