Every spring the stand with the bright beautiful zucchini blossoms and baby artichokes jumps out at me. This weekend was no different. The girls excitedly grabbed a basket off the table and littlest swiftly chomped into one of those baby zucchini before I could stop her. It didn't matter... it provided a good laugh for the girl behind the table, and gave me a good excuse to bring home a basket. Even if I didn't know what I was going to do with them once we got home. The girls loved imagining fairies playing inside the flowers.
While not my usual super-fast weeknight dinner, I love making risotto on the weekends and had a box of arborio rice in the pantry. Risotto gives me an excuse to not be bothered for a good 35 minutes. There's something very relaxing about stirring the broth into the rice for that long and doing nothing else, as one must do to make a good creamy risotto. This is not the best recipe to cook with very young kids, but older ones could help with stirring. I used a basic risotto recipe from Cooking Light and transformed it from one with sage to one that is undeniably "spring." I'll be trying Cooking Light's sage version in the fall!
Risotto makes a great gluten-free meal for those avoiding wheat, as many of my friends are. Boost the protein by adding grilled shrimp, chicken, or prosciutto.
Zucchini Blossom and Artichoke Risotto
juice of 1 lemon
8 baby artichokes
8 baby zucchini with flowers
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped leek
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
Place 2 cups water and lemon juice in a large bowl.
Trim artichoke stems to 1/2 - inch. Cut artichokes in half lengthwise and remove tough outer leaves so that just the hearts and thin leaves are left. Trim about 1/2" off the tops. Place in lemon water.
Slice baby zucchini into about 1/4" rounds. Slice the flowers into thin ribbons. I like to leave a few flowers whole and wilt them into the risotto or use as garnish.
Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Remove artichokes from water and pat dry. Transfer to pan and cook, covered, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes, or until softened. Uncover and add zucchini, but not blossoms to the pan. Saute until zucchini are tender crisp. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.
Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add leek and garlic; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Stir in vegetables and flowers. Remove from heat; stir in mozzarella. Sprinkle with black pepper. Garnish with parsley if desired.