My neighbors are wonderful people. Besides being cool, fun, and nice, this week they've shared their harvest bounty with me: fresh herbs and zucchini! I know, I'm the only person who is thrilled to get zucchini. It is just so versatile. Cakes, bread, soup, stir-fry, and now risotto. Fresh herbs too. My growing space only has an sheltered Eastern exposure where herbs languish, so gifts of herbs and veggies are most welcome.
While standing over a warm stove top for an hour stirring isn't necessarily convenient on a week night after work, risotto makes it well worth the time. With air conditioning and a tall kitchen stool it is much cooler that grilling! Plus if you live at lower altitude the cooking time can go down by a third or more.
Keys to a creamy, lustrous risotto are:
completely coat and warm the risotto in the oil and onions
then deglaze with the white wine
only add a cup of broth at a time and it must be hot, almost boiling when you add it, keeping the temperature in the pot steady.
Stir, stir, stir
If you are fortunate to have kitchen minions aka kids, they can help stir in shifts, between getting home work done. It isn't unusual when I have girl friends over to enjoy a glass of Crios Torrontes, take turns stirring while catching up. For me it is soothing to be in the moment (or hour) sipping a glass and contemplating what else to make with my neighbor's bounty.
Zucchini Risotto with Lemon Thyme
2-3 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 c arborio rice (I prefer Lundberg organic)
1 c chilled white wine
6 c hot fluid – either veggie broth, chicken broth or water, your choice
8 oz chopped zucchini
small bunch lemon thyme I used the leaves of six to eight 6” stems
white pepper to taste (Penzey's is my preferred)
sea salt to taste
Warm a 7 quart dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until the onions are translucent.
Add the garlic, saute for a couple minutes to release the flavor.
Add the arborio rice to the the pot, stirring well to completely coat with the olive oil. While the rice starts to toast, put two cups of the broth in the microwave and heat to the boiling point.
After the rice has toasted for a couple minutes – so the pan is fairly dry and the rice isn't sticking or getting scorch spots – add the cup of white wine to deglaze the pan. This will also help the thick starch coat on the rice break down faster.
Once the wine has absorbed, add in the first two cups of heated broth/liquid. Stir the pot slowly and continuously until the rice absorbs the most of the fluid, about 15-20 minutes.
While stirring, heat the rest of the broth one cup at a time.
Each time the liquid is mostly absorbed, add another cup of the just boiling broth, until all six cups of fluid are incorporated into the pot.
With the sixth cup of broth, add the chopped zucchini to the pot. Continue stirring.
Drain and rinse the beans. Add them to the pot, stir another five minutes to warm the beans.
Ladle into bowls, sprinkling each serving with lemon thyme leaves.
Salt and pepper to taste.