Aug 26, 2009

garden risotto with pesto

Risotto is a healthy version of comfort food for me. With no butter, and little oil or fatty ingredients it is light enough to enjoy as often as wanted. Yet, it takes long enough to prepare that I don't have it very often. I love that, like pasta, it is so versatile - with seafood, vegetable, or meat versions, there are so many possibilities to try.

This risotto I made last week was a big hit. I used a simple mix of veggies, including summer squash, carrots and a few sugar snap peas. Once the risotto was done I topped it with a light basil-walnut pesto,whipped up quickly using basil from the garden and some extra walnuts and garlic I had on hand. This pesto is mild and added a little crunch and additional flavor to the already hearty risotto dish.

garden risotto with pesto
loosely adapted from The Gardener's Community Cookbook

for the risotto:

3 medium carrots, cut into small rounds
4 medium summer squash, diced
3/4 cup summer peas, halved
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, trimmed, washed and finely chopped
1 heaping cup Arborio rice
2 cups finely shredded kale (or spinach), washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Drop in the carrots and cook over high head until almost soft, about 3 minutes. Add the squash and peas. Bring to a boil again and cook until blanched, about 1 minute more. Drain in a colander, rinse under cool water, and set aside to drip dry.

Heat the broth in a saucepan without letting it boil. Set off the heat on the back of the stovetop to keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large, nonreactive pot. Add the leek and saute over low heat until it is beginning to turn golden brown. Add the rice and stir to mix and coat with the oil. Raise the heat to medium, add 1/2 cup of the warm broth, and stir until the broth is absorbed but the rice is still moist.

Add anther 1/2 cup of the broth and continue stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat the process, stirring gently but constantly and adjusting the heat to maintain a low simmer, until the broth is used up and the rice is tender and creamy but still al dente. The process takes about 30 minutes.

Prepare the pesto and set aside.

Add the kale and salt to the risotto and stir until wilted, about 1 more minute. Stir in the other vegetables and top with the pesto. Serve right away, accompanied by the Parmesan if using.

Serves 4 as a main dish with the pesto topping.

for the pesto:

1 cup walnut halves or pieces
2 small cloves garlic
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

In a food processor or blender pulse the walnuts and garlic together until fully mashed. Add the remaining ingredients and process into a smooth paste. Use right away or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. May be frozen for longer storage.

local ingredients:
Summer squash and garlic from the farm. Kale and basil from our garden. Carrots, summer squash, peas, leeks, kale, spinach, garlic, and basil are all in season right now and can be found at the farmer's market. I love the end of summer bounty!

alison's notes:
I definitely adjusted the vegetables originally called for in this recipe using what I had on hand or what looked fresh from the farmer's market. If you don't have the same vegetables I recommend using what's in season in your neck of the woods. This would be delicious with any combination of vegetables except tomatoes.

(photography by: alison clayshulte)

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