One of the many advantages to living in Northern California, is having access to a wide variety of produce based on the seasons. I mean, that’s what we’re here for, right? Farm fresh, flavorful, colorful, and uber nutritious. This past week at the farmers’ market I was hard pressed not to buy everything in sight but I settled on fennel and leeks which made for a lovely risotto.
The great thing about risottos is their versatility. You can use almost any vegetable in combination with others, as well as herbs. I have tried asparagus with thyme; baby artichoke with oregano; and now leek and fennel with parsley. And because our lemons are still ripening (!), I always make sure to add a little zest to make the flavors really pop.
My preferred grain to pair with most veggies is farro, an ancient form of wheat. It’s nutty and chewy and offers a multitude of nutrients beyond the traditional white arborio. In this case, however, the farro would be a bit overpowering for the more delicate nature of it’s accompaniments. I’d love to hear what your favorite risotto ingredients are, too.
Leek and Fennel Risotto – Serves 4
Fennel is high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber. It is great for digestion and soothing the stomach. Leeks help lower cholesterol and parsley is packed with chlorophyll and calcium.
3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
1 large fennel bulb. sliced about 1/4″ thick and coarsely chopped
1 large leek, cleaned and chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee, divided
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or goat cheese for creamy texture)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Pepper to taste
1. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Keep warm, covered.
2. Cook fennel and leek in 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a Dutch-oven or4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.
4. Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender, about 18 minutes.
5. Stir in leek and fennel, zest, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, parmesan, and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.