Risotto with radishes, kale, and lemon

April 25, 2013 § 4 Comments

risotto radishes kale lemon 1

Before we get to risotto, I have a few little announcements to make, housekeeping style.  I trust the risotto can wait a couple moments, even though it is not known to be the most patient of rice dishes.  But anyway, as I mentioned a little bit ago, this here little blog is undergoing a spiffing up process.  It’s like Five and Spice is going on Project Makeover!  That’s not a real show is it.  Extreme Makeover?  Anyway, that’s beside the point.

The point is that some major, and (so!) exciting renovations are happening, led by the (brilliant) ladies of Wooden Spoons Kitchen.  In order to make it all work, starting sometime on the later end of tomorrow (Friday) the site will be down for a while.  It will stay down over the weekend while the magic happens in the background.  Then on Monday morning it’ll be back with its brand new look and also at a new URL.  Instead of being at wordpress.com the site address will be plain old fiveandspice.com (took me long enough to make the change, right?! Some weird Estonian company or something had snagged that URL, I think in hopes of getting me to buy it from them. But when their lease on it expired, I snapped it up.  Take that!).

I’ll have the old site set up to redirect, so old links will all still work and whatnot, but just know that henceforth you’ll be able to look for me at that new address. Now this is important (hence the bold typeface) if you subscribe by email, that should keep working without interruption (at least in theory.  Fingers crossed.) but if you subscribe via an rss feed/reader type of thing, you will have to resubscribe.  But, this should be easy enough, right?  You did it once!  I bet you can do it again.  (I, on the other hand, have no idea how to subscribe to an rss feed.  I am a luddite.  This is why other people are in charge of moving the site over, and holding my hand, and talking to me in reassuring voices the whole time.)

risotto radishes

So, with that taken care of, let us turn to the risotto.

I’ve pretty much decided that risotto should always have lemon in it.  I keep having risotto without lemon (made by others, usually restaurants.  For example, I had a really lovely clam risotto with parsley the other day – I’ve been craving clams like crazy!) and they’re all really nice, but I keep thinking about each, “I bet this would have been better with lemon.”

I’d write this off as being related to my lemon addiction, except that Joel says the same thing.  And he doesn’t have a lemon addiction.  Thus, empirical proof that risotto should have lemon.  The loose and easy playful brightness of lemon is a champ at getting the stodgy starchiness of risotto to let down its hair and join the party.  A little squeeze of lemon balances out risotto like nothing else.

risotto cooking

This risotto has basically a whole lemon, in preserved lemon form, chopped and stirred into it, which is probably why I am so very enamored of it.  That, and it’s also bursting at the seams with radishes and kale.  The rice can barely contain such a quantity of vegetables, and that, in my estimation, is a good thing.

And speaking of “a good thing,” where would the idea for this recipe have come from but from Martha Stewart.

I’ve never much followed Martha Stewart.  The only reason I know she said (says?) “and that’s a good thing,” is because I had a French teacher in high school who would always try to mimic Martha Stewart’s voice and say, “et ça, c’est une bonne chose.”  I haven’t much followed Martha Stewart, but I feel fondly toward her anyway.  So, when I was hanging out at a friend’s house a couple weeks ago sort-of dog-sitting (long story that I won’t bore you with now) I seized the opportunity to flip through stacks of Martha Stewart Living.

risotto preserved lemon

So many pretty things that I will never make or do in those magazines.  So many.  But, my eye was particularly drawn to a recipe for farro risotto with radishes, chard, and preserved lemon, and the idea stayed with me.

As luck would have it, a few days ago we had not much for cooking with in the house besides kale, radishes, and lemons.  And lo! there was risotto rice in the pantry (I used carnaroli, but arborio will work just as well).  And so I decided to make my own expression of Martha’s recipe.

risotto radishes kale lemon in pot

I’m pretty sure this is one of those recipes where I try to recreate a dish and then completely change it in the process by misremembering the recipe.  But that is how wonderful discoveries are sometimes made, and I don’t think I’ll ever bother making the original recipe – if I find it – because I liked this version so very much.

As I mentioned before, lemon is Yin to risotto’s Yang, and preserved lemon adds something even more.  Preserved lemons take the flavor of lemon and somehow amplify and pacify it, adding bitter, briny, grassy, floral, and umami notes to the citrus you expect.  Then in every bite of the creamy risotto you find tender slips of sweet cooked radish and sturdy sprays of leafy kale.  Delicate quantities of cream and cheese bring the flavors and textures to their satisfying conclusion.

It’s light and filling, and a total keeper for spring.

P.S.  We’re also leaving tomorrow to be on the East Coast for a week for meetings.  But, I’ll of course check back in on Monday to celebrate the new site design.  Wee!

risotto radishes kale lemon 2

Risotto with Radishes, Kale, and Lemon (serves 3-4)

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil or butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup risotto rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)
  • ½ cup white wine (optional – if omitting wine, replace it with an extra 1/2 cup of stock)
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • about 8-10 radishes, sliced into quarter-inch thick rounds
  • 1 bunch of kale, washed, stems trimmed, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped preserved lemon (if you don’t have preserved lemon, you can make a quick version with this recipe, or you can use 2 Tbs. lemon juice and 2 tsp. zest, but it will have a slightly less robust flavor)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp, hard cheese such as Pecorino or Parmesan
  • 2 Tbs. crème fraiche or heavy cream (optional, but really nice)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put your vegetable/chicken stock in a pot and bring it to a simmer while you chop the vegetables.  Then take it off the heat, cover, and set it aside.
  2. In a medium-large heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil or butter over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onion and garlic along with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until it is softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the rice, and cook for a couple minutes to allow the rice to soak up some of the butter/oil.  The grains should become slightly more opaque looking.  Then, pour in the white wine, if using, and cook until the wine is all absorbed, stirring all the while.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low and add a cup of the warm stock.  Cook the rice, stirring almost constantly.  When the stock is almost all absorbed, add another half cup, plus the sliced radishes.
  5. Continue to add stock in half-cup increments as each previous addition of stock has become mostly absorbed.  Stir frequently as the rice cooks.  It should take around 30 minutes for all of the stock to be added and absorbed.  At this point, taste the rice to be sure it is cooked to your liking – it should generally be tender with just the tiniest bit of resistance still in the center.  If you find it’s not cooked enough for your taste, continue cooking adding more stock one ladleful at a time as you go until you get it to a point where you like it.
  6. After the last of the stock has been cooked into the rice, add the kale, and stir it in.  You may have to add it in a couple additions letting each addition wilt to make space for the next addition.  Cook for five minutes, until tender, stirring all the while, and adding a few spoonfuls of water at a time, as needed, if the pot is seeming dry and the rice overly sticky.
  7. When the kale is tender, add the chopped lemon, the shredded cheese, and the crème fraiche/cream.  Stir well until everything is evenly mixed and the cheese is melted.  Taste and add additional salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm (and drink up the rest of the white wine with dinner, if you please!).
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