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Lighter Spring Risotto + DIY Raised Garden Bed

Posted May 07 2012 6:00pm

We’re crossing all kinds of things off the domestic bucket list around here. First, planting a vegetable garden (see below for instructions) and now, making risotto! :)  

PS: please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks of cursive “Rirruto” a la Billy Madison when they see the word risotto!? No? Just me? Cough.

Well anyways, even though I love to cook and bake, there are a few dishes and techniques I’ve always been hesitant to tackle in the kitchen.

Making a homemade pie crust has been on the back burner since getting an “Ohhh, ok.” (translation: YIKES) from my high school Home Ec teacher regarding my first attempt at classic pumpkin pie.

Recipes involving yeast may as well have been written in Mandarin for as much sense they seemed to make nearly all my life. (Until I finally gave a few a try last year, and was pretty pleased with the results – well, not early results !)

Deep fat frying? Well, despite Ben’s infatuation with countertop fryers, I think we’ll probably just not go there, what with the whole pesky clogged artery thing, and lingering Long John Silvers scent left behind.

Which brings us to risotto. Ohhh, risotto! Starchy, short-grain Arborio rice is stirred (and stirred!) with savory broth until thick, creamy, and chewy, then finished with hearty amounts of butter and cheese.

Despite adoring the dish, for years I have held off on making it at home. I mean, all that stirring? Who has the time?! Plus all that butter and cheese? Who’s got the disposable income for new jeans every time a craving hits?!

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Well, after planting my garden last night, inspiration struck. I’m an immediate gratification kind of person, but I realized the rewards of a garden are anything but. A little patience, persistence, and dedication is necessary to get my happy ending, which is what I’d need to enjoy delicious, Lighter Spring Risotto.

True, Lighter Spring Risotto, highlighting fresh spring peas & asparagus, involves a solid 20 minutes of stirring to achieve that classic, creamy risotto texture, but it doesn’t need extra butter and fat at the end to make it rich and satisfying. I’ll show you!

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Start the Lighter Spring Risotto by heating up 4 cups vegetable broth. Since you’ll be ladling the broth into the risotto to cook the rice, you want it nice and hot so it doesn’t slow down the cooking process.

I brought the broth up to a boil, then popped a lid on top and turned the heat down to low.

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Next, saute 1 shallot, 1 garlic clove and 1 cup sliced mushrooms in 2 teaspoons each butter and extra virgin olive oil, until the shallots and mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes.

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Then add in the Arborio Rice.

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Arborio rice is a short-grain Italian rice typically used in risottos. It’s very high in starch, which is released when cooked slowly and stirred constantly, making the dish creamy and luscious.

Pour 1 cup arborio rice into the skillet, then let it saute and “toast” for 1 minute.

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Next, add in the juice from 1/2 lemon, and 1/2 cup white wine. I always say if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it!

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Stir the lemon juice and wine in with the rice then, when it’s nearly absorbed, add a ladle full of hot broth to the skillet.

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Stir constantly – not vigorously – just constantly, until the broth is nearly absorbed.

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Then, repeat! Keep stirring and adding ladle fulls of broth after the previous ladle full is absorbed, until the rice is tender but al dente. Make sure you don’t step away to fold laundry, stare at your vegetable garden, or look for the remote mmkay, as stirring is what “activates” the starches in the rice.

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When there’s 2 ladle fulls of broth left, add in 1 cup chopped asparagus.

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When there’s one lade full left, add in 1/2 cup peas. Taste to make sure the rice is cooked through (add hot water or more broth if it’s not) then adjust seasonings if necessary.

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Ladle into bowls, top with fresh basil and serve!

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Print this recipe!

Serves 2-3

Adapted from Love & Lemons

Ingredients:

4 cups vegetable broth (may need more, or less)

2 teaspoons butter

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

salt and pepper

1 cup arborio rice

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

1 cup chopped asparagus

1/2 cup peas (can use frozen-then-thawed)

1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped

Directions:

1. Heat vegetable broth in a small saucepan until simmering. Place a lid on top, and keep over low heat.

2. Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, then saute until onions are soft and mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes. Add rice, stir well, then toast the rice for 1 more minute.

