One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to cook ahead for the first few days of the week. More often than not, that results in comfort food favorites—pots of sauce and meatballs, soups, and grain-based dishes like this brown rice risotto. I know that risotto is often thought to be super complicated to make (all that stirring!) but I have come to believe that if you use the basic principles and simplify to your own needs, breaking some rules and disregarding some others, the result is delicious. It’s your kitchen after all- you’re the boss! Which means that you don’t have to heat up your stock if you don’t want to dirty another pot. I promise, I won’t tell.
This risotto, which uses brown rice in place of arborio since it’s what I typically have on hand, happens to be vegan. It’s also super flavorful, bright and perky in flavor from the lemon and filled with colorful vegetables that are in season right about now. I like the vegan version served with a few slices of avocado for a bit of extra richness—but I completely understand if you want to add some butter, Parmesan cheese, and use chicken stock in place of the veggie stock. Serve with some crusty bread and a glass of white wine, and this is a dinner I’ll always be happy to eat.
Lemony Brown Rice Risotto with Squash, Artichokes and Arugula
Serves 6-8 (depending on how hungry you are)
3 T olive oil
2 yellow onions
1 red onion
1 butternut squash
2 cups short grain brown rice
1 T dried thyme
1 t dried rosemary
1 carton vegetable stock
16 oz can artichoke hearts
16 oz can pinto beans (rinsed)
2-3 cups arugula
zest and juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat your oil in a medium to large pot over medium heat. Dice the onions and add them to the pot, stirring to coat. Add in a bit of salt to help draw out the moisture in the onions. Allow to cook until just starting to caramelize (you want the edges to be brown to get that additional flavor).
2. Dice and add the carrots and the squash, stir, and allow to cook for about 3 minutes. Stir in your rice until it’s well coated. Add the thyme and rosemary.
3. Start adding the stock, about one cup at a time. Stay close and stir frequently, then add more stock as soon as the pot starts to get dry on the bottom. (Things will proceed faster if your stock is warmed, but it’s not completely necessary if you want to skip dirtying another pot.).
4. Continue adding stock until the rice is just al dente (taste it to confirm that the rice is cooked but still has a little bite), then stir in the artichoke hearts (if they are whole, halve them), pinto beans, and the arugula. Add the lemon zest and juice and salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, put the lid on, and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
5. Serve with parmesan cheese, if desired, or avocado (which makes it creamier and downright delightful). Drizzle with a little lemon scented olive oil if you happen to have some on hand.