Crisper Drawer Risotto | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

Risotto might not be top of mind when you think of budget meals, but hear me out. What better way to glam up the floppy carrots, wilty greens, and otherwise less-than-perfect produce languishing in your crisper drawer than by throwing it all in a pot of creamy, rich rice, a dish that’s more than the sum of its parts? Sure, you could make a stew or a soup or a chili, but risotto is just a little fancier, a little more elevated.

In my kitchen sink, crisper drawer, leftover-friendly risotto, I used carrots, okra, and kale that were past their prime. I chopped them all up small and cooked my rice in vegetable broth, adding vegan butter towards the end for extra richness, then topped my dish with roasted Brussels sprouts for added texture, nutrition, and deliciousness. A squeeze of lemon brought it all together, adding a little acidic punch to the savory dish.

I’ve provided a recipe below, but you can use it as a template for any ingredients that would otherwise go to waste (and waste your money). Peas, broccoli, carrots, squash… anything and everything can find a home in risotto with a little creativity. I left my flavors pretty basic, but you can fancy up your DIY risotto by cooking the rice in tomato sauce thinned with water, adding a splash of white wine, stirring in a couple cloves of roasted garlic, topping it with vegan parmesan, etc. Be creative and have fun! (And check out the recipe notes below for a few more suggestions.)

Risotto is NOT as intimidating a dish as many folks make it out to be, and it’s just about guaranteed to taste good no matter what you throw in it. (Just be sure to cook those grains until they’re soft.) And if arborio rice is not in the budget, try it with any short-grain rice: They are a fine stand-in for arborio if you cook ‘em low and slow with lots of liquid.

Crisper Drawer Risotto with Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 6-8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 – 2 cups chopped veggies (I used carrots, okra, and kale)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Optional topping:

  • 1 pint Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (cut into sixths if the sprouts are particularly large)
  • 1 tablespoon olive  oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 415˚F and start heating about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat
  2. Toss trimmed and quartered Brussels sprouts with a little oil, salt, and pepper, then tip onto baking sheet. (I don’t usually line my sheet; the oil prevents sticking and I actually like the near-burnt bits on my sprouts!) Place in preheated oven and set timer for 15 minutes.
  3. When the oil in the pot is just shimmering, add the chopped vegetables and cook for a couple minutes, then add the sliced garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, just until the garlic begins to turn golden.
  4. Add the rice and stir so that the rice is coated with the oil, veggie, and garlic mixture. Add a cup of the vegetable broth and stir to combine.
  5. Over the next 20-30 minutes, keep checking the rice and adding more broth as it starts to get soaked up. Give the rice a good stir every couple minutes, but don’t feel like you need to stand over the pot the entire time. You might not use all the broth, and that’s okay.
  6. After the sprouts have roasted for about 15 minutes, use a spatula to flip most of them over. Roast for another 10-15 minutes until they’re as crispy as you’d like them. Turn off the heat and leave them in the oven. (If they’re too blackened, remove from oven and set aside.)
    Bonus! If the leaves of your sprouts start to burn in the oven, just scoop them out with your spatula and give yourself a little mid-cooking treat. They are like crispy little sprout chips.
  7. Taste the risotto as the rice begins to soften to test whether it’s done. Towards the end of the cooking process, add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and any additional spices you want to try. Turn off the heat and stir in the vegan butter (if using).
  8. Drizzle with lemon juice, top with roasted Brussels sprouts, and serve right away.
Notes:
  • Use whatever veggies you have available. They likely won’t add a ton of flavor but will provide fiber and nutrients while bulking up the rice.
  • Increase the garlic to as many cloves as you’d like, or substitute with diced shallots or onions. Do try to use at least one allium, though!
  • If you want to cut down on the veggie broth (or don’t want to make too much and waste it), you can use hot water and just add a bouillon cube to the risotto to taste.
  • Feel free to swap out the crispy roasted Brussels sprouts for another roasted veggie (like broccoli) or something crunchy (like toasted nuts). You don’t absolutely have to use a crunchy, crispy topper, but I think it provides a really nice textural counterpoint.
  • The lemon juice at the end is non-negotiable! :)

Check out my Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts for another take on risotto, and share your favorite risotto recipe with me!

