Friday, May 30, 2008


My boyfriend and I have made two different risottos recently, with varying success.

Oat groats make for a fantastic risotto. We followed the recipe for "Green Risotto with Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus" from Chez Panisse Vegetables, only substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth, and oats for arborio rice.

I don't have the book handy right now (being in Oregon and all), but my memory is: Heat six to eight cups stock. Sauté covered a spring onion in butter until liquidy, and then add two (?) cups grains. Mix with the butter, and then with 2/3 cup white wine. Then begin ladling in stock, mixing grains before and after, for quite some time. Meanwhile, parboil shelled fava beans, remove outer skin from the beans, and cook again with peas; puree legumes in blender. Add green puree to grains, along with asparagus (remove hard bottom inch, and chop into quarter-inch pieces on the diagonal), parmesan cheese, and a little cream ten minutes before serving.

In any case, oats cook exactly right for risotto. They have a nice mild flavor, and pick up the wine and vegetable flavors well, and achieve the desired mushiness without effort. I highly recommend substituting oats for the traditional arborio in any risotto recipe.

Wheat berries, however, are an inferior grain for risotto. We did achieve a tasty asparagus risotto, not following any particular recipe, but two cups of wheat berry went through a bottle of cheap white wine, eight cups of vegetable stock, a cup of cream, and three hours of simmering, and were still a little crunchy. Wheat berries expand precipitously.

The wheat risotto was better upon reheating. Before adding the refrigerated wheat berry, I sautéed one bulb of fennel in butter. Be very careful, however, when reheating risotto on stove-top, and stir continuously: when we were eating up leftovers, I forgot that there was a lot of parmesan cheese in the risotto, which burnt on the bottom of the pan. We caught it, and the flavor was not ruined, just a little smoky.

I think if I were to make a wheat berry risotto again, I would soak my wheat berries overnight in white wine. Or, better, slow-cook the berries eight hours.

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