Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring Vegetable Risotto


        Risotto is very versatile and once you have mastered the technique of slow cooking the rice you can experiment with many different variations. One common variation would be to replace the green pea puree with tomato sauce. I also like using butternut squash or mushrooms. While there are many great recipes for risotto that involve meat, this one is dedicated to the vegetarians out there (more on that in my final thoughts at the end). To lighten up the dish, you can omit the cheese. While technically this wouldn't be risotto any more, it would still be very tasty. Whether you're a vegetarian or an omnivore like me, I hope you enjoy this delicious risotto recipe!
                                        
Ingredients:                            
  2 cups arborio rice
800 ml  vegetable stock
100 ml  white wine  
100 g    white onion, finely diced
  1/2 bunch asparagus
      4 baby zucchini, or 1 large zucchin
      6 patty pan (summer) squash or 1 yellow zucchini
300g green peas
100g grated Parmesan
100g  Migneron de Charlevoix, or other semi-firm, surface ripened cheese. 
  1/2  bunch chives (optional)
         olive oil, salt & pepper

1. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a 4L sauce pot and sweat the onions for 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir constantly over medium heat  for 2 minutes to toast the rice. 
2. Add white wine. Stir constantly until all the wine has been absorbed, then add hot stock 200 ml at a time, each time waiting until all the stock has been absorbed before continuing, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook the rice until tender, but still al dente. Add a little bit of water if necessary. 
3. Meanwhile, boil 200g of green peas in salted water, until tender. Purée the peas, then add purée to the rice
4. Dice the asparagus, zucchini and squash and sauté in olive oil until tender. Set aside a small quantity of vegetables for garnish and stir the rest into the rice. 
5. Stir in the remaining green peas and grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.      

To serve:
1. Divide the risotto among 4 bowls and cover with thin slices of Migneron de Charleviox or similar cheese.
2. Place the bowl on a baking tray and place under the broiler to melt the cheese.
3. Garnish with reserved sautéed vegetables and chives.

Final toughts:

 Among chefs, vegetarians often have a bad reputation for being picky eaters. As a chef and an avowed omnivore, I would like to take a stand in defence of the vegetarians. Whether their choice is based on moral or health grounds, I believe they have a point either way. An unfortunate fact of modern living is that the inexpensive cuts of meat that abound in todays supermarkets come at a great cost to our health, the environment and the well being of the farmed animals. Like most people, I'm not about to cut meat out entirely from my diet, but when I do buy meat I make an effort to make sure that it was raised in an ethical and sustainable manner. This recipe is meant to show that there are many great options for dinner that don't involve any meat at all. There are many fascinating books on the topic of sustainable farming. A good starting point is Micheal Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilema


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