I am not a picky eater. If you present me with fresh food (not processed stuff), there isn’t much I won’t eat. Which makes me forget at times that not everyone has the same taste buds as I. Last night I was reminded of this when I introduced a friend to swiss chard. I had (somewhat) grown up eating this deep green and ruby red leafy veg; as my aunt grew tons of it in the summer, and my grandmother would cook it from time-to-time when her grandchildren were visiting. Maybe because it wasn’t always on the table in my own childhood home, I grew to associate it with being something special (like how my dad used to cook my brother and I chicken livers when my mom would go out of town – and for that reason we thought it was a “treat” and now love all offal). I enjoy eating chard once it starts popping up fresh in the summer. However, I discovered last night that not everyone has eaten swiss chard; and not everyone likes it. Luckily my friend is one who will at least try anything – but she’s also honest; so she wasn’t shy to admit that she couldn’t eat any more after the first bite. Thanks for trying though friend! We’ll find more veggies that you’re bound to love.
Which brings me to the dish in today’s post. I whipped up this risotto while my mother-in-law was visiting recently. I was having a typical risotto craving last week; and when trying to decide how to make it, I figured I would take advantage of all the wonderful vegetables that start popping out around springtime. Asparagus (of course), zucchini, fennel, vidalia onions, and radishes would all tuck themselves in between the starchy grains of arborio rice. Nearly all of the veggies were cooed into a softened submission by gently sauteing them in the pan before adding the rice. All except the radishes. These were sliced thin and kept to the side; then, when the rice was nearly al dente, they were cooked in a salted butter bath to adorn the springy risotto dish with their tender pinkiness.
I realized, when I was nearly done cooking, that perhaps my mother-and sister-in-law did not like radishes – I forgot that some folks find them too peppery. They didn’t respond with either joy or disgust at the mention of radishes, but did state they had never had them cooked. Upon tasting the buttered red gems they both proclaimed that radishes cooked in butter were very tasty, and they would definitely be cooking them up in the future. But then again, who doesn’t love anything cooked in butter?
Spring Vegetable Risotto
6 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 vidalia onion, diced (1/2 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, diced (1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup summer squash/zucchini, diced (I used a combination of green and yellow)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 Tbsp butter
3 radishes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1-2 Tbsp basil, chopped
Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan over medium heat.
In a large pot, braiser, or risotto pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, fennel and garlic to the pan and saute for 5 minutes, stirring gently, until softened. Add the asparagus, zucchini, salt and pepper to the pan; saute for another 3-5 minutes, or until beginning to soften (they do not have to be cooked through, as all the vegetables will continue to cook with the rice). Stir in the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, ensuring the rice is coated with any oil in the pan. Add the wine and stir until it is fully absorbed.
Begin to add the heated stock to the pan a ladle-full at a time, stirring gently until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to do so for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is al dente (or cooked to your liking). Careful not to stray too far from the stove, as you don’t want the rice to stick. When the rice is finished cooking, remove the pan from the heat and stir-in 2 Tbsp of butter and the parmesan cheese. Have a taste to determine if the risotto requires more salt or pepper – season to taste.
Meanwhile (when the rice is nearly finished cooking), melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the radishes and a small pinch of salt and cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until soft.
Pour the risotto into a serving dish and top with the buttered radishes and basil.