The farmers markets are overflowing with greenery, and new springy greenery like pea shoots, fava tops, spinach, . . . . I love kale and collards and rarely tire of them but these new tender leaves and shoots just taste like spring. We packed home many bunches of these beauties this weekend.
I always make risotto with spinach. It’s a standby but this time I thought I’d invert the ratio of rice to greens. I used 1 pound of spinach (which is a lot of spinach) and one large bunch of pea shoots in addition to three large green garlic stalks and 1 scant cup of rice. Much like this recipe which calls for copious amounts of mustard greens to a small amount of bulgur, the technique melted all those greens into a perfect bowl of creamy goodness. And my son happily ate a big serving after at first having turned his nose up at the un-risotto-like looking risotto!
I can imagine adapting this idea to different greens–fava tops, chard, whole bunches of parsley or cilantro, etc. I’d love to hear reports if you try this or any other versions.
And because I couldn’t help myself and because I didn’t have time to make anything else I topped our bowls of risotto with a fried egg to make a complete meal. As you know, most things are suited to being topped in such a way in my mind.
And as per usual, I used my homemade veggie bouillon instead of chicken or vegetable stock, adding another layer of green. Speaking of veggie bouillon I have finally started making it to sell, so if you find yourself wishing you always had it on hand but never get around to making it (and you live in Portland) please get in touch.
Very Green Risotto
I love the ratio of greens to rice in this dish. It is light, fresh and lovely and you can substitute with other greens (see above). It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.
If you’re using pea shoots, taste the stems and tendrils raw. They should be tender and delicious raw as well. If you find tough fibrous parts, trim those off. And chop the spinach and pea shoots quite finely, like into 1-2-inch pieces. The greens blend with the rice more easily when the pieces aren’t too big.
1 large bunch spinach (thoroughly washed), chopped
1 bunch pea shoots, well washed and chopped
6-7 cups vegetable or chicken stock or homemade bouillon (see above)
3 or more stalks green garlic, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 ounces bacon, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil but green garlic particularly likes to be sautéed in butter)
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan bring 7 cups water with about 10 teaspoons of homemade veggie bouillon to a boil and keep at a bare simmer. Be sure to taste the broth to make sure it’s well-seasoned but not too salty. (or use a chicken or vegetable stock of your choice).
In a large sauté pan cook onion, green garlic and bacon in 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil (or just olive oil) over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in rice, stirring until each grain is coated with oil and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine (if using) and cook, over moderately high heat, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Add about 3/4 cup simmering broth and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed.
Since we’re using so many greens it’s helpful to add the greens in increments. I think the spinach is good cooked a bit longer but the pea shoots are best added at the end so start with handfuls of spinach about half way through the cooking process (you can judge this by seeing how much broth you have left over). Continue adding broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, cooking, stirring and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until about half of broth has been added. Continue adding broth in the same manner until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes. A few minutes before the rice is tender stir in the pea shoots and a cup of broth. Cook for a minute until shoots are just wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and parmesan, nutmeg and a little more broth is it looks a bit dry, mix well and remove pan from heat. Let rest for 7-10 minutes, covered, before serving.
Spinach risotto is light, fresh and lovely. It’s one of my favorite risottos. It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.