Risotto with Spinach and Peas

Root canal food for the semi-recovered.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this summer I had a root canal. The root canal was finally completed today (yay, fillings!) but I’m still on antibiotics for the foreseeable future (or the next two weeks, whichever).

All of these issues and dentist visits have left my mouth less than happy about eating. For quite a few days I subsisted on pudding, applesauce, yogurt, and bananas. But, I really can’t keep myself out of the kitchen for too long. So when I finally felt up to it, I learned how to make risotto.

My previous risotto-making experiences all involved a magical box from Trader Joe’s complete with rice, seasonings, and foolproof instructions for “mushroom” risotto (sorry, TJs–powdered mushroom isn’t the same as mushroom mushroom). Unfortunately, I was all out of the magic risotto boxes and didn’t feel like going all the way to Trader Joe’s, so I grabbed a bag of Arborio rice at Kroger while waiting for my antibiotics to be filled.

It was a little intimidating to be branching off on my own this time, but I discovered that risotto is a great food for those times when you’re not feeling 100%, and it’s also…easy! The basic technique is pour and stir, pour and stir–nothing too challenging there. It just takes a little patience and love to make it just right.

My first attempt. Basic, delicious risotto.

The risotto in the pictures below is actually my second attempt and features spinach and peas–use any vegetables, meats, etc. that you like, or keep it plain. Most recipes make between four and six servings; I’ve cut this one down to about three. It’s based on the basic recipe on the back of the bag of rice.

Risotto with Spinach and Peas

Serves 3-4 as a side

One of the keys to a successful risotto-making experience is to have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dry Arborio rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 one medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth, or as desired
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • pepper
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas + 1 cup spinach, chopped (or other add-ins as desired)


Steps

  1. Warm the broth in saucepan on the stove until steaming, or microwave it for a minute or two and keep warm. Heat the butter and oil together over medium heat in a saucepan or small skillet. Add the onion and cook until golden.

    I let my onion get a little too golden-brown.. emphasis on the brown. Cook yours a little less than I did.
  2. Add the garlic and rice. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes, coating the rice in oil/butter and toasting it until the grains are slightly translucent around the edges.

    Stir well to coat the rice grains with the fat.
  3. Add enough broth to the pan to just cover the rice. (Some recipes deglaze the pan with white wine before this step. Let the wine cook off before adding the broth.)

    Add enough broth to just cover the rice. I think I used about a cup here.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. You should be able to see the bottom of the pan as you stir.

    Action shot! Just about there.
  5. Add the broth 1/2 a cup at a time, cooking and stirring until all the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Taste the rice periodically to see how close it is to being done (you may not need all of the liquid). Most risottos are al dente; I cooked mine a bit more since chewing was a problem.
  6. If you’ve got an add-in that needs a little cooking time in the risotto (like frozen peas and spinach, for instance), add it to the pot when the rice is close to being done. I added my veggies just before the last scoop of broth.
    In go the veggies.
    And more broth.

    If your add-in just needs a quick heat-through, you can add it at the end or with the cheese in the next step.

  7. When the rice is done cooking and the risotto has reached your desired consistency, turn off the heat and add the Parmesan cheese and black pepper to taste. Stir well until incorporated. Serve immediately.
    Add delicious cheese…

    …and stir until you get something amazing. Sorry for the weird lighting in this photo.

Now, if you’re like me and you’re not going to eat three-four servings of risotto immediately, you might wonder what you can do with it.

You can store it in the refrigerator and reheat it later–it will NOT have the same lovely, creamy consistency. However, I still think it’s pretty good.

Another option: risotto cakes. Mix one beaten egg with about a cup of risotto. Heat olive oil over medium high heat; pour in the risotto mixture and flatten it out into one large or several small cakes. Fry, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides. Season with salt and pepper and serve. They’re great topped with tomato sauce, with a simple salad on the side, or with eggs (what can I say, they remind me of hash browns!).

Risotto cake…like a hash brown made of rice instead of potato.

There you have it. An easy, simple meal practically guaranteed to make you feel better, no matter what’s wrong with you. I think risotto has become my new chicken noodle soup.

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