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Spring Risotto with Peas and Zucchini

From Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living

Serves 6 (Generously)
Prep time: 1 hour (it took me about an hour and a half, which is definitely not “fast” in my book)
Total time: 1 hour

  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 2 large zucchini (1 pound), cut into ½-inch cubes
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion (note on the onion: I did finely chop half an onion, and then ended up only using a bit of it because the way this recipe calls for it to be cooked is my least favorite ever – soft. Blech. So I tossed a small bit in, less than 1/4 cup, and added some onion powder, which meant in the end it turned out too onion-flavored in my opinion. Next time I’d omit the onion altogether, because it didn’t need it)
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

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Note: Rich and creamy, risotto is Italian-style comfort food. If you like, replace the wine with an equal amount of broth. Arborio rice makes the creamiest risotto, but you can substitute medium- or long-grain white rice. See how Arborio is different from regular white rice?

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  1. Heat the broth and 2 ½ cups water in a saucepan over low heat; keep warm. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the zucchini; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is golden, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the zucchini to a plate.
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  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onion; cook until soft, 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the rice; cook, stirring, until translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes. (I think the recipe could have called for a little more butter, since at this point there wasn’t much and the rice didn’t really get translucent around the edges as it called for. I didn’t add extra, but you may want to.) Add the wine (or substitute broth); cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.
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  5. Cook the rice, adding 1 cup hot broth at a time (stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed before adding more), until tender, 25 to 30 minutes total. Watch the dish nearly quadruple in volume over time…. Also, you can see in these pictures that there is something other than rice floating around in there. I added the leftover half package of tofu (from Hot and Sour Soup), in cubes. I thought perhaps that by adding it early, it would break down and just become part of the gelatinous mixture, but it actually retained its shape quite well. A nice change to this recipe, since it added some protein it was otherwise missing, making it a more balanced dish.
  6. spring_risotto3.JPG

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  7. Add the zucchini and peas; cook until the peas are bright green, 2 minutes. (At this point, I could have used a larger pot, and I was using the 3-quart saucepan we have, the biggest before switching to the massive pots.)
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  9. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining Tablespoon butter and the Parmesan. Serve, topped with more cheese.

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Verdict: This was so-so. It took a ton of time, though it wasn’t difficult work. I do not like zucchini cooked this way (I’ve been trying to like zucchini, and have found some dishes this summer where it was quite yummy, and this was not one of them), but another vegetable could easily be substituted, like carrots or broccoli or asparagus. The flavor was good (except for the afore-mentioned onion issues), though I suspect this could vary a lot depending on what type of wine and broth you used (so use quality). One of the better dishes I’ve had that features peas, especially since they’re added at the very end and so don’t get overcooked and squishy. I’d make again, especially in the winter when warm, gooey, comfort food is called for. I’d also add the tofu again, if we had it around, because it complimented the dish nicely and it was barely noticeable. I suppose you could add chicken too, if you don’t like tofu, though that would drastically change the flavors going on. Also, next time I will make just 1/3rd of this recipe, since it made way more than we could ever think to eat, and with the zucchini tasting kind of icky, it wasn’t leftover material (though if that hadn’t been the case, it’d make great lunchtime leftovers if you have a microwave at work).

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