Every week when we pick up our produce at the CSA, we also pick up one of their handy newsletters to read on the way home. It’s only one page, but, it’s packed with information. The front side is often about specific vegetables, what’s happening at the farm, information about how to use this week’s bounty, and other general information. The back has three to five recipes that use vegetables that we’re picking up, and, while we use those recipes only occasionally (mainly because we’re often missing several ingredients), they certainly give us new ideas for future meals.
This past week, we found a recipe that sounded good, and we had everything on hand, so we figured, why not? Plus, it was for risotto, which is always delicious in our book. So, we give credit to the recipe posted on the Tucson CSA website, although we did take some liberties with the recipe to match the way we make risotto.
If you can find them, Meyer lemons are the way to go. They’re tart, as are regular lemons, but, they’re slightly sweet, too. Plus, they taste more like a lemon with a slight orange flavor. They’re just plain delicious. You need to use arborio rice to make risotto. It’s a special short grain rice that releases a lot of starch while cooking, making a thick broth. Yes, we know that a few other rices that are used for risotto, but arborio rice is the easiest to find. Use good Parmesan-Reggiano cheese or good Grana Padano cheese, which means buying a chunk and grating it yourself. Good cheese does not come in a green shaker can.
Procedure in detail:
Prepare ingredients. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, cut the stems from the bok choi and chop, slice the leaves into pieces about 1/2 inch by an inch, zest lemon (remembering to scrub it clean of the protective wax applied to keep them looking good), and, finally, juice and strain the lemon. If you haven’t done so, grate cheese, too. There, we think that’s it. You’re ready, so let’s scratch out this risotto.
Heat stock. Heat the stock in a small saucepan until it’s barely simmering. We often set it on very low while we do all the prep work listed above, or, you can turn the heat to medium, and, when it’s quite hot, but not boiling, turn it to very low to keep it hot.
Cook onion and stems. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the onions, garlic, and bok choi stems. Stir and cook until the onion is tender and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add rice. Stir in the rice until it’s coated. Some people suggest that you toast the rice, but we don’t. We find that the rice releases more starch, meaning creamier sauce, if you stir the rice in the oil for under a minute.
Add wine and lemon juice. Add wine and lemon juice; It should boil almost immediately. Stir the mixture until the liquid has evaporated or is absorbed.
Add stock. You’ll be adding the hot stock, but only about 1/2 cup at a time. We find it easiest to use a ladle to transfer the hot stock. Once you make an addition of stock, stir, and continue cooking, until the liquid is absorbed or evaporated before adding more. This is the secret to making creamy risotto: the slow addition of stock and plenty of stirring. Altogether, you’ll probably make 5 additions of stock; if you run out, just use simmering water at the end.
Add leaves. After the third addition of stock, add the bok choi leaves and stir in. Continue adding stock, stirring, and cooking as before, until the rice is tender on the outside, but still has a slightly chewy center. It should not be brittle and crunchy. If you overcook the rice, your risotto will be glommy and sticky; we know of no recourse other than to try to do better next time, so test your rice often. We find that it takes us 30 to 40 minutes for the rice to be done to perfection, but it can vary.
Add cheese and zest. Remove the risotto from the heat, add the cheese and lemon zest, and stir in. Let the risotto stand for 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt, then stir again.
Season. Taste and add salt and pepper (and more cheese) as needed.
Serve. We like to serve the risotto in soup plates; after all, when it’s done correctly, it’s slightly soupy. Top with a bit of additional grated cheese, if desired.
This risotto has a bright lemon taste without being overpowering, and the lemon pairs nicely with both the cheese and the bok choi. Plus, it’s risotto, one of our favorite meals, so this is an easy five-star meal for us (of course, we make some sort of risotto nearly weekly, so we find it easy, but the first time you make risotto, you might find it a bit daunting; persevere for a great dish).