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Risotto used to be a magical food to me. Creamy and flavorful, I don’t recall eating much of it growing up, except at restaurants.

When I began cooking in college at a vegetarian co-op, I decided it was also one of those things that must have taken hours of hot work over the stove to produce. Which was probably true when you were cooking for 60 people. But when I left the nest and began cooking for myself, risotto was one of the first one-pot meals I tackled.

Turns out, it doesn’t take much to make delicious risotto, as long as you’re not afraid of a little butter and cheese. Even better, it’s infinitely adaptable: I’ve made risotto with sausage and fennel; mushrooms; squash and sage; and any number of other ingredients that have lost their way in the crevices of my produce drawer. Since I’ve discovered how easy it is to make, risotto has become a staple weeknight dinner option.

This is a somewhat non-traditional version, with goat cheese and meyer lemon to brighten up the winter, and a bit of kale tossed in for color.

IMG_8028

Meyer Lemon, Goat Cheese and Kale Risotto
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type: main dish
author: robin
prep time: 10 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 40 mins
A bright and colorful winter risotto, with extra tang from the goat cheese.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • zest of 2 meyer lemons
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 oz shredded lacinto/dino kale (about 1/3 of a bunch–this is what I used, but I’m sure red Russian or normal kale works as well)
  • 1/3 cup parmesean cheese, grated
  • 2 oz goat cheese
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, shallots, and garlic, and saute until soft. Add risotto and saute for another minute.
  2. Add wine to the pot and simmer until it’s almost all absorbed.
  3. Begin adding the stock, about half a cup at a time. Wait for the grain to absorb most of the liquid before adding the next half-cup. You’ll know the risotto is done when it’s soft and no longer crunchy.
  4. Turn off the burner, and add the kale, lemon zest, goat cheese, and parmesean. Stir to incorporate all ingredients evenly, until kale wilts and cheese melts.
Notes

Swap out farro or pearled barley for the arborio rice for more of a whole-grain-y meal. You’ll need to up the stock and the cooking time, since they’ll take longer to cook and absorb more liquid in the process.

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Every gardener knows that a surplus inevitably results from even one zucchini plant. Heat and humidity saturate the July air in much of the country. Not here in California. Fog slurps up any daytime heat and casts an evening chill, even in the depth of summer. I always imagined that warmer climates were the only ones to produce county-fair-ribbon-worthy vegetables. That’s where I saw them growing up: at the California state fair, my grandparents’ house in Missouri.

Until this summer, when my mother and I planted a vegetable garden in her backyard. We dug out packets of seeds from the laundry room that must have been ten years old, from the last time she had a diverse garden. Chives, kale, spinach, carrots, peas, four types of lettuce, and zucchini. I think the zucchini seeds were oldest of all.

Seduced by the blank slate of fresh soil, we planted everything, packing seeds in tight rows. Those veggies faced tough conditions. First they went for a week without water. Then the April rain came down so hard we thought the seeds had washed away.

Eight pound zucchini

zuke2

Now, months of not-too-hot-and-humid-weather later, the garden is brimming with vegetables. Especially zucchini. I don’t particularly care for zucchini, but when I brought home an eight-pound squash last week, we spent the week eating it disguised in many creative forms. The most creative, most consumptive way to use the surplus that we found was zucchini-zagna. Or maybe it’s zucchini-za? I think I’ve finally settled on zuke-zagna.

sliceszuke

zagna

No-Noodle Zucchini Zuke-Zagna Lasagna

Notes

This is essentially a classic lasagna, but with zucchini instead of noodles. It’s gluten-free when made this way, and could be vegetarian if you just left out the meat and used something like mushrooms instead to beef up the tomato sauce (so to speak).

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz. tomato sauce (use a jar of plain pasta sauce, or make your own with 1 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and one 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ½ tsp. dried basil, or 4 fresh basil leaves
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • ½ tsp. parsley
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 lbs. zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 16 oz. ricotta
  • ¼ cup shredded parmasean cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 oz shredded mozzarella

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice zucchini thinly and salt it. After 30-60 minutes, rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a skillet on high heat. Add both meats and brown them until cooked through, stirring occasionally to brown evenly. Once meat is mostly cooked through, turn heat down to medium. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is almost translucent.
  4. Add tomato sauce, wine, and herbs to meat and onion mixture, and simmer for 15 minutes on low. This is an ideal time to rinse and dry your zucchini slices and whip up the ricotta.
  5. Speaking of which, in a separate bowl, mix the ricotta with the eggs and grated parmasean cheese.
  6. Taste the sauce. Is it too acidic? Add some sugar! Not acidic enough? Add a splash of red wine vinegar. Not salty enough? DON’T ADD MORE SALT YET. The zukes will take care of that one.
  7. Assemble the pieces: Start with a layer of zucchini slices, then add a layer of ricotta mixture, then tomato-meat sauce, then the mozzarella. Repeat two more times.
  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown on top.
  9. Remove from oven, serve, and enjoy your surplus zukes.
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