Lemongrass Risotto

During this transitional time of year, Lemongrass Risotto is perfect. Like all risottos, it is creamy and comforting, just what we crave as the air gets brisk. Yet, the lemongrass makes this risotto bright and refreshing, reminding us of those beautiful summer days.

Risotto is a rice dish, but it is very different from a pilaf or even plain rice. To make risotto, you need to use arborio rice. This short grain rice has a higher starch content, which causes the creamy texture. 

The process for making risotto is simple but can be intimidating. Essentially, you keep adding flavored liquid to the rice in small amounts, letting the rice absorb all the liquid before adding more, until the rice is creamy and soft. 

I've seen recipes that use a pressure cooker or a microwave or slow cooker to make risotto. I like using just a pan and my stove; keep it simple.

Risottos can be flavored with anything. This particular risotto is flavored primarily with lemongrass, which is commonly used in Thai cooking. Lemongrass has a strong citrus scent with a hint of ginger. Lemongrass's close relative is citronella - the popular herb used in mosquito-repelling candles. 

Lemongrass can help relieve nausea and can detoxify your liver, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, and digestive track. During the change of seasons, we all need a little help to adjust our bodies to the new season. Often, we just continue to plow through our lives, ignoring the season's change, which weakens our immune system and can result in catching a cold or other virus. The more we can detoxify our bodies and treat them with care during this time of the year, the healthier we can be!

Lemongrass Risotto
4 servings

1/3 cup almonds, slivered and toasted
6 stalks lemongrass (about 1/3 cup smashed and diced)
3 cups water (at least)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
1/3 cup onion, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup bok choy, chopped
1 Thai chili, minced (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
1/4 lime, juiced
  1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and stir frequently until they are lightly toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove from the hot pan and set aside.
  2. Peel the lemongrass stalks and chop off the tough tops. Using the end of a knife or a mallet, smash each stalk to release its juices and fragrance. Coarsely chop the lemongrass and place into a medium bowl. Pour 3 cups boiling water over the lemongrass and let seep for 7 minutes. Strain most of the lemongrass out of the tea; discard the lemongrass chunks.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat with the oil. Let cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is somewhat transparent, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Pour about 1/3 cup of lemongrass tea into the rice and stir. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Pour in another 1/3 cup tea and let absorb into the rice, stirring occasionally. Repeat this process with the rest of the liquid. As the rice absorbs more liquid, you will need to stir more frequently. Taste the rice periodically for doneness. The rice is done when it is creamy and has the consistency of thick porridge. The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes. If you run out of tea before the rice is done, warm up some water and continue adding liquid until the rice is to your liking. Toward the end of cooking the rice, stir in the salt and mint.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a small skillet. Add the bok choy, ginger, and chili (if using). Squeeze about 2 teaspoons of lime juice over the bok choy mixture. Stir and let cook for about 7-10 minutes until the bok choy is soft.
  6. When the rice is cooked, stir in the bok choy and the rest of the lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt or mint if needed.
  7. Serve warm, garnished with plenty of toasted almonds.

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