Sunday, January 28, 2018

Family Dinner: Baked Lemon-Basil Risotto with All Your Veggies

This recipe is based on one from a cookbook assembled by families from my older children's preschool. It was a fund-raising cookbook; I assisted with data entry and edited recipes and the whole thing was fascinating. We all eat, cook, and feed our families so differently. You would be blown away by how many ways families have found to incorporate that box of Jiffy cornbread mix into their meals! 

Plated Risotto

This risotto is among the gems I've found in the book, and credit for it was given to a Baby Led Weaning cookbook. When I briefly wanted to jump on the BLW bandwagon (didn't last - too much gagging and mess and heart palpitations for me), I tried it out and was delighted by both how delicious the finished product was and how not-stuck-to-the-pan the baked risotto was. (I had been worried - needlessly, as it turns out - that I'd have a glutinous crust soaking on my counter overnight. I love a recipe that cuts out hands-on time, but not when the trade off is adding time on the washing up end. This one is a win-win.) 

I've made this several times now, throwing in whatever veggie knobs I've got to use up in the fridge and it's always good and it's been invariably well-received by my baby. It freezes great, reheats easily, and the leftovers make outstanding risotto cakes. It's gluten free and vegetarian - could easily be made vegan by opting for vegetable broth and omitting the butter and Parmesan. You should probably make it!

The Evolution of Risotto

The version below incorporates my favorite flavor combination: fresh basil, fresh lemon, and dried red pepper flakes. I recommend it as written, but this recipe is a canvas. Go crazy.

xx E-N

Kitchen Sink Risotto Ingredients
Two Burners

Baked Vegetable Risotto with Basil, Lemon, and Red Pepper Flakes
Yield: 8 servings

1 quart vegetable or chicken stock + 1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 onion, finely chopped
2 small carrots, finely chopped
3+ cloves garlic, minced*
4-5 cups finely chopped vegetables**
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
Zest and juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional - if you opt out, add 1/2 teaspoon salt before putting in oven)
2 large handfuls fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 2-quart or larger saucepan, bring stock and water to boil.

In a large oven-safe casserole dish or steel pan (I used a 12" ovenproof stainless steel skillet) over low-medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and carrot with a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, vegetables, lemon zest, and another big pinch of salt and cook until they begin to soften (another 5 minutes). Add arborio rice and additional tablespoon of oil to pan; stir to make sure that all the grains have a light coating of oil on them. Add the boiling stock-water mixture to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover dish (or transfer mixture from pan to an ovenproof casserole dish with a cover), and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Stir gently and add more hot stock if necessary (I have never had to). Taste and, if still al dente, bake for another 5-10 minutes.

While the risotto is cooking, slice or chop your basil and grate your Parmesan. Remove risotto from oven and stir in butter, lemon juice, Parmesan, basil, and red or black pepper. Serve hot, with extra Parmesan, basil, and red pepper flakes on hand.

* I used 5 cloves of garlic because I like garlic and it was by no means overwhelming.
** I used - and recommend using! - 1 small head of broccoli, 1 red pepper, 2 zucchinis, ~10 halved baby tomatoes. You might consider using: a diced butternut squash or a mix of mushrooms finished up with arugula at the end. That would be super tasty and ever so grown up of you.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Maybe I'll Make It

Minnesota has gone tundra. I'm reminded by my fellow Minneapolitans that it's all relative and that my family and I actually missed the REAL cold, which descended and camped out for nearly two weeks in late December and the first days of 2018, and which we escaped in order to spend the 2017 holidays a mile in from the Pacific Coast Highway, no jackets in sight. (We couldn't have planned it better!) We were welcomed back mildly a week ago, and were spoiled with an unseasonable dose of spring until yesterday, when the outside-temperature gauge on my car informed me that we were officially in the single digits, and later the negative digits. It's customary to complain or at least commiserate with the locals about the cold here. I mean, what we deal with most winters is unfathomable to most of the world. But as a California native, I don't take the cold for granted. I kind of love it. It affords a lot of structure to your days and forces you to think before you act. It also makes you want to turn on that oven. And stove and slow-cooker and brand new instant pot. And maybe it will make me blog again.

Last night we made this chicken faux pho for the second time - it's spectacular, and even more so on day two, you should make it!

In the upcoming freezing days, here are some things that have motivated me to get cooking:

Lasagna Style Spaghetti Squash

Baked Lemon Spinach Risotto
Lentil Bites
Tempeh and Sweet Potato Hash
Salted Butter Chocolate Cookies

Wish me luck!

And a very Happy 2018 to you!