Brown Rice Risotto alla Primavera

This past weekend I went back to Indiana but of course I passed through Atlanta. While there I went to Whole Foods. It was my first time going to a Whole Foods and I have pretty much decided that if I could have my own version of heaven, I would want it to be like Whole Foods (but I also have to have a gourmet kitchen and could buy and unlimited amount of groceries...then it would be heaven). I walked through the store one time and once I got to the end I literally turned around and walked through it once more. I just love seeing ingredients I can't get anywhere near where I live!

One of the things I purchased was short-grained brown rice. I had been playing with the idea of making risotto with brown rice. I had never eaten anything like it before, but I thought it would be a good experiment. Normally, risotto is made with short grain white rice such as arborio because these types of rice are very starchy and leech their starch into the liquid they're cooked in, making a creamy consistency.

I feel a lot of people get nervous when cooking risotto because of all the stirring. However, after having made risotto several times I don't get so nervous about the final product. It even seems like you don't have to stand there and stir the whole time! Not having to stand and stir the whole time is a bit of a relief considering this recipe took at least 50 minutes to cook. I actually watched Food Network while cooking. I stirred during the commercials and took a break when my programs came back on (which happened to be Giada at Home and Barefoot Contessa, my favorite shows). I left the veggies a little chunky and they were all cooked to the perfect consistency. The rice was creamy and cheesy and everything it ought to have been. I liked the extra flavor the brown rice added and I even liked it more than the white rice versions I have made before. Ironically, I found the basis for this recipe after googling "brown rice risotto" on the Whole Foods website. It must have been fate...

Brown Rice Risotto alla Primavera
Printable Recipe

1 quart vegetable broth
5 cups water
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
2 carrots, quartered and sliced
2 zucchini, sliced into batons
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed peas
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1. Combine broth and water and bring to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus and blanch until tender-crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a bowl of iced water then drain and set aside. Cover broth-water mixture with a lid and bring back to a simmer.
2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to the oil and saute until translucent and softened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook, stirring often, until toasted, fragrant, and lightly translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is almost evaporated.
4. Add 1 cup of the broth-water mixture and cook, stirring constantly. Adjust the heat so that the rice maintains a simmer (about low-medium heat). Season with a little salt and pepper. Keep adding about 1/2 cup of the broth-water mixture each time the rice has almost absorbed all the liquid.
5. At about 25 minutes (once the rice is getting tender, but still has a bite to it), add the carrots and continue process with broth-water mixture.
6. By the final broth-water addition, the rice should be al dente and the carrots should be tender. Add the zucchini and cook 5 minutes more. (If broth mixture gets low, add water as needed.)
7. Add the peas and asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes more of until they have warmed through. Add the butter and cheese and stir briskly with a wooden spoon to emulsify the butter and cheese into the starchy liquid. Fold in the basil and taste for salt and pepper.

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