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Go meatless with squash blossom risotto

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If we all ate a vegetarian meal at least once a week, we’d help grow more food for people who need it while taking pressure off of the planet.

That’s because growing vegetables or beans uses far less water and land than raising animals, and reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, too.

Holly Smith’s recipe showcases delightful, mild-flavored squash blossoms. They are fun to prepare and visually stunning, and this risotto makes for a hearty vegetarian meal. Look for squash blossoms at your local farmers’ market or specialty grocer.

Squash blossom risotto

Contributed by chef Holly Smith, Café Juanita

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 11 tablespoons unsweetened butter (3 tablespoons plus 4 ounces, or 8 tablespoons)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1¼ cups raw Carnaroli rice (Italian shortgrain rice available from Ritrovo.com)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • Citrus juice
  • 4-6 cups chopped fresh squash blossoms, with bottoms separated from tops
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Toscano cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • Kosher salt
  • Cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Instructions: In a heavy saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. In a separate heavy saucepan, on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of butter and the diced onion and sauté 3-5 minutes until the onion is soft and slightly golden. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the grains of rice with butter. Deglaze the rice with the white wine and the reserved citrus juice. While stirring, add the stock, one cup at a time, to the rice mixture. (The rice will slowly absorb the liquid.) After 3 cups of stock have been incorporated into the rice mixture, add the blossom bottoms (which are tougher than the blossom tops), stir, and taste the rice for doneness. (Rice should be moist, creamy, and just tender.) If necessary, add more liquid and cook longer. When the rice is done, add the squash blossom tops, remove from the heat, and let the risotto rest for 1-2 minutes. Beat in the remaining 4 ounces of butter. Work quickly until the butter is well incorporated. Add the Pecorino cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano. Add salt to taste. Return the pan to heat to ensure the cheese is well incorporated. Stir well, taste, and reseason as necessary, adding a tiny amount of cayenne pepper at this time. When serving, add a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil or balsamic vinegar, if desired, and sprinkle with chives.

Yield: Serves 4-6

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