Servings: 8 servings
8 jumbo artichokes
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
1 sprig marjoram
1 sprig lemon thyme (or regular thyme)
½ teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups Arborio rice
2 tablespoons butter
3 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium vegetable broth, warmed for 2 minutes in the microwave
1 cup water
1-½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 (5-ounce) chunk cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese powder
, freshly grated
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons avocado oil
Prepping the lemon: Zest the lemon and gather about 1 teaspoon. Set aside.
Roasting the bell pepper: Stem, wash and pat dry the bell pepper. Brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove and char all the skin of the pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes until you can handle it without discomfort. Clean the pepper using a knife; the skin will come right off. Seed it and chop the flesh.
Prepping the artichoke hearts: Coarsely chop the artichoke hearts. Set aside.
Prepping the cheddar: Cut the chunk of cheddar cheese into 8 thin slices and cut the rest into small chunks. Set aside.
Cooking the vegetables: In a large deep pan, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook until golden. Add the artichoke pieces to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chili flakes. Cook until each side is brown (for about 3-4 minutes). Add the yellow pepper, lemon juice and sugar. Toss well and transfer the vegetable mixture to a plate.
Making risotto: In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the minced garlic clove and cook until golden. Add the sprig of lemon thyme, marjoram and the Arborio rice. Make sure that each grain is coated with butter. Stir until light translucent. Add 1 can of warm broth. Stir constantly.
After bringing the liquid to a boil, add the chunks of cheddar cheese and lower the heat to medium-low for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of flat-leaf parsley. (I also use the stems, because that's where the flavor is strongest.) Season with salt and pepper. Check the liquid and periodically add ¼ to ½ cup of broth (and water when all the broth is used) when all the previous liquid is absorbed. Let simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
When the rice is almost cooked, add the vegetable mixture. Check the seasoning and add salt (if necessary) and pepper. Add the rest of the butter. Stir well. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme and marjoram.
Preparing artichokes: (While the risotto is cooking)
Place a large bowl filled with water in the sink. Swirl each artichoke upside down in the water. Make sure there is no dirt trapped between the leaves. Cut the tough outer leaves. Cut the stems and trim the tops a little, using a sharp knife. Cut the thorns from the leaves using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife.
Boiling the artichokes:
Place the artichokes in a very large pot. Cover with 1 quart of water.
Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 30-35 minutes until the bottoms of the vegetables are tender. A good way to check is to poke the choke with a paring knife.
Remove the artichokes from the pot and let stand for about 5-10 minutes. Drain the artichokes thoroughly and let them cool a little (do not rinse and let the liquid evaporate). Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle and have dried thoroughly, remove the center leaves. Using a large spoon, scoop out and discard the lower portions (inedible part) until you reach the heart.
Spoon the artichoke risotto into each artichoke. Top with ½ of a slice of cheddar (previously cut in half) and sprinkle with parmesan. Place the filled artichokes on a baking pan, previously greased with oil. Broil in the oven, for about 3 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with parsley.
If you like other types of cuisine, check out the Indian equivalent to risotto called Biryani. It's a saffron-flavored basmati rice. You can also check out the Asian equivalent with Cantonese-style fried rice.
You can also use chicken broth, which is actually the more standard way to prepare risotto. My husband is a vegetarian so I use vegetable broth.
To get a cheesy flavor and yellow color without the stringy cheesy bits, add it right after boiling the broth.
It's important to keep adding warm stock as the rice cooks. The key is to add the liquid incrementally and never let the dish dry out, or the rice at the bottom would burn.
For this dish, I used exactly 6-¼ cups of liquid. 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 ¼ cup of liquid until I achieve the right consistency and level of doneness. I like the rice al dente, not too mushy.
I used jumbo-sized artichokes because the bigger the artichoke, the bigger the heart . I like to pick artichokes with dense, tightly packed leaves and sharp thorns. The stem should be still moist with a light color, which indicates freshness.
You don't have to trim the leaves (thorns) but I always find it unpleasant to be "stabbed" by an artichoke leaf.
Cooked artichokes do not refrigerate well; so prepare them right before serving.
You can keep the uncooked artichokes in the refrigerator for several days in the vegetable drawer. Make sure you wrap the stem with a moist paper towel to prevent oxidation. Alternatively, you can put them in a vase filled with room temperature slightly sweetened water. It's pretty and it reminds you that they need to be cooked.