This risotto recipe gets its rich flavor and color from ajvar, a Serbian mix of puréed roasted bell peppers, eggplant, garlic and chiles. It’s very versatile, easy to make and stores very well.
I prepared the sauce a day in advance. You'll likely have some leftover ajvar after making the risotto, which can be used on toast or as filling in puff pastry appetizers.
Servings: 8 servings
2 red bell peppers
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Habanero chile garlic sauce
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon wild flower honey
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon spicy butter
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup orzo pasta
6-½ cups vegetable stock, warm
For the eggplant and bell pepper pulp: Preheat your oven to 450°F. Cut the eggplants and bell peppers in half lengthwise. Layer a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, then place the eggplant and bell peppers on top. Sprinkle with salt and let the eggplant aside for about 30 minutes. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Place the eggplant and bell peppers flesh side down on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle the top with a little oil. Bake for about 20 minutes. The skin should be black and blistered. Top the vegetables with the unpeeled cloves of garlic. Drizzle with more olive oil. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, then transfer to a large bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Gather the veggies and finely chop into a thick paste. Discard the skin, stem and seeds.
For the ajvar: In a food processor, combine the eggplant and bell pepper pulp, tomato paste, vinegar, honey, Habanero chile garlic sauce and peeled roasted garlic. Pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
For the risotto:
In a deep saucepan, heat the oil and fry the shallots until golden. Add the orzo, rice and butter. The oil should coat all the grains. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock and stir frequently.
After bringing the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes. Check the liquid and periodically add ½ cup of warm stock as soon as the liquid has been absorbed. Let simmer for another 25 minutes.
When the grains are almost cooked, season with salt and pepper. Top with 3 to 4 tablespoons ajvar. Stir well until the color is uniform. Finish with the spicy butter. Let sit for about 5 minutes.