Even without the addition of traditional oil, butter, cheese, and salt, risotto can be very satisfying and delicious. This classic Italian rice dish is creamy and hearty, getting its big flavor from a variety of mushrooms, as well as shallots, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and fresh tarragon.
- 7 cups water
- 1 cup chopped shallots, leeks, or yellow onion
- ½ pound white or crimini mushrooms (about 5 medium), sliced
- ¼ pound portabella mushroom (1 medium), sliced
- ¼ pound shitake mushrooms (about 6 medium), sliced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1½ cups dry/uncooked Arborio rice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
- ¼ cup cashews (or other nut) ground, to garnish (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, bring the 7 cups of water to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat so the water is steaming but not boiling. Leave this on the stovetop.
- On a separate burner, add 1 tablespoon of water to a 4- to 5-quart, heavy-duty saucepan over medium-low heat. When the water begins to sputter, add the shallots or leeks, and cook stirring until soft, 3 to 5 minutes, adding a bit of water as needed to prevent sticking.
- Add all of the mushrooms and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes (adding water as needed).
- Add the rice and stir until the edges become translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and granulated onion, and stir until you can no longer see any of the vinegar in the bottom of the pot.
- Stir in 1 cup of the hot water, stirring until it has been almost completely absorbed (2 to 3 minutes). Continue to add 1 cup of water at a time in the same way, stirring nearly continuously. This gradual technique is the key to getting the rice to release its starch, thereby making the dish creamy. This process will take 30 to 40 minutes, and will use 6 to 7 cups of the hot water. The risotto is ready when the rice still has a bit of chew to it and is very thick.
- Stir in the tarragon and lemon zest (if using). Garnish with chopped tarragon and/or ground raw, unsalted cashews (or other nut) using a rotary cheese grater; this gives the effect of parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. When reheating leftovers, stir in a little water or unsweetened nondairy milk, as the risotto will have thickened considerably.
If you don't have access to fresh tarragon, you can use basil instead, but in my opinion, the tarragon really makes this dish.
If you want to use salt-free, homemade vegetable stock in place of the water, you may.
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