Sometimes I cannot get too much of a good thing. Though we’ve all heard that moderation is best, I’ve often tended towards extremes when it comes to the more joyful aspects of life, such as food and dancing. Too much ballet? Nearly impossible. Collecting more than enough risotto recipes? Not likely.
Let’s just start with what it is, the basic make-up of the dish. Tender creamy rice, rich stock, tiny bites of vegetables and bright fresh herbs, wine, and often a generous sprinkling of sharp, aged cheese. All melding together into something soft, warm, fragrant and comforting, that can serve as a side dish or stand on its own as a meal.
Then there is the process, which is nearly as good, if not better than the product. You’re alone, chopping ingredients, heating the stock, rinsing fresh parsley and herbs. The smell of the wine as it hits the hot pan, mixing with the rice and olive oil or butter, is overpowering for a moment. You add the vegetables and a cup of stock and everything begins to meld into a mellower cooking scent. You stir and stir. Pull a stool or chair up to the stove, put on some music and pour yourself some of the wine. More stock, more stirring, the rice begins to turn the mixture cloudy, releasing starch. You are obligated to be here now for this pot of risotto, you cannot take a phone call, or put the laundry in the dryer, you must keep pouring, and stirring. You toss in the herbs and the cheese and give a few final stirs. Serve right away, in wide shallow bowls. Enjoy.
Risotto with Scallions, Lemon, and Basil, from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
4 bunches scallions
3 Tbs butter/margerine
salt and pepper
6 cups of vegetable stock (give or take a half cup)
1/3 cup finely diced shallots or white onion
1 1/2 cups Abrorio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cream or creme fraiche (I omitted this)
1 cup finely chopped parsley
4 thinly sliced basil leaves
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh parmesan (I use sheep’s milk romano)
Trim and thinly slice the white part of the scallions, plus a few inches of the greens (save the rest of the greens for another use). Cook them in one Tbs of the butter (or margarine or a margarine/olive oil combo) until softened, 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Have the stock simmering on the stove. Melt the remaining butter in a wide pot. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the rice, stir to coat the grains, and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer until it’s absorbed. Add 2 cups stock, cover and cook at a lively simmer until absorbed.
Begin adding the rest in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed before adding the next. When the rice is nearly finished cooking, stir in the scallions and cream (if using) and cook for 1 minute. Add the parsley, basil, and lemon zest. Taste for salt, season with pepper, and serve with a dusting of cheese.