Thursday, March 20, 2008

Brown Rice Risotto with Seven Vegetables

Here is a much celebrated Italian rice dish; I have added a little Indian influence of Ghee and sambar powder :)! It is similar to the Indian Kichdi or Bisi Bele Rice in idea as well as texture. Enjoy!

I generally do not use any broth; the vegetables and the herbs provide ample flavor. If you like to use broth instead of water, you certainly can make home-made vegetable broth with all the trimmings from the vegetables and simmer them gently in fresh water to cover with a clove of garlic or two, a coarsely chopped tomato, an onion and a potato each, a sprig of each of the herbs mentioned below, and a little salt. When cool, strain and discard all the vegetable pieces and use the broth as you wish. If there is extra broth, it can be frozen for later use in soups or other recipes.

6 Main dish or 12 Side dish Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups Short Grain Brown Rice
about 8 cups very hot water
4 Tbsp Ghee, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or unsalted butter
1 medium Leek
1 medium Fresh Fennel Bulb
1 Japanese Eggplant
4 oz. white or brown Mushrooms
2 carrots
1 medium Zucchini
2 Roma Tomatoes
2 cloves Garlic (Optional)
1/2 cup Flat Leaf Parsley
2 sprigs fresh Basil
2 small sprigs Marjoram
2 sprigs Sage
2 tsp Salt or to taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp Sambar powder OR 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground Cayenne (Dry Red Chili)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Pine Nuts

Method:
Spread the pine nuts on an ungreased baking pan and toast them in a 350 degree F oven for about 7 or 8 minutes. Cool and set aside in an airtight container.

Wash the rice and drain in a sieve. Let sit while preparing the vegetables.

Heat the water in a kettle and keep it hot.

Wash and dry the eggplants and the mushrooms. Cut into small bite sized pieces.

The leeks require a thorough cleaning: remove the root end and most of the green leafy parts leaving only about 2 inches of the green. Slice in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly in plenty of water to remove soil and grit from between the layers. Drain well and slice crosswise thinly into semicircles.

Wash and trim the root end as well as the leaf stalks close to the fennel bulb; slice thinly into quarter circles.

Wash and dry carrots, zucchini and tomatoes. Peel carrots if desired and cut all the veggies into bite sized pieces.

Strip the leaves from all the herbs; chop coarsely. Keep the parsley and the leaves from one sprig of basil separately.

Peel and chop the garlic finely.

Heat one Tbsp of the oil or ghee and cook the mushrooms and eggplant with a pinch each of turmeric, salt, cayenne and black pepper until the veggies are tender and browned a little. Remove and set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil or ghee to the same pan: add the leeks and fennel with the rest of the turmeric, cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Cook until the vegetables are softened and are beginning to color.

Stir in garlic and the sage-basil-marjoram mix and cook for one minute.

Stir in the rice and mix well; keep stirring for about 3 minutes until rice is coated well and is a little translucent.

Add 5 cups of hot/boiling water (or broth) from the kettle and simmer until the water is almost absorbed, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the carrots, zucchini and tomatoes with a cup of boiling water.

When the water is almost absorbed, stir in the eggplant and mushroom mixture with another cup more of the boiling water. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

Add a little more of the hot water if the risotto looks too thick; it should be moist but not soupy.

Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley and basil mixture. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve in warm bowls or plates with a sprinkle of the Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and additional freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Note: I always make a little extra because it tastes so good the next day. Serve with crisp fried or roasted papadams, a fresh green salad and/or raita. The yogurt in the raita, the lentils in the papadams, mushrooms, nuts and rice all contribute ample protein to make it a hearty meal. The vegetables and the herbs also contribute some proteins, abundant vitamins, and minerals essential for good health.

The vegetables mentioned above are just a few possibilities; change them according to what is available seasonally or according to your preference.

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