Summer Vegetable Risotto

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I made this risotto for my most demanding client.  I was nervous.  The night before she had dismissed my turkey burger without even trying it.  There was nothing wrong with it.   It had a nice sear, a mouth-watering aroma, and a taste (had she tried it) that was not just far from offensive, but quite delicious.    But this client is finicky and fickle and when she launches her plate across the room you know she isn’t pleased.

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A turkey burger is fairly easy to wipe off the floor, but risotto is messy and with each stir my apprehension grew.  Would she like it?  For that matter, would she even deem to try it?

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There is no rule that says when risotto should be eaten, but I tend to crave it during the cooler months.   To make risotto requires constant stirring on the part of the cook and during the dog days of summer standing over a hot pot is never appealing. If you can stand the heat however you are amply rewarded with this dish.  Packed with colorful vegetables, this risotto is a delicious way to enjoy the best of summer’s garden.

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I hoped my client would share my enthusiasm.   I placed a small bowl of risotto in front of her and carefully blew on the first spoonful to make sure it didn’t scorch her tongue.  She thoughtfully chewed her first bite.  I waited with fingers crossed and only exhaled when she took the spoon from my hand and returned for a second spoonful and then another and another.   Victory, at least for tonight, was mine.

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This summer risotto received the toddler seal of approval although the retention of this coveted standing is subject to the whims of an 18-month old.  I find such whims beyond understanding and a disclaimer, were there to be one, would certainly emphasize the provisional nature of any and all opinions expressed by these small humans. With that being said, this is by no means a toddler dish and those with more sophisticated palates will find it just as satisfying especially when accompanied by grilled lemon-garlic shrimp. Happy cooking!

Summer Vegetable Risotto – Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 2 as a main course

I like to serve this risotto with grilled lemon-garlic shrimp (I omit the rosemary skewers when preparing). The risotto paired with five or six (16/20 count) shrimp per serving makes for a substantial meal.

4 ½ cups homemade or less sodium store-bought vegetable stock , more if needed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry vermouth
1 cup fresh spinach, washed, stems removed, and cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the vegetable stock in a medium saucepan until hot, but not boiling.

Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and rosemary. Cook for about three minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the diced tomato and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in the garlic and cook briefly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the Arborio rice and sauté for 3 minutes until the center of each grain is opaque and the edge of each grain is translucent. 

Pour in the vermouth and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Continue stirring until the rice has almost completely absorbed the vermouth.

Add the vegetable stock in ladlefuls, stirring well after each addition. Don’t add the next ladleful of stock until the previous ladleful has been incorporated.

Continue adding stock until the rice is al dente. Stir in the spinach. Add more stock as needed until the risotto is to your liking. You do not need to use all the vegetable stock. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Remove the risotto from the heat and season it to taste with salt and pepper. Cover for five minutes to let the flavors meld before serving.

Have leftover risotto?   Arancini should be in your future.

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