Risotto is the perfect dish for puree. It is warm and comforting and can be made with any variety of healthy veggies, or healthy proteins. Here, I use mushrooms, but you could use asparagus.
The making of risotto is basically a technique, so it qualifies as a non-recipe, recipe. You can invent it in any way you like. It is very difficult to make an error. There are no rules to this dish, except that the liquid goes in a small amount at a time.
This is a master recipe. You can make different versions for all occasions. This non-recipe contains the basic procedure. This is basically a porridge made of rice with added flavors. Some people sauté their protein or their veggies with a little wine. This is up to your healthcare provider, as alcohol may be contraindicated with certain medications. Make sure to check before you splash in the wine.
Not every cook has the patience to make a risotto, because it takes time. Believe me, if you haven’t done it, the result is well worth the time. It makes a delicious, rice porridge. For risotto, one uses arborio rice. You melt some butter and olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan, and when it is melted, you stir in the rice. When the rice grains are coated with oil, you add warm stock, a ladle at a time, until it is absorbed and continue in this way for fifteen minutes, until the rice is fully cooked and creamy. You have to watch the dish as you cook it.
At the end, you add parmesan cheese, and let it melt into the dish. You may add your sautéed mushrooms or cooked shrimp and lobster at the end. Then, when it is cooled, you add the risotto, a cup at a time, to a blender or a small food processor, you pulse a few times, and you puree. This may be served as a side dish to a protein. With the addition of protein, it becomes a whole meal. A smaller, snack-sized portion makes a warming mid-afternoon meal on a cold day.
In Italian cuisine, this is usually served with grated parmesan cheese, making it a protein-rich dish. To this one, you can add any kind of flavoring, veggies or protein. It is easy to see that risotto is a flexible dish. For purposes of the puree kitchen, one may change the seasonings and have a new dish. Mushrooms pair well with garlic and soy, and they pair well with oyster sauce from the Chinese kitchen. They also pair well with cream if you like richness, or coconut milk if you are avoiding dairy. They cook well with white wine and thyme.
As to the amount of time it takes to stir in the liquid, I have always found that if I am a little scattered, the simple exercise of standing and stirring the rice calms me down and brings me into the moment. Call it the zen of risotto. No kidding. Suddenly, I’m out of the frazzle-brain mentality where my mind runs all over the place and into the zone of one-pointedness with clarity. Everything comes into focus. The music that I play when I cook sounds sweeter. This creates what can be called, “emotional cleansing”. Cooking, as a form of therapy, is very relaxing. That is, if you don’t resist the job. If you resist, resent or regret, you are back in the frazzle. Take note.
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 pound crimini or oyster mushrooms, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 cup finely minced shallots
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup arborio rice (7 ounces)
- 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon very finely grated lemon zest
- In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the ¼ cup shallots and garlic, the ground thyme and season with a pinch of sea salt. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the arborio rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue stirring in vegetable broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until it is almost absorbed before adding more. The risotto is done when the rice is just al dente, about 18 minutes total.
- Stir in the lemon juice, grated cheese, coconut milk and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Bring to a simmer for 30 seconds. The risotto should be thick. Check for seasoning, and if needed, add salt and white pepper.
For the Puree
Spoon one cup of the risotto into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse a few times, then, blend until smooth. If desired, tenderly cooked protein, such as shrimp or scallops, sliced ham, or poached chicken may be added to the risotto at the time of puree. Otherwise, a protein main dish from the guidebook may be prepared and the risotto is served as a side dish.
Know Your Ingredients
Here’s a list of my favorite mushrooms. The white button mushroom is the most common in the U. S. These are good alone or in combination as a mushroom medley. I ranked them in order of those most easily found in supermarkets or Asian markets.
Follow directions for dried mushrooms. I have not used the canned varieties. I prefer dried. Some of these are gourmet varieties and are more readily available dried but are expensive, such as the morelle. Some are Asian varieties and may be ordered online if you do not have a local source where you live. This would be the abalone and the cloud ear.
The mushroom has been used as a meat substitute in Chinese and Japanese cuisine and the Buddhist vegetarian cuisines of Asia for at least a thousand years. As a meat substitute, they are a good value. Extremely versatile, mushrooms pair well with entrees of seafood, pork, chicken or beef.
- Oyster Mushroom
- Enoki mushroom
- Straw Mushroom
- White Elf or King Oyster or Abalone Mushroom
- Cloud Ear
Bonus Technique – Quickie Risotto for the Time-Challenged
For the time-challenged caregiver or family member in a dysphagia patient’s environment, I am including a quickie version of risotto. This is an adaptation from the cookbook for the Wolfgang Puck pressure cooker, one of the new generation electric pressure cookers. I do not recommend using the old-fashioned pressure cookers.
TIP: One version of this recipe says you can add your mushrooms to the onions before you add the rice, and then pressure cook the mushrooms with the rice. This is a time-saver and a labor-savor, and you are welcome to do this. I personally recommend sautéing your mushrooms separately, and adding your sautéed mushrooms after the risotto is done. I like being able to control the texture of the veggies. You can add any other sauteed veggies to the risotto, such as asparagus tips or zucchini half moons. This is a personal choice.
Featured photo credit: mquadrelli0 via Pixabay, cc