Meatless Monday is a nonprofit initiative that encourages people to cut out meat one day a week, for their health and the health of the planet. It's easy for us to do because we were already going meatless several days a week, and it's been even easier since we started getting CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery. Click here to find out more about Meatless Monday and sign up for their weekly email, which is filled with delicious meatless recipes.
I think the best way to incorporate meatless meals into your schedule is to have delicious options that you love and crave. That way you're not focused on the "giving up" part, as in the meat. You don't miss it because you love the meal. Think about your favorite pasta dish: I'll bet it doesn't have meat. And I'll bet you don't care one bit.
One of our favorite meals, meatless or otherwise, is risotto. My mother learned how to make it years ago from an Italian friend and she taught me the method. I think this recipe is as good as (or better!) than any I've had a restaurant, and it's one of my husband's absolute favorite dinners. So I thought I'd tell you how I make it, instead of just providing the recipe. It's not hard, but there is a method that needs to be closely followed.
First, get out your favorite large saute pan and saute your vegetables in olive oil. The options are endless, but our favorite is garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and basil. Saute the garlic and mushrooms first, add the fresh tomatoes for a few minutes, and then the fresh basil last. Put the vegetables aside. Asparagus and mushrooms are another great combination.
In the same pan, without rinsing, add more olive oil and the arborio rice. I use the brand in the photo, which is available at World Market, but I hear you can get arborio rice in almost any supermarket these days. However, I don't know if it is all the same quality. This brand is very good and the best I've found.
I never measure any of this, but let's say you add about a cup of the arborio rice to a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Saute for a few minutes or until the rice starts to become translucent. DO NOT let the rice burn or even get browned. If it starts getting brown, it's time to add the liquid.
All of this should be done over medium heat. That's probably the most important thing I can tell you. If the heat is too high, the risotto will cook too fast and be hard in the middle and if the heat is too low it will be mushy.
When the rice is translucent but not brown, add about a cup or two of liquid. I usually alternate between broth and white wine. The quality of your broth is going to make a big difference in how the risotto comes out, so make sure it's flavorful. The quality of the wine probably doesn't matter that much, you don't want to spend a fortune on wine for cooking. We generally use any kind of white wine that's not too sweet.
This is where you'll want to put on some music, maybe opera to get you in the mood, and stay by the stove. You can set the table, make a salad, etc. but do not leave the kitchen. You must keep your eye on this, like a protective mother. You need to always be adding liquid, but there should never be too much. As it cooks and evaporates, you'll add another cup or so of broth or wine. If you don't have broth or wine, water will do, but I don't think I would try it with only water. It will be difficult to get a richness of flavor.
After about 20-30 minutes, you'll notice the consistency of the rice change and it is near ready. Cook until the last of the liquid is absorbed and add 1/2 cup milk or cream. Cook a few more minutes until it is creamy and then add back the vegetables for another few minutes.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan and a green salad.
There are a couple of great bonuses to this meal, on top of being meatless: it all cooks in one pan so there's less clean up, and it's a frugal option as long as you don't use expensive, out of season vegetables.
Do you make risotto at home? What are your favorite vegetables to cook in risotto? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section.