Tasty risotto offers diners summer comfort

Seasonal: Summer rice dish cuts down on rich ingredients, but it doesn't skimp on taste.

August 11, 1999|By Charlotte Balcomb Lane | Charlotte Balcomb Lane,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Risotto is often thought of as winter comfort food because of its warm, soft consistency, but this recipe for Summer Risotto confirms that it's just as comforting during the summer.

Summer Risotto is loaded with fresh summer produce, including spinach, red peppers and asparagus.

It's also flavored with the so-called forbidden foods of a low-fat diet: butter, cheese and olive oil. There is room in a low-fat diet for rich ingredients, but they must be used in smaller amounts.

For example, traditional recipes for risotto start with 2 tablespoons or more of butter. Summer Risotto calls for just 1/2 tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of olive oil. The small amount of fat produces full flavor because it is browned to the color of maple syrup before adding the rice. Just 12 percent of the calories come from fat, but the dish tastes rich and delicious.

To reduce sodium content, simply cut the amount of added salt by half. You also may substitute other cheeses for the Gorgonzola. Good choices would be shredded Parmesan, white Cheddar or Romano.


Serves 4 as main dish, 6 as side dish

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 large cloves garlic, crushed through a press or minced

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 (14.5-ounce can) low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth or low-sodium vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup fresh asparagus, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

2 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves, in bite-size pieces

1/4 cup chopped, roasted red bell pepper, from a jar or fresh

2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese or blue cheese, crumbled

In a large saucepan, combine the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Heat the mixture until the butter turns the color of maple syrup, but don't allow it to turn black. Quickly add the onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook the onion slowly (it should "sweat") for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender.

Stir in the garlic and rice. Add the white wine all at once and increase heat to medium-high. Stir until the wine comes to a boil; add the salt and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has almost been absorbed. Combine the chicken broth and water and add about 1 cup of this to the rice mixture. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally until it has almost been absorbed. Continue adding the liquid by cupfuls until it is gone, stirring frequently. When adding the last of the liquid, stir in the asparagus. Cook until the liquid has almost been absorbed, then stir in the spinach leaves and red pepper. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute; stir in the cheese. Serve hot.

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