I’m starting to miss summer veggies. We’re in a food rut over here. Today my husband turned to me and said, “Judging from the blog, people would never guess that all we eat is pasta.”
Clearly something needed to be done.
When I’m feeling the food blues, I like to make fancy things. Scratch that–I like to make things that look fancy, but are actually pretty simple. When I think of an easy lunch, I usually don’t think risotto. All that stirring… it’s definitely only a once-in-a-while thing for me. But baked risotto! A little prep then 25 minutes in the oven and voila. It’s a little different in texture than standard risotto, which is creamier. This is closer to a pilaf than anything, but it’s still delicious. I’m going to try making it with more liquid next time to see if I can replicate the creaminess of stirred risotto.
But back to lunch. The risotto practically cooks itself, so with 25 minutes of downtime I could prep some veggies to accompany it. I wanted to make the end of December feel more like the middle of July. Canned artichokes, a red pepper, and an eggplant all volunteered. These are all veggies that are great cooked simply, roasted or grilled with wee bit of olive oil and salt. To jazz them up a touch, I made a very easy (and very tasty) balsamic reduction to drizzle over the plate before serving.
If you’ve never made a balsamic reduction before, you should really give it a shot. It only has one ingredient (I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count). It can be prepared ahead of time, and it goes with all sorts of foods (even fruit!). And it looks pretty. Drizzle some messily on your dinner plate and you go from a nice looking meal to a gourmet looking meal immediately. See?
Chefs love to drizzle stuff all over plates. I don’t blame them. If you can drizzle something tasty, go for it. Extra points for a bright or contrasting color. Just make sure your drizzle-stuff is sort of thick and syrupy so it sticks where you put it. If it’s too thin it will run all over.
Baked Risotto With Grilled Veggies and Balsamic Reduction
Serves two to three
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 Red Onion, finely chopped (or 3-4 shallots)
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Cup Arborio Rice
1/3 Cup Oil Packed Sundried Tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp Dried Italian Herbs, your choice
1/2 Cup Cooking Sherry
2 Cups Hot Vegetable Stock, or water and veg bullion cube
1/2 tsp Salt (if needed)
1 Small Eggplant*
4 Water Packed Artichoke Hearts
1 Bell Pepper (or jared, roasted red pepper)
Balsamic Vinegar (at least 1/2 cup)
*I only used 2 slices of eggplant per person, so you won’t need an entire eggplant to make this dish.
Preheat your oven to 450Âº F.
Begin by sauteing the garlic and onion in olive oil in an oven safe sautÃ© pan that has high sides and a tight fitting lid. While the onion is cooking over medium heat, begin roasting the pepper if you are using a fresh one. Instructions can be found here.
Once the onion has softened and browned, add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. SautÃ© for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and herbs. Add the cooking sherry and stir until absorbed by the rice. Add the stock/water, stir, cover and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron grill pan with some olive oil. When the pan is very hot, add slices of eggplant and drizzle with olive oil. Grill until tender, remove from the pan. Slice the artichoke hearts in quarters and grill for a few minutes, set aside when completed. Sprinkle both lightly with salt.
To make the reduction, heat balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan, reducing by half until the vinegar is syrupy. The more vinegar you use, the easier it is to make, but the longer it takes. If you only use a small amount of vinegar, you can overcook it easily; keep a close eye on it. While the vinegar is reducing, check for consistency by drizzling some on a plate. If it is thick and syrupy, and tastes sweet and tangy, you’re ready to go. Try not to burn or completely caramelize the vinegar.
One the risotto comes out of the oven, remove the cover and fluff it with a fork. BE CAREFUL. While I was plating the dish, I had forgotten that the pan had just come out of a 450Âº oven and tried to move it out of the way. I plated, photographed, and wrote about this dish one hand because of that. Ouch.
Plate the dish. I used a cooking ring to form the risotto, put the artichokes on top, and the eggplant and pepper next to the risotto. Drizzle with the reduction and serve.
Happy New Year!