Heat wave and golden risotto.

My air conditioner just turned on. It’s loud and rumbly, forcing me to turn up the volume to an unholy level when I’m watching television. Of course then it shuts itself off when it reaches the set temperatures, and, of course, that’s usually when the TV is showing a gunfight, a sex scene or a commercial for adult diapers. That’s just life. Dear neighbors, I am sorry.

But anyway, it has been very hot the past few days, like mid to upper 80s. It is a nice change from when it rained for a week and a half. Everything is very green outside. So it only makes sense that I should spend a good 40 minutes standing over a hot stove, making risotto.

I first made risotto at home during a break from college. Following the recipe, it turned out pretty well. Each time I made the dish, regardless of flavorings, it got easier and easier. Yes, it’s a little labor intensive–although I’ve heard you can make risotto in the oven and forgo the stirring–but the end result is totally worth the repetitive stirring.

My favorite variations include butternut squash, sweet potato and mushroom. All are very earthy and comforting. I still wanted that comforting feeling, but the only vegetables I had on hand were two sorry-looking sweet potatoes. I decided to roast them up to put on top, and flavor the risotto only with spices.

Enter turmeric.

Turmeric, it’s what makes mustard that vibrant yellow color and is a common spice in Asian and Indian cuisines. Many health claims have been made on this little spice. Reliable health studies on turmeric are still in their infancy. Packed with antioxidants, some link the consumption of curcumin–the active compound in turmeric–with anti-inflamatory properties, and others say it slows the growth of some cancers. For more info check out the American Cancer Society’s take on turmeric, where I found the above information.

But back to the cookery. Turmeric is a very warm, luxurious spice. It’s not spicy, but it has warming type of heat. Does that make sense? Well, moving on.

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Creamy Turmeric Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, makes 6 side dish servings or 4 main dish servings

IMG_0948Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, lightly tossed in oil, salt & pepper and roasted in 400*F oven for 20 minutes

1/2 large yellow onion, medium dice

2 medium garlic cloves, minced or grated with rasp

1 1/3 cups arborio rice

26 oz carton chicken stock

26 oz water (just refill the stock carton)

salt and pepper to taste

1 healthy teaspoon turmeric

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/2 cup heavy cream (optional but good, see explanation in recipe below)

Method:

1. Prepare potatoes and set aside and let cool. In a small pot, combine stock and water and warm on low (warm liquid is easier for the rice to absorb). In a large pot on medium heat, melt butter and oil together. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Sweat onions until translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn. (Note: I prefer to use my rasp zester/microplane for the garlic. Mincing is cumbersome, and with grating you never run into the problem of biting into a big hunk of garlic.) When garlic is fragrant, add turmeric and cook another 2 minutes. This toasts the turmeric and concentrates the flavor.

2. Add the rice and coat in the spice and onion butter mixture. Cook for a minute. Add a ladle of warm stock/water. Cook until the water is absorbed and rice is “dry.” Dry, in my opinion, means that when you swipe a wooden spoon through the center of the rice there is a lapse of a few seconds before the sides come together again. Add two ladles of stock/water, stirring every other minute or so until rice is dry. Repeat adding two ladlefuls until stock/water is gone. This can take a bit, but have patience. Do a little dance in front of the stove. I like to sing oldies and use the ladle as a mic.

3. When all the stock/water is absorbed, the risotto should be creamy and the rice should yield easily to the tooth but still hold its shape. Turn off the heat and add the 1/2 cup cream. Really, you don’t need the cream but it gives an extra oompf, if you will. Basically, the cream takes this from a good risotto to a great risotto. Alternatively, if you don’t have cream you can sub in 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

4. Serve warm and topped with roasted sweet potatoes or without if you prefer. Enjoy.

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