Meatless Monday: Risotto Primavera

By: Patty Lee
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Though most of us associate the slow cooker with the long-simmered comfort foods of winter, this kitchen gadget actually comes in handy year-round. This bright, springy risotto is a case in point. Make it the traditional way — on the stovetop with lots of stirring and constant supervision — or simply let the slow cooker work its time-saving magic. Fill the pot up with Arborio rice, hot vegetable stock and fresh, seasonal produce like fava beans, asparagus and zucchini, and in just two hours, you'll have a creamy, bubbling risotto brimming with vibrant spring flavors — no arm workout required.

2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or carnaroli rice
1 cup white wine

2 cups hot vegetable stock for the slow cooker (3 cups for the traditional method)

1/2 cup fresh or frozen fava or lima beans
Bunch of asparagus spears, trimmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 small zucchini, diced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Directions:
Slow cooker method:
Prep, 15 mins; Cook, 10 mins precooking; Auto/Low 1 1/2 - 2 hrs

Preheat the slow cooker, if required. Heat the oil and half the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion, and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper, add the garlic, and cook for a minute.

Stir in the rice and turn it in the oily butter so all the grains are coated. Cook for a few seconds. Increase the heat, add the wine, and let it bubble for 1-2 minutes until it has been absorbed. Transfer everything to the slow cooker, then pour in the stock and add the fava beans, asparagus, and zucchini. Cover with the lid and cook on auto/low for 1 1/2 - 2 hrs.

Stir in the remaining butter together with the Parmesan cheese, taste, and season if needed. Serve with more Parmesan and a lightly dressed wild arugula and tomato salad on the side.

Traditional method:
Prep, 15 mins; Cook, 1 hr

Heat the oil and half the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion, and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper, add the garlic, and cook for a minute.

Stir in the rice and turn it in the oily butter so all the grains are coated. Cook for a few seconds. Increase the heat, add the wine, and let it bubble for 1-2 minutes until it has been absorbed. Then add a ladleful of the hot stock at a time (keeping the rest simmering in a saucepan) and stir, cooking until it has been absorbed. Continue doing this for 30-40 minutes or until the rice is cooked to al dente and is creamy. You may not use all the stock or you may need a little more.

While that's cooking, add the fava beans to a large pan of boiling salted water, and cook for 3-4 minutes, then drain well and set aside. Heat the remaining oil in another frying pan over medium heat, add the asparagus and zucchini, and cook for a few minutes until they just begin to color. Stir all the vegetables into the risotto, dot the remaining butter all over, and stir it in. Then stir in the Parmesan cheese, taste and season, if needed. Serve with more Parmesan and a lightly dressed wild arugula and tomato salad on the side.

More Meatless recipes for spring:
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