St. Patrick, we need you back, please.
Thanks, Paddy, for banishing the snakes, but might you also be able to deport so many of these green foods concocted this time of year in your, um, honor?
Green frosting, “emerald eggs” and ham, green velvet cake (gawd), and stuff such as bagels, donuts, pasta and popcorn tinted green for merely one day. Green beer, definitely. And the appletini.
Now, guacamole, grasshopper pie, pesto, mint chocolate chip brownies, even lime Jell-O — let’s ask St. Patrick to leave these in place. They are year-round deliciousness.
Alright. OK. Kale.
But to truly honor the eatin’ o’ the green, why not cook those foods that are viridescent naturally? Or — here’s a concept — that are delicious?
A unique risotto sells itself so. Colored vibrantly green from an abundance of herbs and field greens, its Italian name is “risotto verde” and is today’s recipe.
Everyone is “Irish” on March 17. Why not fashion a risotto such as this for La Festa di San Patrizio? (Is it a coincidence that the Irish and Italian flags are so similar? Huh?)
Cooks dislike preparing risotto because they fear being “pot-bound,” slave to 30 minutes of constant babysitting of the simmering rice, adding ladle after ladle of simmering broth, stirring, stirring, stirring. Not nice, that rice.
But I use an anti-helicopter, no-hover-over-the-stove way to cook risotto that I learned, in a roundabout manner, from watching my sister Christine cook Indian food. She washes her basmati rice four or five times before boiling it. Cleaning the rice kernels of their outer starch helps keep them fluffy and buoyant when done, rather than having them end up creamy and sticky.
But that is precisely what I want in a risotto, the gooey creaminess, yet with each kernel still retaining its own slightly al dente core.
So, I rinse my risotto rice ahead of the heat but — this is very important — do not let drain or discard the rinsing liquid. I keep back the starches, in fact, in the broth to be used.
Then, after just two installments of broth, a couple of stirs, and two 10-minute bubblings, it’s creamy risotto, but with rice kernels that retain a slight bite.
Exactly what a risotto should be.
- 2 cups risotto rice (arborio, vialone nero, carnaroli, etc.)
- 6 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth works, too)
- 4 cups firmly packed greens and herbs (any mix that you fancy, but more leafy greens than herbs; see note)
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tablespoons fat (depending on your diet, either unsalted butter or vegetable oil)
- 4 tablespoons leek, light green part, finely chopped
- 1 cup white wine or ginger ale or apple juice
- 1 12-13 ounce package frozen green peas
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Finely sliced or peeled lemon rind and chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Assemble 2-3 large bowls side by side, along with a sieve or fine-mesh strainer. Pour all the broth into one of the bowls and rinse the rice with your fingers for 5-6 minutes, until the liquid gets very cloudy. Using the straining implement, drain the rice from the liquid, but also capture the liquid. It is very important not to discard the broth, while also allowing the rice to drain well.
Make a slurry of the cloudy broth, the greens, and the garlic, using a traditional or immersion blender or a processor, being sure that the greens are very well puréed. Heat the green broth in a saucepan until it is quite warm but neither boiling nor simmering and keep it that way.
Over medium-high heat, in a large and open, heavy-bottomed pot, cook the leeks in the fat for 5 minutes, until they have melted a bit. Add the rinsed rice and stir well to coat as many grains of rice with the fat as possible, 5-6 minutes. When the rice begins to smell slightly nutty, add the wine (or ginger ale or apple juice) and stir well until the rice has taken it in, 4-5 minutes.
Add 4 cups of the heated broth, stir it in well, bring the pot to a slow boil, cover and then set the heat to as low as it goes. Cook for 10 minutes, undisturbed. Remove the cover, add the rest of the broth and the peas, stir again well, bring up the heat until the risotto bubbles once more, cover, lower the heat to very low, and cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese, salt and pepper to taste (the cheese and broth may have carried in enough salt), and the lemon juice.
Serve garnished with the lemon rind and parsley.
Note on the greens: For the mix of greens, these proportions will work: 3 cups 50/50 blend of baby arugula and baby spinach (widely available) or 3 cups baby spinach, plus 1 cup mixed green herbs such as basil, parsley leaves, dill, chives, chervil, and (if used, less than the others) tarragon.
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