Try this mushroom and coconut risotto

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Risotto isn’t something I make often because it is loaded with calories, carbs, fat — you know, all the stuff that isn’t quite so healthy. It also is a very involved dish — a lot of effort goes into making it.

I was home most of the day, and didn’t know what to make for lunch until I spotted the lonely bag of arborio rice in the cupboard. Arborio rice is very starchy — there’s no doubt where the carbs come from.

Then I had to find something to put in the risotto. Mushrooms immediately come to mind, but I also wanted a taste of something salty, so I pulled out the capers and pitted Kalamata olives. I know it’s not very Mediterranean, but I wanted something sweet to balance out the salty, so I got out the coconut flakes, too. Sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts were right in front of my face, so I grabbed them as well.

That was starting to feel like the kitchen sink, so I closed the cupboard and got the rest of the ingredients together so I would be ready to start the process. I have seen on a lot of the TV cooking shows that they recommend you get all of your ingredients out and ready before you start to cook. That is definitely true when making risotto. Although it doesn’t take a long time to cook, there isn’t time to stop and look for things. It all has to be cooked right then and there, and it moves very quickly.

Mushroom and coconut risotto

1 cup arborio rice

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

Coconut milk (as needed)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)

A sprig or two of fresh thyme, stems removed

Salt and pepper to taste

(Additional ingredients: capers, sun-dried tomatoes,pitted  kalamata olives, walnuts, parsley and crushed cardamom seeds)

Heat vegetable stock and water to boiling, pour into a stainless steel (or other heat-resistant) pitcher and set aside. In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil, adding in mushrooms as the onion becomes translucent. Stir in coconut and rice, and saute for a few minutes longer. Stir often to keep the coconut and rice from burning. When the rice is heated through, stir in thyme and salt and pepper. Begin adding the liquid a little at a time, stirring constantly. Let the rice somewhat absorb the liquid before adding more. Continue adding liquid a little at a time and stirring mixture until rice is al dente*. This will take 20 to 30 minutes. If you run out of liquid before rice is done, stir in some coconut milk, a little at a time, as needed. When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and stir in capers, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and walnuts. I don’t measure these ingredients. I just toss a few in at a time until it looks like I have the right combination. Garnish with cardamom and minced parsley. It adds a lightness to an otherwise heavy dish.

*It’s really difficult to describe al dente! It is the point just before the rice is cooked through. If it is not cooked enough, the flavor doesn’t pop and the texture is unpleasant. If it’s cooked too much, you will have a sticky, gooey mess.

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