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Vegan risotto made with leftover veggies from your crisper drawer // govegga.com

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Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

LVV MoFo 2014 main

We’ve all got a favorite flavor pairing. Peanut butter and chocolate. Raspberries and chocolate. Coffee and chocolate. Wait, how did chocolate make its way into all those examples?! Oops. How about mango and cardamom? Pumpkin and cinnamon? And my sleeper favorite, butternut squash and sage. There’s something transcendent about that combination, but I don’t use it often enough. Every time I do, though, I’m reminded how lovely sage is—it has such a pure, clean scent, and it complements butternut squash like a dream. I think you’ll agree when you try this dish.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts
Serves four

  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (we keep a bottle of cheap wine in the fridge for cooking)
  • 4-6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash, mashed or pureed (you can roast a squash in advance and keep it in the fridge, then just scoop out the insides)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage (fresh sage would be nice too!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegan butter (optional)
  • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, for topping

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-6 minutes until translucent. Add the rice and stir so that the rice is coated with the oil and onion mixture. Add the wine and it let it cook for a minute or two, then add a cup of the vegetable broth. Stir frequently and add more broth as the rice soaks it up.

The entire cooking process should take between 20 and 30 minutes; you might not use all the broth and that’s okay. Taste the rice as it begins to soften to test whether it’s done. Towards the end of the cooking process, add the nutritional yeast and spices. Turn off the heat and mash in the squash. Stir in the vegan butter (if using) and add salt and pepper to taste. Top with toasted hazelnuts and serve.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

This beautiful dish is just perfect for fall. Each serving offers modest amounts of protein, iron, and calcium, but this dish is just bursting with vitamin A thanks to the squash. According to the NIH, vitamin A “helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin.” (1) It also helps produce pigments in the retina. Vitamin A is fairly simple to obtain in your daily diet; a serving of this risotto offers more than 100% of your daily needs. Orange and yellow fruits and veggies are high in beta carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. And now that it’s pumpkin season, I bet we’ll all be taking in lots of vitamin A!

What are your favorite flavor pairings?

Sources cited:

(1) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002400.htm

Pantry Decimation Challenge: Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

Once I found out that I’d have a couple days to move (not just a single night and a couple hours), the Pantry Decimation Challenge I so eagerly started last month became much less of a priority. I wouldn’t be refrigerator-less, so I didn’t think I really needed to clean out my fridge or pantry.

And then I moved, combined my food with S’s food, and realized that, whoa, we’ve got a whole lotta food, and maybe I shouldn’t have abandoned that Pantry Challenge so quickly. At the very least, I should’ve tried to finish off the irritatingly small amounts of various foods that were lurking in my cupboards – the dregs of a bag of soy curls, a barely-filled jar of arborio rice, that sort of thing. But it’s not too late. S and I are trying to use up those random bits of food as we hold off on purchasing pantry staples. So last Saturday night when I was in charge of dinner, I forced myself to use pantry goods only. After poking around in the shelves brimming over with pasta and spices and beans, I concocted what turned out to be a very delicious meal.

Close-up of a bowl of mushroom risotto - creamy rice with visible flecks of mushrooms.

A very brown meal.

S heaped praise on this Shiitake Mushroom Risotto, and I didn’t even bother to deny it – it was that good. I don’t have a very precise recipe, because I mostly just threw things together and hoped for the best. If you’re nervous about making risotto, don’t be! It’s actually super easy as long as you’re willing to stand by the stove for about twenty minutes. You don’t even have to stir constantly; you can simultaneously tend to whatever else you’re cooking. You just have to give the rice a good stir every minute or so and keep an eye on it. Anyway, here’s a rough list of what I used and what I did:

Ingredients:

  • Dried shiitake mushrooms
  • TVP (I had a tiny bit left at the bottom of a bag)
  • Herbs (I used a homemade poultry seasoning mix with a dash of extra thyme)
  • Arborio rice (I probably used a little over 1/3rd of a cup)
  • Mushroom stock (I used maybe 1/3rd of a carton by the end)
  • Diced onion (Maybe ¼ cup?)
  • Earth Balance

Method:

Put the dried mushrooms and TVP in a bowl and cover them with stock. Set them aside to soak and rehydrate as you prepare the risotto.

