Risotto Primavera with Basil Pesto

I made a risotto this past week and it was amazing. Risotto is made using aborio rice. It comes in 1 pound, cryovac bricks, in medium, fine or extra fine grains. Use the extra fine for making a great rice pudding. It had crunch and texture, creaminess and a full rich flavor. Use a good, low-sodium chicken stock. Store bought is fine. Whole Foods Market has a good, and inexpensive organic chicken broth in a 32 ounce container. Add cheese to the finished risotto only if your pesto is just basil & oil, otherwise, use a regular basil pesto and be sparing on the addition of any grated cheeses. Risotto is rich, creamy, and not in the least bit, low-fat! Remember, it is meant to be a main course, or small side course. The pesto I used is "unfinished", meaning it's just blanched basil leaves and olive oil. I take several huge bunches of basil, blanch it for a few seconds in salted boiling water and shock it in ice water. Squeeze it dry and throw it in the food processor with about a 1/2 quart of light Olive oil. I usually make a quart or more at the end of the summer and keep it either as strained basil oil and the keep the "sludge" in the freezer as cubes to through into sauces & stocks. OR I just keep the whole container in the refrigerator or freezer and spoon out what I need. It tends to last longer as there is no garlic or cheese to turn moldy. Along with the risotto, I sautéed thinly sliced chicken breast that had been quickly marinated in lemon zest and juice, a few fresh thyme leaves, minced garlic, a splash of white wine, salt, pepper & olive oil. Quickly sauté each cutlet in a hint of oil in a non-stick pan. Once the chicken is completely cooked, add a half cup of white wine to the pan, and stir up any browned bits. Add any remaining marinade to the pan and reduce the whole mixture down to a few tablespoons. Whisk in a tablespoon of Dijon Mustard, and pour the pan sauce over the chicken. It makes a great meal, and the risotto can be all of your side dishes - starch & veggies. Plus, you'll have enough risotto for several more meals during the week

Risotto Ingredients:

4 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock - Warmed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Onion - finely diced
1 Medium Carrot - Finely Diced
1 Garlic Clove - Minced
1 Cup Aborio Rice
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Medium Zucchini - 1/4 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons Basil Pesto
1/2 cup Snow Peas - Julienne
Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan, Peccorino or Locatelli Cheese (optional)

Warm the chicken stock in a 3 quart sauce pan. Set aside and keep warm.
In a large sauce pot or small stock pot (at least 4 quart pot), heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onions & carrot and sweat/saute until the onions turn translucent and the carrots release some of their water - about 3-4 minutes. Add the aborio rice and the garlic and stir, with a wooden spoon, to coat the rice grains with the oil - about 1 minute.
Add the 1/2 cup of white wine and continue to stir the aborio. When the aborio has absorbed all of the wine, add 1/2 cup of the warmed chicken stock to the rice. Continue stirring and allow the rice to absorb all of the stock before adding more.
After stirring in 1 cup of stock, add the thyme leaves, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. When you have stirred in 2 cups of stock total, add the diced zucchini. Tasted aborio to see how tender it is. The rice will have started to double in volume and released enough starch to appear creamy. The grains should be opaque on the edges and white in the center. Continue ladling in the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. The stirring helps to release the starch. Before ladling in the last 1/2 cup of stock, taste the risotto again. It may be done at this point. You are looking for tender, creamy grains, with the merest hint of an al dente bite. If the risotto is tender, then don't use the last 1/2 cup of stock. If it's still too crunchy, add it.
Stir in the julienned snow peas. The heat from the risotto will steam the snow peas and turn them bright green. Stir in the pesto and, if using, the grated cheese. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot immediately. Makes 4 servings as a main course.


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