…But before you get too excited, its brown rice risotto.
See, I’m trying to eat healthier. It’s been a journey for me the past few years, trying to change my food habits. It doesn’t help that I’m married to the king of White Bread and Honeybuns who won’t eat anything that has whole grains and artfully dodges the vegetables I put on his plate. If it isn’t smothered in gravy and/or deep fried, it’s a sacrilege.
Despite this, I’ve been making a huge effort to remove bad things from my diet. I started with corn syrup, then MSG, then most pre-packaged foods, and I’m currently working on white flour and white sugar. The sugar has proved to be the hardest. Who knew that sugar is in just about everything? As an acknowledged chocoholic that can’t call it a day without some of the brown stuff, I’m really struggling with this. I’ve thought about trying out agave nectar and seeing what all the hubub is about, but that’s another story for another day.
So. In getting rid of things like pre-packaged foods, I’ve had to start coming up with innovative and yummy ideas for side dishes to utilize vegetables. I have to be especially creative because I’ve got the pickiest eater in the world in my house…oh yeah, and a toddler too.
I’ve always wanted to make risotto. Everytime I’ve ever tried, however, things have gone awry. I was out of white wine, or I burned the rice on the bottom of the pan, or the cheese melted in a glob. It’s never been pretty. When I got the brainstorm to try my own version of brown rice risotto I figured it’d be no different. And yet, somehow the heavens parted and it was a.maze.ing. I’m telling you, I went back to hover over the pot and eat leftovers off the serving spoon.
I started by roasting garlic. I just had a hankering to roast some, so I incorporated it into the recipe. Here we go!
Brown Rice Risotto with Crisp Vegetables
2-3 cloves of garlic, roasted
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 cup white or portabello mushrooms, chopped
1 small handful chopped carrots*
1 small handful of snow peas or sugar snap peas, chopped
1 small handful broccoli, chopped
1 small handful asparagus, chopped
2 medium sized scallion stalks, chopped
1 1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 vegetable bullion cube (I find a great organic brand that does not use MSG at Earth Fare)
1 heaping tablespoon reduced fat sour cream
To start, take the cloves of roasted garlic while still hot and place them in a bowl about 30 minutes before you are ready to start cooking. Add a generous glug of olive oil, and using a spoon or fork, mash the garlic until the oil incorporates and becomes infused. Set aside.
To begin add a tablespoon of butter to a medium sized pot. Add the garlic infused oil and heat the two together on medium high, until the butter is melted. Add the chopped onions and peppers, saute for a minute or so, then add the mushrooms. Stir the mixture to incorporate. Once the mushrooms have begun to shrink, add the rice. Stir it lightly to just toast it and get it coated with the oil, only about 30 seconds. Add the bullion cube, roasted garlic pulp, and 1 cup water; stir.
Reduce heat to medium and cover the pot with a lid. Periodically check the rice mixture to see if it has absorbed the water. In the meantime, lightly blanch your chopped vegetables by adding them to a pot of boiling water and cooking them for 1-3 minutes. Remove them while they are still brightly colored and crisp. You can add them to a bowl of icy water to ‘shock’ them and stop the cooking process, or you can just set them aside in a dish. Continue to add water to the rice mixture 1/2 cup at a time until the rice is just shy of completely tender. Make sure you stir continually so the rice doesn’t stick, and if you think the temperature on the burner is too hot, turn it down to medium low. This is a process – depending on the type of rice you get, it could take anywhere from 30-45 minutes to get the rice to the desired doneness. So be patient!
Once the rice is nearing the finish line, add the sour cream; stir. Once it is incorporated, add a generous handful of parmesan cheese and stir again. Turn heat down to low. Let the mixture cook just long enough to melt the cheese and absorb the sour cream; about a minute and a half.
In the meantime, add your slivered almonds to an ungreased/unoiled small saucepan and toast them on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, shaking or stirring to uniformly toast them. Be careful to keep a check on them. Once you smell the toasted almonds they are done. If you leave them on any longer they will burn.
Add your vegetables, stirring to blend. Turn off the heat on the burner. Just before serving, stir in the toasted almonds and chopped scallions. Don’t leave these out – they are what make the dish! Trust me!
Let the deliciousness commence!
*I eyeball how many veggies to use based on how much I have left, what is about to go bad, etc. Just base how many of each you use according to how much you want in your dish. You could also use many other veggies in this meal, including squash, zuchinni, eggplant – the sky is the limit. Also, I use organic and local when I can.