Monday, May 7, 2012

Baked Risotto with Asparagus, Spinach, and Cheese

I intended to make a vegan shrimp recipe tonight, but didn't have enough in my freezer.  One can only dream of the day that grocery stores will carry these cruelty-free shrimp as readily (or more readily) than real shrimp.  Luckily, I had the ingredients on hand to throw together this risotto instead.  Almost the epitome of ease, it simplifies normally labor-intensive risotto by baking in the oven instead of on the stovetop.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 8 cups spinach leaves
  • 2 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated vegan cheese, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (1-inch) diagonally cut asparagus
1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes.  Add the rice, stirring to combine.  Stir in the spinach, chicken broth, salt, and nutmeg and bring to a simmer; continue to cook for 7 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese.

Note: I used the strong cheddar from Sheese tonight.  The hard texture - perfect for grating - mimics fresh-grated Parmesan and works well in this dish.

2. Cover and transfer to the oven, and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Stir in the asparagus and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese.  Cover and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes; the liquid should be all absorbed.

Toss together leftover fresh spinach with bottled dressing for a quick salad.  You can make this risotto the center of the meal, but I also liked it with Gardein chicken and vegan fish:

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup), Calories 309 

Tasting Notes:
Even better than I anticipated; the deep, baked flavor of this is incredible.  Adding the spinach so early seemed strange, but it baked until it tasted like spinach in a spanokopita (spinach pie), and the asparagus had an equally concentrated, rich flavor.  I also worried there wouldn't be enough liquid, but it was fluffy and perfectly tender.  That said, you could add a little more broth to avoid browning or scorching the rice on the bottom of the pan.  The cheese added a decadent, almost nutty flavor.  Add a drizzle of truffle oil if you want to make this risotto even better.


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