Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Fresh Corn, Tomato and Cauliflower Risotto

What a sorry sight: This is the first recipe on this blog in ages not accompanied by photos. I completely forgot to bring my camera when I headed off to ...

What a sorry sight: This is the first recipe on this blog in ages not accompanied by photos. I completely forgot to bring my camera when I headed off to Grand Army Plaza, toting a gallon or so of homemade vegetable stock and box of Arborio rice to do my risotto-making demo at the Greenmarket information stand. But, since so many people asked for a recipe, I wanted to share what I ended up making, using whatever looked good at the market.

It’s a very special in-between season for local produce. This week and hopefully next, there’s still colorful late-summer produce like peaches, eggplant and zucchini. But once the first frost hits later on in the month, they’ll vanish. Right now we’re still blessed with ripe Jersey tomatoes and sweet corn, two things I happen to love throwing into risotto. We had a difficult time naming this risotto while passing it out to the shoppers and walkers-by yesterday. “Early-Fall” risotto didn’t seem to do justice to the bright summer veggies, but it’s technically no longer summer. “October Risotto” is what I think we ended up calling it to those who seemed to want a proper name attached to what they were eating. Though I prefer the mystery of risotto du jour.

Thanks to the Greenmarket coordinators and the gracious farmers, I was able to pick up a few extra-ripe, juicy and slightly squished tomatoes. These went into the risotto early into cooking, so that its flavor and color just melted into the starchy liquid. It’s a great way to use up tomatoes that are past their prime, or don’t exactly look ideal for slicing raw in a salad. Another ingredient added early on was chopped cauliflower. Once the dish is done, they’re near-invisible to the sight as well as palate, but offer a little bit of texture as well as the rich serving of vitamins that bely the vegetable’s dull color. Cauliflower is often used as a low-carb replacement for other starches, so here they add bulk to the dish while lowering its caloric count. Never underestimate the cauliflower.

And who can resist adding freshly zipped-from-the-cob kernels of corn to anything, while they’re in season? Crispy and sweet, these were tossed in at the last minute or two of stirring. A good douse of dry white wine from a Finger Lakes wine vendor at the market took care of that authentic risotto flavor. Finally, for garnish I used a bunch of thyme that was already on the information table when I arrived. But normal thyme it was not; serendipitously, someone had grabbed bright-green lemon thyme not realizing it. It made for a lovely finish.

Thanks so much to everyone who swung by the table to say hi and grab a sample of this yesterday. Since I had such a fun time making it, I hope to be back for other food demos again — hopefully with my camera then. And thanks again to the farmers, Liz Carollo, and all the other hard-working Greenmarket employees and volunteers. Enjoy the recipe.

Fresh Corn, Tomato and Cauliflower Risotto
(makes about 4 servings)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped to about 1/2″ pieces
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
kernels from 1 ear of corn
2 tablespoons lemon thyme, thyme or any other herb you wish
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, a pinch of salt, and lower heat to medium-low to “sweat” for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and stir for another 1-2 minutes, to toast the grains and coat them with the oil. Add the wine wine and stir until it has almost evaporated. Add the cauliflower and a couple ladles of the stock. Stir occasionally until stock has almost evaporated and add another couple ladles. Add the tomatoes with the next addition of stock. Continue adding stock and stirring occasionally until the rice is cooked to al dente, about 20 minutes (you may need more or less stock). Add the corn and salt and pepper to taste. Cook another minute, or to desired consistency (I like my risotto on the soupier side). Stir in the fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Cost Calculator
(for 4 servings)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (at $2.99/32 oz.): $1.13
4 cups homemade vegetable stock: $1.00()?
1 cup white wine (at $10/bottle): $2.00
1 cup chopped cauliflower (at $2/lb): $0.50
1 tomato (at $2/lb): $0.75
1/2 cup onions (at $1.25/lb): $0.25
1 ear of corn: $0.50
2 tablespoons thyme: $0.60
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper: $0.30

Total: $7.03

Health Factor

Two brownie points: This recipe is wildly healthy because unlike most risottos you’ll be served in restaurants, there’s no butter, cream, just a couple tablespoons of heart-friendly olive oil. Then of course, plenty of flavorful yet nutritious vegetables. Cauliflower and corn are actually good sources of Vitamin C, fiber and folate, and tomatoes supplement this with some b-vitamins, Vitamin A and lycopene. The perfect two-in-one veggie and starch side for a protein.

Green Factor

Seven maple leaves: Um, this was sort of the point. If only Arborio rice and extra-virgin olive oil could be grown and sold in the Tri-State area, we’d have near-perfection in buying and cooking local.

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5 Responses to “Fresh Corn, Tomato and Cauliflower Risotto”

  1. Sarah says:

    Glad to hear it went well. Can’t wait for the Saturday when I can actually stop by.

  2. Jess says:

    Here’s my question: does this taste as decadent as any other risotto recipe? I’d love to make this for friends, but I fear they’re so used to the butter- and cream-laden versions of this recipe that it wouldn’t taste quite right. Does the cauliflower addition work well to make it taste more unhealthy?

  3. cathy says:

    Hi Jess: I think it tastes great without, but it’s funny, whenever I cook for other people I tend to add more fat, too! I think a gob of butter stirred in at the end until it’s fully melted should do the trick. You could add cream too if you want, but not too much as a lot would dilute flavor/create a weird stickiness to the texture.

  4. Nora says:

    I have the (dirty?) habit of loading dishes with butter when I’m cooking for company. It’s like guaranteeing praise and hugs and love! Alone, I never use it. I’m glad someone else does it too.

  5. Everything is Connected » Blog Archive » Currently Reading: Cathy Erway’s The Art of Eating In says:

    [...] of blog entries but the subsequent recipes and musings were really great and drew me in. I made risotto (properly) for the first time from a NEOINY recipe. By the time I joined in the fun, the project [...]

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