Forgive the picture, but when I cook at night, the photos just don’t turn out as well as I’d like. If we were going to be here for more than a year, I’d build myself a light box or something. But for now? I’ll just tell you that this dish is worth trying, and prettier than you might think.
It’s a springtime risotto, and a weeknight take on a dish we had in NYC during restaurant week at the DB Bistro. That version was also a risotto, and also used a sort of arugula pesto (as far as I could tell) to make the dish a vibrant green color. Its sweetness was from butternut squash, which was appropriate for January but not quite right somehow for the start of spring. So I improvised: I sweetened some chicken broth with a bunch of carrots and used that as the base for the dish.
This isn’t a recipe so much as a formula. I find risotto pretty easy for a weeknight meal, especially when we’re short on ingredients. Yes, there is stirring involved, but not as much as you think … Just don’t turn up the heat too much.
** I’m on vacation at the moment, and wrote this post before I left. Be back at the end of May with more about my trip! **
Recipe after the jump.
Carrot and arugula risotto with roasted walnuts
Serves 2-3 as a main dish.
Difficulty: Moderate. Don’t burn the risotto!
- 1 c. arborio rice
- 5 c. chicken or vegetable stock (or water, in a pinch, though you will need more carrots, and won’t get the same flavor). You can also replace a cup of stock with a cup of white wine if you like. I didn’t have any, so I just skipped it.
- 6 carrots, sliced.
- 2 c. arugula, plus a bit more for garnish
- 20 walnuts, for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 clove garlic
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- olive oil
In a medium pot, cook the carrots in the stock for 30 minutes or so, or until the stock tastes slightly sweet and the carrots have lost their flavor. Remove the carrots from the stock.
Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C. Place walnuts on a lightly oiled tray and stick in the oven. Remove when they’re dark brown and toasty (you can proceed to the next step while you’re waiting).
In a second medium pot, cook the onions in a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat, until translucent. (If you like, you can actually cook these for longer over low heat (as you’re prepping the stock) to enhance their natural sweetness. It’s not necessary, but it adds an extra dimension to the dish.) When the onions are done, add the risotto, and cook for a minute more, stirring, until the grains are coated in oil and start to get slightly translucent. Start adding the stock, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring in between additions and waiting until the rice absorbs the liquid. After 2 cups, you can just add another 2 cups of stock and a pinch of salt, cover, and let cook over low heat.
In the meantime, chop up all but a small handful of the arugula. In a mortar and pestle (or food processor, if you prefer), mash up the arugula, garlic, and a tablespoon of oil until you have something like a paste. This is your arugula pesto.
When the rice is soft and all the liquid is absorbed, mix in the arugula pesto. Check the seasoning (you’ll want to add the pepper at this stage). Take off the heat and serve immediately, garnished with a bit of arugula and the roasted walnuts.
Variations: You can use roasted butternut squash instead of carrots to produce the sweetness that characterizes this dish. You could also try other greens, if you like (I haven’t personally, but hey, experimenting is fun). Garnishing with other nuts or a bit of walnut oil would be a nice addition.