This risotto’s easy!
Or is it? What’s easy for me may be hard for you. You might not have the equipment to make quick work of the tasks. Your kitchen may require too much walking, lifting, and reaching. Or you may not have had enough practice… the first time around is always hard. Finally, you may not realize that dirt and food are never best friends. In fact, the combo is darn-right dangerous. So you can’t ignore the sink and shun the dish cloth. Accept cleaning up as a basic part of the art, or you’ll never enjoy cooking. And there’s more…
If by easy you mean fast, again, so sorry! Some of my easy recipes will disappoint. It’s easy to throw stuff into a pot. But for a delicious soup, you have to give it time to simmer until the flavors blend. Plan ahead to find the time.
You’ll soon learn some short cuts. Prep all the veggies you’ll need for a week and put them in the fridge. Make lots and freeze your stock in one-day serving sizes, so you can thaw a portion in a pot for instant soup. Make healthy muffins in advance, make a week’s smoothies in a single batch, make a roast on the weekend and enjoy the leftovers all week. Get the idea?
The pleasure in cooking at home comes from fresh, tasty food and the good health it brings you. You use foods packed with good nutrition. You leave out most of the salt and cut down on sugar. You choose a fat for good health and you’re careful with the amount. You choose complex carbs that take their time getting into your blood stream as sugar. Cooking gets easier and faster the more you do it.
And then there’s risotto…
It really isn’t very easy. Or fast. There’s a lot of chopping and grating and precooking of the various flavorings. And you can’t leave the stove to go read a good book or do a few deep knee bends. No. You have to stand there for 30 minutes breathing in the steam, dribbling liquid into a heavy pot of rice, stirring endlessly until your arm aches and every last drop is absorbed by those thirsty little rice grains. The result is creamy goodness packed with flavor. True. But isn’t there an easier way?
Well, yes. Yes, there is. It’s my lazy boy’s way to make risotto. The secret is choosing the right kind of rice to start with. Then, get the proportion of rice and liquid right. Finally, keep it plain or add flavorings that you have on hand. Easy!
Serves 8 as a side dish
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups carnaroli or vialone nano rice
- 4 cups broth, heated
- grated beets, pesto, mushrooms, shrimp or whatever add-ins you have on hand
- grated cheese
- In a heavy pot, toast the rice in the oil for a few minutes.
- Add the hot stock and stir a bit. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. After about 10 minutes, stir in your additions.
- Cover the pan again and simmer another 5 or 10 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Give it a final stir and serve with grated cheese.
- Arborio rice releases too much starch for my no-stirring risotto. I found carnaroli and vialone nano rice at Whole Foods and my Italian delicatessen.
- I grate my Parmesan fresh. In the interests of “easy,” buy yours grated.
- The easiest thing is to buy pesto sauce, sliced mushrooms, chopped onions, grated veggies or whatever else you want to use as flavorings. I prefer to make my own for fresher flavor and nutrition. The choice is yours.
But is rice good for you?
I can’t argue with history. People in Asia have grown rice for perhaps 10,000 years. From the terraces of China to the lowlands of Sri Lanka, 1000s of species are cultivated on all continents except Antarctica. About half of the world’s population, most of whom live in Asia, worship rice as a staple food. The Chinese consider rice more precious than jewels.
Rice is a major source of simple carbohydrates for humans. Its starch provides instant energy to power our day. The only food that burns more efficiently as fuel for our bodies is sugar.
But wait… Isn’t too much sugar a big problem for many people in today’s world? We don’t need as much fuel to power our activities as our farming fore-fathers did, when we spend most of our waking hours in front of a screen. And white rice, especially processed, instant rice, is just a breath away from sugar.
However, not all rices are created equal. Some rices, like brown rice and wild rice, are richer in protein and fiber. They are not processed within an inch of their lives and so provide complex carbs. These break down more slowly in the gut so as not to flood the blood stream with sugar.
The two rices I’ve recommended for no-stir risotto are also pretty good carbs, nutrition-wise. A quarter cup of dry carnaroli has 4 grams protein and 3 grams fiber. Besides, if you save your rice quota for a risotto recipe, you get more bang for your carbohydrate buck. The cheese and meat stock increase the protein and fat in the dish, thereby raising risotto’s glycemic load. That means the starches digest more slowly, keeping sugar spikes at bay.
To make your risotto a complete meal in a dish, add shrimp or cooked chicken and broccoli at the half-way point. So Delicious! And my no-stir method of preparation is, well, Easy!