Make Your Lettuce Happy Risotto

I have a deep, dark confession to make ... I'm a cheater. A risotto cheater. I love risotto's creaminess, cheesiness, versatility ... but I can't bring myself to stand in front of the stove 'massaging' stock into rice when I know I could toss everything into my rice cooker and be done with it. Plus it's difficult to find organic arborio rice, and when you do it's way more expensive. I know, I know ... these are just excuses. But in my house, traditional risotto and my darling 2 1/2 year old Nelle do not mix. (If you feel righteous, by all means do a real, slow risotto ... but be sure to tell your family or dinner party guests you did it the proper way ... )

So here's how this particular, unusual risotto came about. I recently checked out several cookbooks from the public library (a great way to try them on before shelling out the big bucks) ... and was patiently waiting for an opportune time to try the lettuce risotto recipe in one of them. Well, the other day I found a poor sad lettuce in the back of the fridge, frozen solid ... completely inappropriate for salads, but perfect for a cooked dish!

Here's what I made:

Make Your Lettuce Happy Risotto

serves ~5
adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Year

1 chopped onion
2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp celery seed
zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 1/2 c rinsed white rice * 

1 medium-sized head of frozen, wilty, or otherwise unhappy lettuce - shredded or minced**
1 c frozen peas

knob of butter (2-3 Tbs)
3/4 - 1c parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

* I used organic basmati this time, but you can use brown rice if you prefer (I often do). Just increase the amount of stock to 6 c

** or a mix of several lettuce varieties ... I actually used an organic iceberg, but it had darker green colour than most you'd get at a regular supermarket. I think bitter lettuces would be great, too.

*** As always, use organic ingredients when you can!

1. Saute the onion in the oil until softened (but not brown). Add the celery seed, lemon zest and lemon juice.

2. Put your rice and stock into a rice cooker (or a large pot on your stove); add the onion/lemon mix and stir.

3. If using a rice cooker, turn it on and start it. If using the stove, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer with a lid on.

4. Cook for about 15 min (longer if brown rice!) then add the peas and lettuce; mix. Cook a further 5 min or until the rice cooker says you're done. Double check that the rice is well cooked and slightly creamy. If it's still hard-ish, add a little more stock and cook another 5 min.

5. Remove the rice from heat and add the butter, parmesan and seasonings. Now it should be truly creamy - if not, add butter until it is! If you have some marscapone or soft cheese in your fridge in need of a home, try adding it in at the end too. Serve with a nice crispy green salad and a tangy salad dressing or the soooo easy carrot salad from last week.

If you want to do a risotto the real way, you'll need arborio rice and a little bit of patience (but not much, if you don't have a toddler you'll probably wonder why I do this the slack way ... ). You'll find risotto recipes in any good cookbook ... just substitute the above ingredients ...

NOTE: I just remade this ... with finely-minced celery instead of peas, and feta instead of parmesan, and cream cheese instead of butter. I also added the juice of 1/2 a lemon, when everything was done cooking and ready to serve. When I served it up, I sprinkled toasted pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) over each portion. (and it. was. awesome.)

How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients to make this recipe. The organic basmati was on sale for $6/kg so this amount was about $3. The onion was $0.70, the oil was $0.60, the stock I made myself from odds and ends of veg and froze (so nada). The frozen peas were about $1.10 and the lemon was about $0.50. I consider the lettuce to be no cost, since I saved it from the rubbish! The butter was $0.45 for 3 Tbs and the parmesan was $2.75 for 1 cup. So all in all, an organic risotto meal big enough to feed a large family cost me $9.10 (plus a couple dollars for salad).

Let me know if any of you have any other great wilty/frozen lettuce recipes ... I'm keen to hear about them!

Amanda xx