One of my favorite comfort foods to make is risotto, especially on evenings when the temperatures are just a little cooler. If you’ve never made risotto, you may not know that it is not a dish you can put on then walk away from. You add the liquid a little at a time, stirring after each addition until it absorbs.
Where as during warmer days, risotto feels so labor intensive, during the cooler ones, the thought of standing around the warm stove for a while seems so inviting.
Risotto is one of those things that does require a little more love and attention than your average rice dish, but the resulting creaminess is so worth the effort put in. When I’m making risotto at home, I love inviting friends over for a cooking party so we can all take turns stirring.
I like to enjoy some of my risotto while it’s warm, and save some for the next day to make crispy risotto cakes.
Before getting to the risotto cakes, you have to start with good vegan risotto recipes. This recipe is great in its versatility, since you can change your ingredients based on the season. For example, I add roasted butternut squash risotto in the fall, asparagus in the spring, sun dried tomatoes in the summer and mushrooms anytime of year. When basil is not available, I use parsley or other herbs.
Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup yellow or sweet onion, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice or short grain brown rice (if using brown, parboil for 10 minutes first)
5 cups vegetable stock, heated
1/2 cup cashew cream (*see below)
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance, or more olive oil
salt to taste
6 leaves fresh basil or sage, chiffonade
For the squash: Preheat oven to 400. Toss squash in a small amount of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until tender and caramelized.
1. In a medium sized heavy bottom sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat, then add onion and saute until golden brown (if making mushroom risotto, add mushrooms now too). Add rice and stir until well coated and translucent.
2. Stir in 1 cup of hot stock and simmer gently.
3. When the stock has absorbed, add another cup, and continue this process until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 – 25 minutes.
4. Stir in the Earth Balance and cashew cream and season with salt. Fold in roasted squash and basil. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 2 minutes before serving.
Soak 1/4 cup of raw cashews for at least 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and transfer to a blender and add a pinch of salt and enough water to just cover the cashews. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides to incorporate as needed. If desired, add about two tablespoons fresh basil or sage.
*This will make just enough cream for the risotto. Increase amount if you want extra cream on hand. It will usually keep in the fridge for about a week, in the freezer for longer.
What you need:
risotto that has been refrigerated overnight.
brown rice flour
What you do:
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Form risotto into balls (easiest using an ice scream scooper packed tightly). Drop risotto balls one by one into a small bowl and cover each with about 1 teaspoon of flour, or however much it takes to well coat. Tighten the ball, then flatten into a patty.
Carefully, add as many patties to the skillet as you can fit, leaving room to be able to flip them. Cook for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and serve immediately. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if desired.
Also by Christine: Gluten-free and Vegan Lentil Loaf
Photo: Christine Oppenheim