Celery Risotto with Pistachio Pesto
Daddy's been dieting diligently lately, and he told me yesterday that he had a craving for celery risotto. Of course, I was happy to oblige. Unlike many of my other risotto recipes, which will probably never be considered healthy, I decided to make this risotto (almost) as good for you as it is good to eat.
To complement the very distinct flavor of celery, I added lemon juice and a pistachio pesto. I also threw in a little parmesan cheese for a nutty aroma and flavor. Daddy enjoyed it so much that I froze several portions of the risotto so that he can get his "fix" whenever he wants, whether he's on a diet or not.
Yields: 10 servings2 cups celery stalks, chopped, + celery leaves for garnish
12-1/2 cups celery stock (see tips)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 sprig lemon thyme
1 Meyer lemon
2 cups melon-seed shaped pasta
4 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons pistachio pesto (see tips)
2 tablespoons avocado oil (or more olive oil)
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/3 bunch flat-leaf parsley
Zest the lemon and gather about 1 teaspoon. Set aside.
In a deep saucepan, heat some olive oil and sauté the minced garlic cloves until golden. Add the sprig of lemon thyme, lemon zest, shallots and 1-1/2s cup of diced celery. Stir until light translucent. Transfer the celery mixture to a plate. Set aside. Add a little more olive oil to the saucepan and add the pasta and rice. The oil should coat all the grains. Add 1-1/2 cups of warm broth. Stir constantly.
After bringing the liquid to a boil, add 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese and lower the heat to medium-low for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the pistachio pesto and 2 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley. (I also use the stems, because that's where the flavor is most potent.) Check the liquid and periodically add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of stock when all the liquid is absorbed. Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
When the rice is almost cooked, add the shallot and celery mixture; add avocado oil. Check the seasoning and add salt (if necessary) and pepper. Stir well. Drizzle with lemon juice. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the sprig of lemon thyme.
Sprinkle flat-leaf parsley leaves, grated parmesan, celery leaves and fresh chopped celery. You can also add slightly toasted nuts if you like but I think the crunch from the fresh celery already gives a nice balance in texture.
For the liquid used for the risotto, you can use water, regular vegetable stock or a combination with white wine or verjuice if you don't have time to make your own celery stock.
How to make celery stock: I got inspired by Cat Cora's Cooking from the Hip cookbook. Her book contains quite amazing food photography and delicious recipes. First, make a bouquet garni with 2 sprigs of lemon thyme, 1 bay leaf (torn in half), 1 small portion of leek (only the green part) and a few flat-leaf parsley stems. Gather all the ingredients of the bouquet garni in a large teabag (I buy these at Daiso, the Japanese version of a 99-cent store. They cost $1.50 for 40 tea bags) or a square of cheesecloth and tie it with some twine. Fill a large pot with 3 quarts of water. Add the bouquet garni, 1 whole yellow onion, 1/2 cup of fried onions, 6 celery stalks, 2 daikon turnips, salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for about 90 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve. It's ready.
The pasta and rice combo might not be traditional for risotto but I find the starchiness of the pasta adds more creaminess to the risotto. The most similar shaped pasta to Arborio rice is the melon-seed shaped one. I buy the Mexican brand, El Mexicano "Semillas". It's sold in a 7-ounce package. If you don't have any, you can always use orzo pasta or simply use only Arborio rice.
For this dish, I used exactly 12-1/2 cups of broth. The quantity of liquid may vary depending on the heat of the stove and how long you're cooking the rice. At the end, I let it simmer uncovered, sometimes adding another 1/4 cup of liquid until I achieve the right consistency and level of doneness. I like the rice al dente, not mushy.
For a richer mouth feel, you can add crumbled blue cheese at the end when the risotto is done, if you like.
I often have extra pesto on hand in the freezer. Just pour the pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into bags that you can vacuum-seal and place back in the freezer for future use. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. You can store it in your freezer for up to 3 months.
Coating each grain in oil prevents them from sticking to one another.
It's important to add the warm liquid in stages to ensure a homogenous cooking of the Arborio rice. Watch your risotto closely!
It's important to pour ladlefuls of warm stock. The key is to incrementally pour the liquid and never let the dish dry out, or the rice would burn at the bottom.
I didn't add more salt to the risotto as the pistachio pesto added enough flavor to the dish. You can add any other kind of pesto or simply season with salt.November 7, 2009.