Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Risotto with Mint-Basil Pesto

We've been traveling for the past few weeks, and while I haven't exactly been sleeping on the job (the image above notwithstanding), there hasn't been much time for blogging, and the things I cook on vacation tend to be pretty basic. Rented cottage kitchens being the wild cards they are, I'm a dab hand at McGyvering up meals according to the vicissitudes of what's available  in British barn conversions and the like, but this trip also saw us in a downtown Reykjavik flat, which was a Whole Other Thing. Despite our worries, we actually found it far easier to be vegan in Iceland than in Quebec City - a veritable food desert for herbivores, as we discovered on a weekend visit this spring - but more on all that in another post.

I made this risotto for a dinner party shortly before we left for England, and even though I posted a Risotto alla Milanese recipe only a few months ago, this version is so bright, flavorful, and summery that I want to share it before the season slips away. (Since getting home, I've already started seeing ads for "back to school" sales, to which I say "Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion...Thou has made me giddy with thy ill tidings." Or in more succinct terms: "STFU!") 
I used fresh peas and asparagus for the vegetables, but you could easily substitute broccoli, zucchini, or baby spinach. I would, however, suggest sticking with the green palate, because it looks so fresh and pretty on the plate.

So happy summer, and bon appetit! And watch this space, because I have a refrigerator full of produce, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Mint-Basil Pesto

~ 2 cups chopped, fresh mint
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh basil
~ 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
~ 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1/4 cup olive oil
~ 1/4 cup water
~ Juice of 1 large lemon

~ Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Risotto with Asparagus and Peas
~ 2 cups asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
~ 5 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 3 cups Arborio rice
~ 1/2 tsp. salt (more to taste)
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ 1 cup white wine
~ 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas

~ Steam the asparagus until just bright green (2-3 minutes) and rinse immediately with cold water; drain and set aside.~ In a large saucepan, bring the broth almost (but not quite) to boiling, and then it keep warm over low heat.
~ In a large, deep pot or dutch oven, cook the onion in the olive oil for 7-10 minutes on medium heat, until soft and golden but not browned.
~ Add the rice, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly so that the grains are coated.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, stirring well to remove any bits that may have stuck to the bottom. 
~ Once the wine has cooked off, begin adding the broth to the pot by ladlefuls, stirring with each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
~ When the stock is about halway gone, begin adding an equal amount of pesto with each ladleful of liquid. Continue this process until you have only about a cup of stock remaining.
~ With the last addition of stock, stir in the peas, mix well, and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until the mixture is creamy but still retains a teensy bit of “bite."~ Add the cooked asparagus, combine thoroughly, and serve hot.