When my daughter started eating solids, I sought out the freshest organic vegetables I could find, carefully steamed them, pureed them in a food processor, and then, because she has always had a thing about texture, sent them through a chinois mousseline to get a silky-smooth consistency. The resulting purees, 1/4-cup portions packed with vitamins, minerals, and a mother’s love (not to mention valuable time) were soundly rejected.
The problem wasn’t the vegetables, but rather the freshness. My little one would happily eat jar after jar of commercially prepared baby food. Broccoli and carrots, amaranth and zucchini, and even beets were all met with glee and an open mouth provided they were not made in my kitchen while a locked jaw and disdain met my fresh attempts at her favorite combinations. As someone who cooks for a living, this was discouraging.
Almost one year later, after a fair share of both hits and misses when it comes to feeding baby, I’ve come to grips with the fact that I may have a bit of a picky-eater on my hands. While she’ll happily gorge herself on berries, yogurt, raisins, and waffles, vegetables require a bit of convincing and creativity on my part.
Since we’ve already established that I’m the type of
lunatic person that would use a chinoise mousseline to make food for a 6-month old, it shouldn’t surprise you that I would make risotto in an attempt to get her to eat her vegetables.
Now give me a minute. I see you shaking your head. I feel your judgment. But wait and think about this. Yes, it may seem insane to make risotto for a toddler, but my reasons aren’t purely virtuous. After all, whether you are 15 months or 50 years, there are few things better than a good risotto and this one, packed with springtime vegetables, will certainly make everyone at your table happy even while they eat their vegetables. Happy cooking!
Spring Risotto – Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 2-3 as a main course
Everyone gets their vegetables in this delicious and nutritious dish.
4 cups less-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 leek, white and light green part thinly sliced, washed
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
¼ lb Cremini mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
8 thin asparagus stalks, sliced into 1-inch lengths
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
½ cup frozen green peas
1 large handful of spinach
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garnish: chopped flat leaf parsley
In a small saucepan, heat the chicken broth over low heat until hot.
Melt three tablespoons of the butter in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the leek, celery, and carrot and cook until just beginning to soften, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and chopped asparagus and cook, stirring constantly, for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add in the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Stir in the Arborio rice and stir constantly until the grains become opaque in the center. This usually takes between 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the vermouth to the rice and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed. In 1/2-cup ladlefuls, add the broth to the rice, stirring after each addition until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat until most of the broth has been added (usually risotto requires about 3 cups liquid) or until the risotto reaches your desired tenderness (I like mine with a little bite). Be patient. This can take up to 30 minutes.
When you’ve added almost all of the liquid, stir in the frozen peas and spinach and cook until the peas are cooked and the spinach has wilted. When the risotto is to your liking, stir in the Parmesan and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season the risotto to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and let sit for five minutes before serving. Serve sprinkled with a little chopped parsley.