Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stir Crazy

I think I was still in high school the last time I tried my hand at making risotto. Oh, what a fantastic disaster that was. The rice didn't cook, and I was left with a colony of teeth-shattering little bullets swimming haplessly in a pool of tepid water. I remember being so, so mad at myself for botching those misleadingly simple directions: add broth and stir, add broth and stir...

As it turns out, risotto, while not exactly fickle, is a a time-consuming affair that requires lots of special attention and constant stimulation (too much like my 18-year-old self for me to tackle at the time, perhaps?). I bought some arborio rice awhile back, thinking I might roll my sleeves up and try to settle this old vendetta. Tonight - this rainy, frigid night - was the night, and I am very pleased with the results. So, so yummy, perfect for winter, and one of those recipes you would never know is vegan. The creamy white beans are the perfect addition to this Italian classic, and the loads of garlic with lemon and basil... wow. My apartment smelled like the North End on an early summer night.

Oh, and this is my first go at this recipe, but I'm pretty sure you can achieve nearly the same result without the cashew creme; it just seemed like a good idea as I was hashing out this recipe in my head. But I think the starch from the rice alone should do the trick.

White Bean and Spinach Risotto with Cashew Creme

olive oil for saute
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
12 oz cannelini (white kidney) beans (drain and rinse first if using canned)
1 1/2 c arborio rice
1/4 dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio
4 c hot vegetable stock
1/2 c nutritional yeast
12-15oz spinach
1 tbs dried basil
juice from one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c cashews (preferably unsalted and raw)
1 c water

For the cashew creme, add cashews to a food processor, chopper or blender and pulse until you get a fine, crumbly meal. Add water and process until smooth and frothy. Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and carrots and saute until tender and translucent, about four minutes. Add the beans and stir to coat. Add the rice and stir gently for a good minute to coat with the oil. Add wine (relish in the WOOSH sound), and stir until absorbed, about a minute.

Add 1/2 c of stock and stir stir stir until absorbed. Repeat the process: add stock, 1/2 c at a time, and stir until the rice absorbs the liquid. One cup into the process, the rice will start to get transluce and take on a gooier, stickier consistency with each half-cup addition. The rice should become creamy and cooked through until just al dente; not too crunchy, not too mushy. You may need to add or omit water by the half-cup to achieve this (and you'll need and extra half-cup if you omit the cashew creme), so test the rice to see when it's done. All told, this step should take about 25 minutes. After adding four cups of stock, pour in the cashew cream and stir until absorbed.

Stir in the spinach, then the nutritional yeast. Stir to combine. Add basil and lemon juice and stir; add salt and pepper, adjusting seasonings if need be (I like this with lots of fresh pepper). Let stand five minutes before serving. Serves 6.

1 comment:

Chef K said...

Its the stirring that people screw up. Unlike long grain rice, you want that starchiness to come out of the arborio, which gives risotto its distinct creamy texture. The stirring agitates the rece, coaxing all that starch right out.

I like doing a little white whine with my risotto. First I cork it, then I drink a few glasses while I am stirring, add a little to taste, and then drink the rest.

Just don't forget to stir while you are drinking.