Risotto with a Twist

043I had quite a few veggies to use up and I’d been craving risotto.  I sometimes like adding many vegetables to risotto, but sometimes you can definitely have too much of a good thing.  My favorite versions usually have a “less is more” approach where you can taste all of the elements.  This can be tricky when you have a lot of different things you’re trying to use up before you have to contribute them to the compost bin.

I was all set to use a giant leek we got from the farm along with garlic and some shallot.  We had some really nice kohlrabi, so I thought that might be nice as the main flavor in the risotto.  The problem then was what to do with the other remnant veggies from other cooking in the week:  part of a large butternut squash, the other half of the kohlrabi, some celeriac/celery root.  They were getting close to the end and I hadn’t cooked as much this week as I had hoped and planned.

Desperation leads to inspiration.  Or in my case, memory.

I had one other time had an extra abundance of vegetables and limited capacity to cook and/or eat.  At that time, I used my juicer.  I had some good results and some not so good results.

Soup = bad result!

Juicing can be a great way to reduce a lot of veggies to a manageable amount of liquid and if you’re really good, the pulp can be transformed into delicious breads.  I think making fritters with veggie pulp would be an especially good experiment.  Soup, however, is not so great.  I wanted to make a quick soup for a friend so I juiced some onion and pumpkin.  Looked and tasted great.  I heated it to turn it into soup and it separated into liquid and semi solids.  It still tasted great, but it looked awful.  My friend, proving her mettle, ate it.  There’s a reason she may be one of my dearest friends.  Of course, raw juices are meant to be consumed raw so it’s no surprise that the addition of heat led to some unfortunate results.

Risotto = good result!

Risotto, on the other hand, turns a negative into a positive.  Because most of the liquid is absorbed into the arborio rice, any separation is easy to overlook.  The first time I tried this experiment, I used carrot/celery/onion juice and it made a pretty tasty end result.

For this risotto, I had intended to use chopped up leek, shallot, garlic and kohlrabi with chicken broth.  As I was pulling out my veggies, I encountered the remnants and felt dread that they might soon be beyond use.  I remembered the previous juice “broth” and decided to give it a try again.  I peeled the kohlrabi, celeriac and butternut squash but made quick work of them in the juicer.  I ended up with about 3 cups of juice.  I added in enough chicken stock, though I could have used water, to make 4 cups to make the ration of 1 cup uncooked arborio rice to 4-ish cups of broth work.

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I was in business.

Risotto is not particularly hard.  You start by sautéing the veggies of your choice in butter and/or olive oil.  I used olive oil and added in the leek, shallot and garlic.  Once a little soft, I added in the kohlrabi chopped into relatively small cubes.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the leek flavor so I only used about 1/2 the kohlrabi this way and the rest was in the juice.

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035When things were soft and there was a little “brown” on the pan, I deglazed the pan with alcohol but you could use broth or water.  In the absence of the classic (white wine), I used a bit of sake.  Then I added in the un-rinsed arborio rice and sautéed to coat with the veggie mixture for a few minutes.  To this I added a bit of my veggie juice and broth and brought to a boil, stirring.  In the classic technique, you’d heat the broth and ladle it in bit by bit, stirring and adding more broth as each addition has been absorbed.  I’ve seen all kinds of variations on this including adding it all at once and baking it in the oven.  Having experimented, I’ve gotten pretty decent results by adding the liquid in in two additions and not bothering to heat it first.  So, I did add just a little to start, got things nice and hot, and then when most of that liquid was absorbed, added in the rest of the juice and then kept stirring occasionally until the rice was tender.  Depending on the rice, this can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes and sometimes 4 cups is enough liquid and sometimes I need more like 5 cups.

I cooked some kale to go with it on the side.  I would say the predominant flavor, due to the juiced broth, was pumpkin so it was definitely different than it would have been if I’d used chicken broth.  In that case, I think the kohlrabi flavor would have been more pronounced.  Still, it was really great and the chunks of kohlrabi along with the overall smoothness of everything else was especially pleasing.  Creamy.  With some pepper and cheese to serve, it was one of my favorite risottos I’ve ever made.

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