A summer risotto made better with sweet long Asian eggplants from the farmers' market.
7 cup well-seasoned simple vegetable stock, garlic stock or porcini mushroom stock
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 to 2 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 large or 2 medium eggplants, preferably a long variety, cut into 1/2" dice
1 lb tomatoes, grated (see Note); or peeled, seeded, and diced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 to 4 tbsp minced fresh parsley or 1 - 2 tbsp slivered fresh basil (to taste)
Step 1: Season the eggplant with salt, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and roast.
Step 2: Bring the stock to a simmer over low heat in a saucepan, with a ladle nearby or in the pot. Make sure the stock is well seasoned.
Step 3: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook gently until it is just tender, 3 - 5 minutes. Do not brown.
Step 4: Add the rice and garlic and stir until the grains separate and begin to crackle. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, thyme and salt to taste and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down and coat the rice, 5 - 10 minutes. Add the wine. It should bubble right away, but it shouldn’t evaporate too quickly. Stir until it is no longer visible in the pan.
Step 5: Add the roasted eggplant and begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1⁄2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice, and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, adding more stock and stirring when the rice is almost dry. You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often and when you do, stir vigorously, because it’s the stirring that coaxes the starch out of the rice, and the starch is what makes risotto creamy. When the rice is no longer hard in the middle but is still chewy (al dente), usually in 20 - 25 minutes, it is done. Taste now and adjust seasoning.
Step 6: Add another ladleful of stock to the rice. Stir in the Parmesan, parsley or basil and pepper to taste and remove from the heat. The mixture should be creamy (add more stock if it isn’t). Serve right away in wide soup bowls or on plates, spreading the risotto in a thin layer rather than a mound.
To grate tomatoes, cut the tomato in half along the equator. Squeeze out the seeds into a strainer set over a wide bowl and rub the seed pods against the strainer to catch the sweet pulp that surrounds the seeds. Set a box grater in the bowl. Cup the halved tomato in your hand and rub against the large holes of a box grater. The skin will protect your hand.
You can roast the eggplant up to a day ahead of time.
You can begin up to several hours before serving. Proceed with the recipe and cook halfway through Step 4, that is, for about 15 minutes. The rice should still be hard in the middle when you remove it from the heat, and there should not be any liquid in the pan. Spread the risotto in an even layer in the pan and keep it away from the heat until you resume cooking. If the pan is not wide enough for you to spread the rice in a thin layer, then transfer it to a baking sheet. Fifteen minutes before serving, bring the remaining stock back to a simmer and reheat the rice. Resume cooking as directed.
See more recipes from The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking.
Reprinted with permissions from The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking (2014, Raincoast Books).