Risotto. It’s one of the dishes I first ate after being diagnosed with Celiac. I know for some of you the idea of NOT knowing what risotto is a little stupefying, but it’s true. It’s not really a daily menu deal in my upbringing in Minnesota (or at least it wasn’t back-in-the-day).
Since my diagnosis came just a month before our wedding and two months before our honeymoon to Rome, my Love and I were doing a little food “research” about naturally gluten free foods because the store-bought ones we were finding were….well…disgusting.
Having grown up in Chicago, my Love was much more familiar with diverse food offerings than I. When I told him that I’d read that risotto would be easy to find on our honeymoon and that I wondered if I would like it, he chuckled. He said that I would LOVE it and was surprised I hadn’t eaten it before.
Needless to say, we made it a mission that week to make risotto. He made the most divine seafood risotto for me. I had plenty for leftovers and made many a colleague jealous with my lunch the next day. It left a serious food-memory on my taste buds.
And the slow cooking – the standing together in the kitchen and slowly stirring and stirring the risotto made for perfect time together too. It was rather fun to stand and stir and wonder what it would end up tasting like after all that. It was totally worth it.
But these days, my risottos are less creamy. Mostly because I’m not standing there stirring it as much as we used to because I’m running after someone, or someone is pulling up to “help” or… well, any number of things, really. And really, the creaminess of risotto depends heavily of two things: (1) constant slow stirring with warm broth added regularly in small amounts and (2) the starch of the aborio/risotto rice.
When these fabulously curly garlic scapes showed up in our CSA box last week, I had NO idea what to do with them. The gal at the farm stand told me to saute them in butter with a bit of salt. But I thought surely there must be something more I could do, right?
Since I have enjoyed adding fiddlehead fern to our risotto or even green beans, these garlic scapes looked like they would make handsome risotto fixings. They have a bit of a seriously garlic sting/bite when eaten raw (I’m a taster before I cook things). I thought the flavor would be lovely when mellowed a bit. So I liked the idea of saute until soft/tender. But after that, my plans went awry.
No aborio rice on hand.
Say what? How did I do that! It seems that the last time I picked up a bag of short grain rice I did a fabulous job. I have short grain rice, alright, but it is brown rice. Not so fabulously known for its starchiness. Nor its risotto fixings.
I had to make do. I’m not running out for rice when we have rice in the house even though it isn’t the same grain. And besides brown rice is healthier for you as it has the whole grain and has not been stripped of the bran – or outer layer. And you know what? With a few cooking adjustments to my risotto recipe, it made a great risotto!
First things first, I made this with SHORT GRAIN brown rice that I did NOT prewash in order to keep the starch. There *IS* a difference with the starchiness of the different grains of rice. If you have long grain brown rice on hand, your risotto may not turn out as creamy as the grains will not stick together. You can still make a risotto out of your long grain brown rice, but you will need to consider adding a bit of water + starch (I would add 2 Tablespoons of cold water + 2 teaspoons of cornstarch (not flour) premixed) at the end of cooking to thicken it a bit.
Second: be sure to have precooked your brown rice – as outlined below – since brown rice takes MUCH longer to cook than white rice.
Third: add whatever you’d like to your risotto. The basic recipe is outlined below, but in lieu of garlic scapes, include your own veg or seafood, etc. You really can’t go wrong. (PS. If using seafood, be sure to add it only at the end – it will cook quickly in the hot rice and overcooked seafood? Not so fabulous.)
Creamy Brown Rice Risotto with Garlic Scapes
1 1/4 cups short grain brown rice
3 cups of water
1/4 pound garlic scapes, halved and chopped into 1 inch pieces
5 green scallions, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1/2-inch knob of fresh ginger, finely diced
2 1/2 cups GF chicken (or veg) broth
1/2 cup grated or shredded cheese (parmesan, etc – I used sun-dried tomato + basil cheese)
garlic powder, salt and pepper – to taste
- Put the rice into a pot with the three cups of water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 16-18 minutes or until the majority of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Drain in a strainer over a bowl. (You may wish to use the reserved liquid to thicken your risotto – your choice, thus reserving.)
- Saute your vegetables (garlic scapes, in this case) until tender. This took quite a bit of time with the garlic scapes as they are quite hardy. However, it is important that they are tender as they won’t cook the same in the risotto.
- In a hot large pan (I used a two-inch deep, 10 inch wide pan), drizzle your olive oil. Allow to heat for a bit, then put in the thinly sliced onion and ginger. (If your love is like mine, you can carmelize your onion for added flavor too.). Cook until tender (or carmelized)
- Add the precooked rice, garlic scapes and 1 cup of the broth. Stir until the broth is absorbed and stirring the rice allows you to “see the pan” without the rice covering up your spoon tracks quickly/liquid like. Add another 1/2 cup of broth and continue stirring until you once again see the pan easily. Continue this adding/stirring until you have used all of the broth.
- After the last addition of broth, season your risotto with garlic, salt and pepper. Taste! (This is important!) Adjust the seasoning (and or the consistency by adding more broth) now. Depending on your rice, you may need more broth than what I used. This is natural.
- Add the shredded cheese and stir in. Taste again.
- Serve hot with the scallions sprinkled over the top.