Fall is definitely coming (ahem, here), but that doesn't mean that we're quite ready to transition to fall root vegetables and squashes. Despite the recent cold snap, we still have tomatoes and summer squash, which mean that there is still time to make this delicious risotto. The tomatoes are key here. They add a load of flavor (which means you don't have to add a load of butter). So use good fresh ones if you can get them, or experiment with a high quality canned version. Most of all, take the time to stand, stir, and enjoy the smells of the seasons changing.
P.S. I originally posted this on readymade.com last summer, but since the magazine was closed and this is one of my favorite all time recipes, I wanted to be sure to share it with you here. You're welcome!
End of Summer Vegetable Risotto with Tomatoes, Herbs and Feta
This is more a method than a specific recipe—it's highly variable based on the moisture content of the tomatoes—so my best advice is to stay close to the stove during the process and trust your instincts.
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/2 of an onion, diced
1 lb arborio rice
1/2 of a quart of chicken stock (this may vary- I had a quart box at the ready but only used about half)
3-4 big tomatoes, diced (this depends on the size and how juicy they are- I used three that were about softball sized)
2-3 cups summer squash or zucchini (depending on how much you like veggies)
2 T each fresh thyme and rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 c feta
2 T fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a deep saute pan or a stock pot—I used a pasta pot since I knew I was adding lots of veggies and would need space. Add the diced onion and a dash of salt and stir to combine. When the onion is just starting to get translucent (about 2 minutes), add in your rice and stir to coat.
2. Add a few ladles of stock and half of your tomatoes, let cook until liquid is absorbed. Repeat, adding a bit of stock and more tomatoes stirring often, until you've added all of your tomatoes. As the tomatoes cook they will start to release their juices—stay close to make sure this happens before you hear sizzling...that is your cue to add a bit more stock. Keep stirring.
3. Add in your squash and stir frequently to keep your rice from sticking. (I know this seems laborious, but hang in there!) Watch as the veggies continue to cook, adding liquid as you need it (I didn't need the stock except in the beginning since the tomatoes I used were so juicy). When the rice starts to look done—the outside will turn a softer shade of white, which will spread to the entire grain as it cooks—start testing the rice by eating a piece. Keep testing every few minutes...and stirring.
4. When the rice is nearly done, but still a little firm in the middle, stir in the rosemary and thyme. Continue stirring very often as there is likely enough liquid to keep everything simmering, but not enough to prevent it from scorching if you walk away. Don't walk away!
5. When the rice is done (a little al dente, but mostly soft), stir in the basil, feta, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the stove off, put the lid on the pot, and let it rest for about 10 minutes so that the flavors combine. Serve topped with Parmesan.