One of the things I made sure to do while visiting my parents in Switzerland was to discuss risotto with my mom. As far back as I can remember, she has made perfect and seemingly effortless risotto. There is no endless stirring, no anxious monitoring, and every time herrisotto turns out exactly right. She does not even bother to chop the garlic – she just peels it by giving each clove a small whack (she is a small person so there’s no grandiose smashing of garlic) and the garlic magically dissolves in the risotto. Even the most Goldilocks-y of risotto critiques would love it – every grain is distinct, there is no mush factor, yet there is a pillowy quality to her risotto.
The issue? I avoid white rice as much as possible, as well as butter or wine, and have wondered several times how to make brown rice risotto that is vegan and does not derive its flavoring from wine. I had some ideas, but technique wise, I wanted my mom’s risotto intuition there. Turns out, she had stopped using butter or wine in her risotto years ago – and since she too favors unrefined grains now, she was excited at the prospect of trying out my ideas (soaking the brown rice, using nutritional yeast at the end).
The result was pretty fantastic. I recreated it with asparagus when I came back to the U.S. but sadly my pictures do not do it justice. Since today is the last day to submit asparagus recipes to this month’s asparagus-themed Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge, hosted by Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs and Kim of Affairs of Living, and I do not want to keep this recipe from you all any longer, I decided to go ahead and write it up. I am submitting this recipe to several blog events, as you will see after the recipe.
A few notes: I do not normally quibble on ingredients, but I do recommend you use Lundberg Short Grain Brown Rice. It is a great brand that cares about avoiding GMOs and cross-contamination with gluten, and their rice is excellent quality. Also, while finishing the dish with extra-virgin olive oil gives it a decadent quality, you will still get an amazing risotto if you skip it.
Brown Rice Risotto with Asparagus (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Soy-Free, Nut-Free) – Serves 2 with a leftover portion for 1 (like in this lunchbox)
- 1 cup short-grain brown rice (see notes above), soaked 8-12 hours, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade broth made with veggie juice pulp, which I then strain out, so it has a strong carrot and )
- 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed a bit (but not chopped)
- 2-3 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade broth made with juice pulp, which I then strain out)
- 1/2 lb asparagus, washed well, tough ends snapped off and set aside, remaining stems chopped into 1 inch pieces. Keep tops of risotto spears separate from chopped risotto stems.
- Juice and zest of 1 small to medium lemon
- Salt and pepper to tastes
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
While you chop the onion, simmer broth with tough ends of asparagus in a small saucepan and keep warm, but not boiling. Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onions garlic and sautee until onions are transluscent, about five minutes. Add rice and stir to combine. When grains are well coated with oil and onions (about three to four minutes) add 2 cups warm broth. Stir well and cook, covered, with just a little venting of the lid. After fifteen to seventeen minutes check the risotto. It should be brothy but have absorbed much of the liquid. (At the fifteen minute mark it always appears too brothy, but seems perfectly on its way at the seventeen minute mark). If the risotto appears dry add another 1/3 to 1/2 cup of broth (this has not been necessary in my experience with soaked brown rice, but has happened with white risotto rice). Add asparagus stems (but not asparagus heads) to the risotto. Stir and cover. After five minutes, uncover and add the asparagus tips. Leave saucepan uncovered Turn heat off after two minutes. The asparagus should remain bright green. At this point the garlic should have melted into the risotto, but if you see large pieces of it, remove from pot, mash with a fork and stir back into risotto. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Season with salt (I used a scant half teaspoon of sea salt), pepper and optional extra-virgin olive oil.
- The Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge, hosted by Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs and Kim of Affairs of Living.
I am also submitting the recipe to these weekly events:
- Seasonal Sunday, hosted by Real Sustenance. Asparagus is the ultimate Spring Vegetable, don’t you think?
- Gluten-Free Wednesday over at the Gluten-Free Homemaker (I missed this past Wednesday’s for the first time in weeks – boo- so this is for this coming Wednesday)