By Freya Bellin
I had always assumed that risotto was difficult to make—and that by some magical gift only chefs were able to turn measly rice into something rich and creamy. Yet it turns out that risotto, aside from needing a lot of attention, is actually pretty easy to prepare. This one is untraditional in that it uses a short grain brown rather than the standard Arborio, but I hardly noticed the flavor difference at all. It was still starchy and creamy but also delicate, thanks to the grated zucchini that truly just melts into the rice. The flavors are bright and summery: while the lemon is quite strong, it’s very well balanced by the fresh basil. You may try using a bit less than a lemon’s worth of juice and adding more to taste. I say to go for the cheese, butter, and basil. They all complement each other nicely and add a little richness. As for the egg variation? Definitely a success. Most savory dishes can benefit from a runny yolk, and this was no exception. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Lemony Zucchini Risotto
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 45 to 60 minutes
Risotto can be almost meager or incredibly luxurious; this one manages to be both, as the grated zucchini mostly melts away, leaving behind a creamy richness that doesn’t depend on tons of rice or mounds of cheese. Parboiling the brown rice as directed in Step 1 helps the rice absorb water quickly and evenly.
1 cup short-grain brown rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1⁄2 cup dry white wine or water
3 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
4 small or 2 large zucchini (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), grated
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1 tablespoon butter or additional olive oil, optional
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish, optional
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Stir in the brown rice, adjust the heat so that the water bubbles steadily, and cook, without stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well.
2. Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, just a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add the wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.
3. Begin to add the stock, about 1⁄2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.
4. After about 15 minutes of adding stock, stir in the zucchini and cook, stirring, until it releases its liquid and the mixture again becomes dry. Begin tasting the rice about 5 minutes later; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch. It could take as long as 45 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the lemon zest and juice, and the Parmesan, butter, and basil if you’re using them. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, garnished with additional basil if you like.
Lemony Zucchini Risotto with Fried Eggs. When the risotto is almost done, put a medium skillet over medium heat for about a minute. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter and swirl it around the pan. When the oil is hot, crack 4 eggs into the skillet. When the whites become opaque, a minute later, turn the heat to low and sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper. Cook until the yolks are set as you like them and the whites are completely firm; cut through the uncooked parts, if necessary, to encourage the still-liquid white to spread over the surface of the pan. Put 1 fried egg on top of each serving of risotto.