You should know that this risotto was a triumph on many levels. Initially, I wanted to tackle a risotto where quinoa was the star, however, after a long discussion with a friend, who probably can prattle on about food just as long as I could, she reminded me that we often try to make quinoa the replacement for pasta and rice, when it should be celebrated on its own merit. Yes, we do spend time talking about grains in excruciating detail. Don’t even get me started on our involved discussion regarding free-form crusts — it’ll bore you to tears.
While it’s true that I’ve made many risottos, the lemon flavor that the marjoram brings, as well as the creaminess of the fresh ricotta, delivered a dish that was far superior than what I’ve made before. Make no mistake, you will eat this standing up, leaning over the stove, ladling large spoonfuls of creamy, steamed rice in your mouth.
Don’t you dare apologize.
The second triumph came in the form of photography. Long-time readers of this space know that I’ve made investments over the years in equipment and self-taught tutorials — all in an effort to show you the beauty I see in a dish (its textures, aromatics, composition), as if part of my heart could be imbued onto a photograph, which would serve to connect me to you. I’m a minimalist when it comes to taking photos of food, as I fervently believe that what’s on the plate is always the star of the show. I care less about scenery and people and the like, and only go in for moderate styling — nothing that would interrupt the headlining act.
So, after fiddling with whiteboards, bounced light and napkins, I finally captured photos of the dish that not only required little editing (the beauty of natural light!), but was the complete and utter visual evocation of how I feel about this dish.
From me, to you.
1 qt (2 pints) low-sodium, organic/local chicken stock (or you can use vegetable)*
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
1 cup of arborio rice
4 tbsp of pumpkin puree
2 tbsp fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 tsp sea salt; 1/4 tsp pepper
*1 quart is the equivalent of 32oz or 2 lbs
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 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). Add in the marjoram and stir for another 30 seconds. 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 Radiohead in these sorts of parallel parking scenarios.
In a small skillet, brown the seeds until fragrant and toasted (1-2 minutes).
Once all of the water has been absorbed, stir in the pumpkin, and pepper until the risotto transforms into a satiny orange. Mix in the ricotta. Stir for a good minute and serve hot.