COOK: Summer Veggie Risotto with Creamy Basil-Walnut Pesto
The middle of summer offers the freshest vegetables you can grow. Minutes from the garden, ripe veggies are at their best. Mixed with the large, starchy Italian short-grain rice (AKA Arborio), this recipe is light but substantial enough to call a meal. Risotto often ends as a cheesy-starchy dish that tastes more like pasta than a grain but in this recipe I kept the cheese amount minimal so the dish is lighter than most risottos.
Use the fresh veggies you have available: asparagus, bell pepper, spinach, tomato can be added or substituted.
When used as a sauce for pasta, pesto dominates. Adding a bit of broth to the pesto creates a creamy texture because the broth and olive oil emulsifies when processed, producing a lighter pesto sauce that is perfect as a topping.
This recipe offers six servings as a side dish and four servings as a meal. I don't recommend freezing leftovers; reduce the recipe by half if needed. Great for a summer potluck!
SUMMER VEGGIE RISOTTO
2 carrots, cleaned & cut into ¼ inch rounds
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1 zucchini, cut into ½ inch dice
4-6 green onions, sliced (both white & green)
1 cup finely chopped kale
¼ cup chopped garlic scapes (flower stalk of hard neck garlic) (or 2 large garlic cloves, minced)
1 cup Arborio rice (do not substitute regular rice)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ tsp. Salt
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add carrots and cook for about 3 minutes. Add peas & zucchini. Bring to a boil again and cook for 1 minute. Drain veggies in colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
Prepare pesto and set aside, covered.
Heat broth in a saucepan on low heat (do not boil).
In wok or dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add green onions, kale, garlic scapes (or garlic) and saute over low heat until softened. (Avoid browning) Add the rice and stir around to coat with oil.
Add ½ cup of warm broth and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the broth is gone and rice is al dente. Do not abandon the rice; it must be moved in the liquid to absorb. This process can take 20-30 minutes.
Stir in the cooled veggies and grated cheese.
Serve immediately with a big dollop of Creamy Basil Walnut Pesto.
CREAMY BASIL-WALNUT PESTO
1 cup walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup broth
¼ tsp. salt
In a food processor, add walnuts and garlic and process until crumbly.
Add basil leaves, cheese, olive oil and salt process until blended (this will leave basil in chopped pieces) or if you prefer, until it forms a paste.
Add broth or water while running the processor until the water and oil has emulsified. The pesto should be the consistency of the sauce and will be light yellow in color. Serve immediately.
* This recipe was inspired by a similar one found in the Gardener's Community Cookbook by Victoria Wise.