Sunday, December 14, 2014


Sweet potato risotto is a terrific seasonal variation on risotto. The sweet flavour and creamy texture of the sweet potato complements the risotto really well. Walnuts and sweet potatoes are in season in the autumn - and they pair exceptionally well in this savoury risotto-gremolata combo. A sure favourite!

Risotto is prepared with any Italian starchy, short-grained rice - the most common rice varieties used for risotto are carnaroli or arborio. To properly cook risotto you stir hot broth into the uncooked rice a ladleful at a time and cook slowly. As the liquid is nearly absorbed, add in the next ladleful. This slow cooking and stirring releases the natural starches in the rice and makes the risotto creamy, velvety and irresistible... well, that and the cheese!!

Risotto is best served immediately or soon after cooking because it will become clumpy if made in advance. A properly cooked risotto makes a soft, creamy mound without running across the plate. It also should not be too hard, crunchy, or gummy.

Gremolata is an Italian condiment of chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest, garlic, and a bit of olive oil. In the spirit of other similar condiments like pistou, persillade, any kind of pesto, Indian chutneys, etc. it's simple but packs a punch of brilliant fresh flavour! Ossobucco with gremolata and risotto is a classic Milanese meal! Here I've made it seasonal and vegetarian - I usually serve this risotto with roasted cauliflower or roasted chicken with kale (photo below).

Sweet Potato Risotto, Mint + Walnut Gremolata
makes: 4-5 cups (a typical serving of risotto is 1 cup)

- 2 cups peeled and diced sweet potato 
- 2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice
- 5-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1-1/2 cups dry white wine (like a Pinot Grigio)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
- 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- salt, to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. When it's hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté on low heat for 1-2 minutes so the onion doesn't brown. Add the sweet potatoes and red pepper flakes and continue to sauté.
  2. Heat the broth in a saucepan, and adjust the heat so it remains at a simmer.
  3. When the onion is translucent, add the rice and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently so that the rice doesn't brown or stick to the pan.
  4. Once the rice is coated with oil, add the wine and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed.
  5. Add 1 cup of the hot broth to the rice and stir until it is absorbed. Stir constantly so that the rice doesn't scorch or stick to the pan. Add the next cup of broth as soon as the rice has absorbed the broth but don't wait till the rice is dry - you should see a sheen of liquid in the rice.
  6. Continue adding broth by the cup and stir while the liquid is absorbed, then add more broth when the rice is almost dry. The rice will start getting a creamy consistency as its starch is released. Cook the rice this way until until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite - without being crunchy or tasting raw. If you run out of broth before the risotto is done, use hot water to finish cooking, stirring while it's absorbed.
  7. Stir in the pepper, butter, and cheese, and season to taste with salt. Serve garnished with a tbsp. of gremolata (recipe below) and a grind of black pepper.
Mint + Walnut Gremolata
makes: approximately 1/2 cup

- 2 tbsp. lemon zest (zest from one lemon) 
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed into a paste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 packed cup mint
- 1/2 packed cup parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Finely chop the parsley and mint.
  2. In a bowl, mix the chopped parsley, mint, and all the other ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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