Broccoli and Pistachio Risotto: Fall risotto is creamy and satisfying
For every season, there is a risotto. Rich red wine and mushroom risotto in winter, fresh peas nestled in the toothsome rice in spring. At the height of summer, red ripe tomatoes can sub in for risotto’s broth.
In the fall, I make a pale, shimmery green, risotto sporting fresh broccoli and sweet shallots for texture. Whirl roasted green chiles with earthy pistachio nuts, and a modest amount of fresh basil, for a verdant green flavoring sauce stirred in just as the rice is done.
For the best risotto, seek out imported Italian short grain rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli, at specialty markets or online. These rices welcome the small additions of broth that render it creamy and satisfying. Be sure to cook the risotto just long enough for the rice grains to be tender, but still retain a teeny bit of bite at the very center. A five-minute standing time will allow the rice to finish its cooking.
Risotto is a simple looking dish. To turn it into a special meal, take a cue from restaurant chefs and go a little overboard with garnishes. Here, small dollops of the pistachio sauce, along with crunchy nuts, bits of cheese and basil look beautiful. A swirl of fruity, deep green olive oil or pistachio oil gilds the lily.
Broccoli and Pistachio Risotto
Makes 4 servings
Note: Store-bought, refrigerated basil pesto can be substituted for the homemade sauce that follows. Add pureed roasted green chiles, jalapeno and pistachios, if desired, to the basil pesto and blend briefly to mix.
- 3 cups roughly chopped broccoli florets
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large shallots or 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) Arborio or Carnaroli risotto rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
- 1/2 cup creamy green chile and pistachio pesto sauce (see recipe)
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
- Chopped roasted salted pistachio nuts
- Shredded parmesan cheese
- Sliced fresh basil leaves
- Sliced green onion tops
- Pistachio oil or Extra virgin olive oil
1. Put broccoli into a large microwave-safe bowl. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover with lid or plastic wrap vented at one corner. Microwave on high (100% power), stirring once or twice, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well and cool.
2. Heat broth to simmer in a small saucepan. Keep warm.
3. Heat oil in large, deep 4-quart saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add shallots and saute 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add rice. Cook and stir until rice turns opaque and is well coated with the oil, about 5 minutes.
4. Reduce heat under pot to medium-low. Stir in wine and cook, stirring constantly until wine is nearly absorbed by the rice, about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth. Cook and stir until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue to add broth in 1/2 cup increments, until absorbed and rice is tender. The whole process will take 20 to 25 minutes. Taste the rice — it should have a tiny bit of firmness at the center of the grain.
5. Fold pesto, broccoli, parmesan and butter into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Cover pot and let stand 5 minutes. Serve in wide bowls topped with desired garnishes.
Creamy Green Chile and Pistachio Pesto Sauce
Makes 2 cups
Note: If you have access to mild green chiles, such as Hatch chiles or Anaheim peppers, they can be used in place of the canned chiles. Roast fresh chiles over an open flame or under the broiler, turning until blistered and blackened on all sides. Cool, peel, remove seeds and core and rinse briefly. You’ll need about 2/3 cup chopped chiles.
- 1 can (7 ounces) diced roasted green chiles, drained
- 1/2 small jalapeno, seeded, optional
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup roasted and salted pistachio nuts (unshelled)
- 2/3 cup fresh basil leaves (about 1 ounce)
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
1. Put drained chiles, jalapeno, garlic and pistachios in blender. Process to chop. Add basil, parsley and 1/2 of the oil. Process until smooth. Add remaining oil and cheese. Process to mix. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons water as needed for a sauce the consistency of thin mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate covered up to several days.
(JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades.)