I’ve noticed a trend lately of risotto like dishes that skip the traditional main ingredient of Arborio rice. In restaurants I’ve seen creamy orzo cooked down with greens. The blogs and Pinterest fill with barley or quinoa options. In my eyes risotto is a creamy rice dish, slowly simmered with broth and/or wine, onions and other veggies. But really, why does it have to be rice? I’m sure there’s history to the meal, and many of my Italian friends might be jumping through their computer screen, ready to strangle me. How dare I even for a moment consider altering the perfectly classic dish? How could I possibly make it better? I never claimed better, just different. Food is meant to evolve, to be played with. So today, I’m playing with risotto.
I know what you’re thinking. Your read the title and automatically interpret one word–FATTENING. Well you’re wrong. There isn’t an ounce of cream in the stuff. Cheese, yes, but not an overwhelming amount. Mostly healthy veggies, milk and a dash of Parmesan. I made this recipe as part of my “let’s make Brussels Sprouts a feature food” project. Over the last few years I’ve come to love the bright green crunchy morsels and am sick of them cast off as a side dish. Grilled hanger steak WITH Brussels sprouts. Striped bass GARNISHED with shaved Brussels Sprouts. Brussels sprouts are forever the sidekick. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. RoCCA was one of the first restaurants I saw that featured an appetizer that was purely Brussels sprouts. I was intrigued and inspired. If they can do it, why can’t I? I resolved myself to creating a dish that would finally put Brussels Sprouts in the spotlight.
Success! The nontraditional heart and chocolate Valentines Dinner was a success! If you happened to be seated at our dinner table, and didn’t know you would be eating heart, you probably wouldn’t be any the wiser. Beef heart (at least went slow cooked and smothered with mole sauce) tastes a lot like tender steak, think Filet Mignon. At first I was pretty worried the meat would be chewy. When I stirred the pot partway through the cubes of meat seemed very tough and dense. However, the dish was nothing but delicious. I noticed the heart had a stronger beefy flavor and was firm but super tender. I think my next experiment will include it in a stew or maybe chili.
So as part of our CSA share this week we got spring garlic and kale. The spring garlic especially stumped me. I’ve used scapes before (the long thick spirally parts) and I’ve used fresh garlic bulbs, but this was a long stalk with greens, almost like a leek. I did find a fantastic recipe for green garlic souffle, but got a bit lazy. I didn’t have any Parmesan cheese in the house (a first, I swear) and was running a bit low on eggs. I did have some mushrooms that I planned to attempt a risotto with (risottos and I don’t always get along…) so I figured why not just throw the greens in there too.
When I say this is the easiest risotto ever, I’m not lying! I prepared the plain risotto like normal (“toasted” rice in some butter, than gradually added veggie broth until it was tender). In a separate skillet I sauteed mushrooms (I had oyster, cremini and shiitake) with chopped kale and the green stems of the garlic in some butter until soft and wilted. When the risotto was nearly done, I added the mushrooms and greens, a bit more broth, some salt and pepper and cooked it all (stirring constantly) for another 10 min or so. The whole process was about and hour or less AND we had plenty for leftovers during the week (leftovers almost tasted better). Then I tossed a quick salad of mitsuna (reminded me of dandelion leaves), extra cremini mushrooms and radishes to serve along side.
Okay, maybe an hour is a bit long for a weeknight dinner. I usually spend between 30min and an hour on weekdays but some like to spend WAY less. But trust me, this is worth it. I maybe used 3 tablespoons of butter max for the whole recipe but it tasted so rich and creamy. Just amazing.