In a small pot, add the rice and stock. For the stock, you probably want to start with 1.5 the amount of rice – so, if you use ½ cup of rice, add ¾ cup of stock. (I don’t bother to measure the liquids for risotto, though – the goal is to keep adding stock as the rice soaks it up.) Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn it down to medium-low – keep it simmering, but not boiling. Stir it frequently to ensure that no rice sticks to the bottom, and add more stock as necessary.

After you’ve got a good handle on your risotto (about when you’ve first turned it down to medium-low), heat some Earth Balance (or olive oil) in a small saucepan on medium and add the diced onion. Sauté the onions until they’re translucent, giving them the occasional stir in the pan. In the meantime, don’t forget your risotto!

Check your TVP and mushrooms. When they’re hydrated and the onions are translucent and fragrant, add the mushroom and TVP mixture (broth and all) to the saucepan with the onions. Depending on how thick your mushrooms are cut, they might take a little longer to hydrate. I added mine when they were soft to the touch. Add your spices, too.

Keep stirring that risotto and adding broth as you sauté the onions, mushrooms, and TVP. After you’ve been cooking the risotto for about 20 minutes, give it a taste – the rice should be soft and creamy, not terribly chewy. Test your mushrooms as well – you want them to be soft too.

Remove the risotto from the heat when it’s done. Add the onions, mushrooms, and TVP when they’re ready and stir everything to combine. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper if necessary. Enjoy!

What’s your risotto-making technique? What’s your favorite use of dried mushrooms (we’ve got a ton!)?

Carnival Squash Risotto

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

My encounters with risotto have been few and far between, but each has been magnificent. There was the one I ate the last time I was in Italy, definitely not vegan but definitely delicious. And then there was the sublime Sweet Pea Risotto I had at Karyn’s on Green this past August when S and I were in Chicago for a weekend. I still think about that dish every so often, sighing gently as I recall its delicate flavor and creamy texture. But, despite my thus far excellent encounters with risotto, I’ve never made it myself. Having read anecdotes that made risotto-cooking out to be a behemoth of a task, a David vs. Goliath-esque challenge, I feared that I’d somehow bungle it up and mar my otherwise perfect relationship with the dish.

So it was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I discovered a recipe for Carnival Squash Risotto just as I was beginning to fear that the aging carnival squash on my dining room table was withering on the inside, secretly rotting while its outsides remained colorful and bright. But because MoFo is a time for pushing your cooking comfort zone, I decided to try the recipe, and I’m very glad I did!

Head-on view of a bowl of creamy risotto, dotted with roasted squash seeds and topped with three basil leaves.

Rice-y goodness.

This was seriously so much easier to make than expected. Sure, I had pay close attention to my rice, but it only took a half hour of intermittent stirring, not the hour of intense labor I’d imagined. And the results were fantastic. I used Imagine’s No Chicken broth instead of my usual powder-based broth, and I think it made a difference – the rice was incredibly flavorful and – dare I say it? – creamy. I loved the little bits of squash that didn’t quite meld into the dish, but I do think the dried oregano and basil were both a little strong – they nearly overwhelmed the squash’s flavor. The fresh basil on top was a great touch, although the roasted squash seeds were more for appearance than anything – carnival squash seeds are a little too small to be worth roasting. Overall, though, this was a smashing success, and I’m happy that my third risotto encounter was a positive one, just like the first two.

What kind of risotto have you made? What cooking techniques scare (or scared!) you?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!