A few months ago I performed the arduous, yet satisfying task, of cleaning out my closet. This can be a cruel afternoon replete with hopeful tears (it’ll fit one day!), denial (just because I haven’t worn it in two years doesn’t mean I’ll never wear it!), rage (what possessed me to waste my hard-earned money on Christian Louboutin shoes, which are in fact the most uncomfortable shoes ever made!) and regret (that would’ve been cute had I been 27). And on this particular Saturday, I got downright surgical, shoving old sweaters into bins and ill-fitted dresses into bags, and I noticed that I have a predilection (some would say addiction) to the color BLUE.
A WOMAN BELIEVES IN THE COLOR BLUE. IN BLUE WE TRUST. ETC, ETC.
After I acquiesced to the fact that I’m only truly comfortable in greys, blacks, and tonal shades of my beloved blue, I felt relieved. As if the world had been set to rights. Liberated from the cruel pinks, oranges and other blasphemous colors that make one feel like Free Willy, etc.
And then last week I found myself scrolling the pages of the site, and much to my chagrin, everything was a variation of the colors orange, black and brown. From babka cakes to pumpkin pancetta risottos, I’m all fall, ALL. THE. TIME. While I believe in cooking seasonal, I do believe in slight variation (my greys + blacks to my blues), so I came home and fixed the most luscious of risottos. The nuttiness of the walnuts melds beautifully with the creamy rice, which is cut by the sharpness of the cool pesto. You will absolutely love this dish, and I’ve already polished off much of it for dinner.
For the risotto
1 quart* chicken stock
1 cup arborrio rice
1 shallot, fine dice
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
For the basil walnut pesto
1 cup basil, packed
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/4-1/2 tsp truffle salt, to taste
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
*1 quart is the equivalent of 32oz or 2 lbs
In a food processor, blitz the walnuts, pesto, garlic, salt and pepper, streaming in the olive oil until you achieve a thick paste. You don’t want your pesto to be soupy or too oily, rather you want a voluptuous chunks that will hold up to the satiny, hot risotto. Once your pesto is a paste, set aside.
In a large sauce pot, bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Keep this pot next to our sauté pan, as you’ll need to continuously ladle from the stock to the skillet, so proximity is pretty key.
In a large sauté pan (translation: a skillet that can hold 3-4 quarts), sauté the shallots and salt on medium heat until translucent (1-2 minutes). Pour in the rice and cook until the rice is translucent and browns slightly, approximately 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. You do not want burned onions or rice, so if this starts to happen ladle in liquid immediately. Do you want to sob over burnt risotto? My guess is NO WAY, NO DAY.
Add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir, and stir, and stir, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Keep ladling in the liquid in increments until all of the water is absorbed and the stock is thick and creamy. Remember, risotto isn’t a dish that will cook itself, it requires dedication, so be prepared to stand in front of the stove stirring for 20-30 minutes. I’ve been blasting Interpol and old-school U2 in these sorts of parallel parking scenarios.
Once all of the water has been absorbed, stir in the pesto until the risotto transforms into a verdant green. Mix for a good minute serve pipping hot. Add salt/pepper to taste, and cheese if you desire.