easy baked risotto with shrimp and sugar snap peas

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Ina Garten’s risotto recipe gave me the idea to bake this risotto instead of standing at the stove and slowly stirring the rice after each addition of stock. It cooked up so quickly in the oven, in 30 minutes, so I quickly took it out and added the shrimp and other ingredients, including a handful of minced Chinese celery (คุณไชย). I forgot the wine but this risotto really didn’t miss it. It turned out buttery, with the crunch of the peas, the mild zing of the celery, and the fresh taste of just cooked shrimp. It’s Italian with a Chinese accent!

Easy Baked Risotto with Shrimp, Ham, and Sugar Snap Peas
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 37 minutes

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups chicken stock, preferably home made (I used 2 1/2 chicken bouillon cubes to 5 cups water)
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed, blanched 30 seconds and dunked in cold water to set the color
1 cup cooked ham, chopped into strips (optional)
1 sweet bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons Chinese celery, stems only, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven that is heat-proof. Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

Remove pot from the oven, and put on stove top on medium high heat. Then add the remaining cup of chicken stock, shrimp, bell pepper, wine (if using), butter, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy and the shrimp just turns pink. Don’t overcook the shrimp!

Add the ham (if using), Chinese celery, and sugar snap peas, then stir until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

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toasted orzo risotto with corn, thyme, tarragon, and chives

The secret to this deliciously simple dish is the orzo. For best results, this tiny pasta must be al dente. And I recommend making it with a vegetable stock because it tastes so much better! As the orzo absorbed the stock, it turned brown. If you use water, the orzo will be white. I insist that all the ingredients must be fresh: fresh corn, thyme, tarragon, chives, garlic, lemon, and shallot. It’s surprisingly sweet but tangy, with a faint peppery flavor from the tarragon. To get the corn off the cob, I used a sharp knife to slice the kernels off the cob, then lightly chopped them to separate them. Be careful when you do this;  I put the cob lengthwise on the cutting board and sliced downward.  I added tarragon and chives because the thyme was already in the recipe, but I think experimenting with a combination of fresh herbs would be delicious. Savory Simple recommends Penzey’s Sunny Paris Spice for seasoning, but I think it is only available by mail order. I just used salt and pepper, which is simple and easy. Like this recipe. The whole thing took 25 minutes to prep and cook.

Toasted Orzo Risotto with Corn, Thyme, Tarragon, and Chives (adapted from Savory Simple)
Makes  2 entrees or 4 side dishes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
1 ear of sweet corn, approximately 3/4 cup kernels (see note)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, leaves only, minced fine
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced fine
1 3/4 water or homemade stock
salt & pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preparation

  1. In a 10 inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds Add the orzo to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the orzo to toast while stirring. You can go lighter or darker with the toasting. As the orzo browns, it will develop a nutty flavor.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the corn kernels, lemon juice, thyme, tarragon, and chives. Add 1/4 cup of water or stock. Stir frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/4 cup liquid. Repeat until a total of 1 1/2 cups liquid is added  to the pan and is absorbed by the orzo. Reserve the last 1/4 cup.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the last of the water or stock, pine nuts (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.

zucchini risotto

“Can I have the recipe, Mom?”

Apart from that unusual request, AJ had three helpings. He leans more towards the carnivore end of the scale. I’m just slightly to the left of omnivore heading into vegetarian territory. Nope, not vegan. I’m not ready to give up meat or dairy! But to get back to this recipe, it is a good one. What’s not to like? It’s not quick and easy, but short-cuts would compromise the flavor I think. And to me, anything that calls for a broth or stock should include one made from scratch. I made a simple vegetable broth from two leeks, three medium carrots, an onion, bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, and the stems of a bunch of cilantro. I gently boiled the vegetables in 7 cups of water for 40 minutes. The risotto itself took 45 minutes to make. So no, this is not quick and easy, but well worth the effort last Sunday afternoon when I made it instead of indulging in restless snacking. The rice was creamy, the zucchini was crunchy, and the sun dried tomatoes added texture, color, and flavor.

Zucchini Risotto (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

6-7 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably home made
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice, uncooked
1 medium zucchini, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
10 sun-dried tomatoes, softened and chopped (if using tomatoes in oil, drain first)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (or mozzarella) cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves, or to taste (optional)
Salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

 Preparation:

  1. Bring vegetable or chicken stock to a boil in a medium stock pot, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
    Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook for 2 minutes, or until softened. Add the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted.
  2. On medium heat,  ladle in 1 cup of simmering vegetable stock to the rice, stirring continuously. When the liquid is absorbed, add another cupful of stock to the pan. Continue stirring. Repeat using up to 6 cups of stock. Risotto should be “creamy” and slightly sticky, yet still firm in the center, or al dente. If it isn’t tender, add a little of the 7th cup of stock.
  3. When almost finished, stir in the zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, and thyme, adding stock as needed and stirring continuously. Stir in basil and 3 tablespoons cheese just before serving. Divide risotto among 6 bowls, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and season with (salt) and pepper to taste.

Cook’s Note: If using home-made vegetable broth, the dish might not be salty enough. Taste the rice and add salt to taste.