Celery and Leek Risotto with Variations

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Happy new year!

I made this risotto for Christmas dinner this year, and it was light and lovely. The white wine is optional–I find it adds a sweet tang to the risotto, but if you don’t want to add it, it won’t hurt.

Risottos are a labor of love–they take about 25-30 minutes to cook, and you are stirring constantly, so don’t start this unless you have the time.

You need:

  1. Two medium-sized leeks, whites only, finely chopped.
  2. One medium-sized onion, finely chopped.
  3. Two sticks celery, finely chopped.
  4. 5 cups vegetable stock
  5. 1 cup white wine (a nice one you could drink while cooking)
  6. 1 cup arborio or other risotto rice
  7. 1 tbsp olive oil
  8. 1/4 cup grated aged gouda (I used Rembrandt–you could also use other cheese, like parmesan or romano)
  9. Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt, or whatever salt you have), to taste
  10. White pepper (or black), to taste
  11. 2-3 sprigs of thyme

How to:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan or dutch oven. I used a saute pan, but make sure it’s a heavy-bottomed pan. Keep the heat on medium.
  2. Add the onions, leeks, and celery and sweat them–cook until the vegetables are soft, stirring frequently. Add the salt. Don’t caramelize them, but they should be near that point. They shouldn’t turn brown. If they are starting to stick to the bottom, lower the heat.
  3. Add the rice, stirring frequently until the rice turns translucent. This may take a few minutes. The middle of the rice will still be white.
  4. Add the white wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine is cooked off. If you are not using wine, simply skip this step.
  5. Add the thyme and stir gently.
  6. Add the stock, a cup at a time. Here’s how. Add a cup of stock. Cook, stirring often. When it is almost cooked out, add another cup of stock. Repeat. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked. It should be cooked al dente–still a little hard, but done through. Risotto typically has a creamy consistency.
  7. Add the pepper and stir gently.
  8. Turn off the heat, add the cheese, stir, remove the thyme, and serve hot.

I have frozen this risotto, but it lost something in texture and flavor when I reheated it.

Variations:

  1. Replace one leek with a small bulb of finely chopped fennel.
  2. Instead of the thyme, use rosemary or basil or fennel fronds.
  3. Replace the white wine with 2 tbsp 18-year balsamic vinegar + 2/3 cup water.
  4. Replace the white wine with red wine. Note: this will totally change the color of the risotto.
  5. Replace the white wine with a dark beer. Note: while wine adds a tangy aftertaste, beer can give it a hoppy, bitter aftertaste. Not for everyone.
  6. After adding cheese, add toasted almonds or crushed pecans.
  7. Top with panko breadcrumbs. Do not mix these in as they might (just might) get a wee bit soggy.

Slow Cooker Vegetable Stock

I love vegetable stock. I especially love to heat it and drink it as is. The store-bought stocks tend to be very high sodium, even the low-sodium ones, so I prefer to make my own. It’s very easy, and if you have a slow cooker (e.g. Crock Pot), you can leave it to cook while you do other things, like work. There are a number of vegetables you can put into your stock, and people often use odd ends and trimmings of vegetables, but I don’t use anything I would ordinarily feed to my worms (yes, we have a worm bin in our kitchen).

You need:

1 leek, 1 bulb fennel, 3-4 sticks celery, 1 large onion, 1-2 chili peppers of  your choice, 2 bay leaves, 5-6 leaves basil

How to:

  1. Prepare the vegetables and chop them into large pieces. (Click HERE for how to prepare various vegetables)
  2. Add them to your slow cooker.
  3. Add enough water to cover the vegetables.
  4. Add the herbs and chili peppers.
  5. Cover and turn on high for 5-6 hours.
  6. Pour broth into a container.
  7. Place the vegetables in a food processor and blend well.
  8. Pour into the container through a fine mesh strainer. Use a spoon to rub it in to get it all.
  9. Refrigerate immediately and use within 3-4 days.

If you want to store the stock, cool it in the fridge for a couple of hours, then pour into ice trays. When it is frozen, put the broth ice cubes into a Ziploc bag and return to the freezer. Use within 3-4 months.

Light Summer Soup

light-soup.jpg

I made this yesterday. No fat. No dairy. No onions. No garlic. No spices. And still so good. I call it a summer soup because it seems to be to be the kind of soup you can drink on a hot summer evening in Delhi. It’s very light, and very easy to make.

Preparation time: 20 minutes at the most

Cooking time: 20 minutes (no need to watch!)

Get a big stock pot or kadahi or something. Dice and throw into it the following:

1. 2-3 small leeks (only the white part) – wash ’em well!

2. 2 medium-sized yellow squashes (use lauki as a substitute in India)

3. 2 sticks celery, or as much as you can stand.

4. 1 jalapeño – cut off the top and tail (it won’t be too strong)

5. Keep 1 bunch of chopped cilantro ready, but don’t add it yet.

6. Two cans of vegetable broth, or enough to make it soupy!

7. 1 stalk lemongrass, score it well to release the flavor.

Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat and simmer for twenty minutes.

Add the cilantro, stir well, turn off the heat, and eat!