3. Pour in lemon juice and white wine, then stir and cook until wine is nearly absorbed. Add a ladle full of vegetable broth, then stir constantly until broth is nearly absorbed. Repeat the process until rice is creamy and nearly tender, about 20 minutes. You may not need to use all of the vegetable broth.

4. When there is approximately two ladle fulls of broth left, add in the asparagus to cook. When there is one ladle full left, add in the peas to heat through. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve topped with chopped basil.

Lighter Spring Risotto is a very basic risotto recipe, but boy was it satisfying. I didn’t miss the extra butter or addition of cheese at all. I don’t even know what it would add – besides a lot of extra calories!

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The sauce was thick, the rice creamy, and the spring veggies fresh. That hit of basil at the end was totally clutch, too. Although I won’t be making this every week, I can definitely confirm that it is worth the effort!

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In other news…

As promised, here are the instructions for building your very own raised garden bed ! My Mom and I decided to go with a longer, skinnier bed vs a square one because I’m super short and it would have been hard to lean over and reach the middle of the bed. I’m sure there are tons of ways to build one, but here’s how we did it!

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  • 3, 8′ length x 6″ wide x 1 1/2″ deep cedar boards, with 1 cut in half (they can do that for you at the store)
  • 12, 2in x 8 green exterior screws (the actual color is not green, that’s just what they’re called)
  • 30 feet garden fencing
  • 8, 4′ garden stakes
  • Drill with one bit just smaller than the screws, and one bit that matches the head of the screw
  • Shovel
  • Rake (optional)
  • Staple gun (optional)

Lay out the boards for the frame of the raised garden bed. These are 3, 8′x6″x1 1/2″ cedar boards, which are great for the outdoors as they don’t warp, and are safe for vegetable gardens (vs green treated boards which can seep into the soil.)

Line the boards up so the end of the 8′ board is inside the 4′ board.

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You’ll be using 2″ exterior screws vs regular nails to hold the frame together, as regular nails would bust out from the pressure and weight of the soil.

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You need to pre-drill holes for the screws to go into, so press a screw into the end of the 4′ boards to make 3 indentations. Do this on both ends of both 4′ boards.

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Select a drill bit that is just smaller than the screws, and insert it into the drill.

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Whee, drilling!

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Pre-drill holes in the indentations for 12 holes total (3 on each end of both 4′ boards.)

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Find a drill bit that matches the head of the screws, then put that in the drill.

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Line the boards back up, then drill the screws into the pre-drilled holes.

(PS do as I say, not as I do, and wear close-toed shoes plus protective eye gear when working with power tools!)

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Repeat on all 4 sides of the frame.

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To recap:

1. Line boards up and make indentations on each end of the 4′ boards to pre-drill holes

2. Pre-drill holes

3. Drill in screws

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Place the frame in your desired spot and line the bottom with newspapers, about 3 layers thick. This will help keep weeds from popping up.

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Tuck the newspapers under the frame so the weeds can’t work their way up the sides.

Fill the frame to the top with good quality soil. The soil will settle as it sits, and will sink a bit.

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Rake the soil or spread with your hands to get it evenly spread out.

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Plan the placement of your fruits/veggies before you dig the holes to plant them, keeping 6″ of space between the plant and the frame.

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Plant!

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Line the raised garden bed with garden fencing, using 4′ garden stakes woven in and out of the fencing, then pushed several inches into the ground below, to anchor it.

Staple the bottom of the fencing to the frame all around the raised bed to prevent rabbits from squeezing their way in.

To recap:

  • Line the raised garden bed with newspaper, tucking it under the sides
  • Fill the bed with dirt
  • Plan out where you want your plants to go, then plant them
  • Line the raised garden bed with garden fencing, anchoring it with garden stakes, then staple the edges to the frame

Water, harvest, repeat! :D

Hope that helps some of you out!

With that, it’s time to go water. :) Have a great night!

~~~~~

What dishes or techniques are you nervous to tackle in the kitchen?

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