I went to lunch last Saturday with Kª (of KK fame, otherwise known as The Lady Downstairs) at The Rooms, St. John’s only museum/archives/art gallery/restaurant.
One of the few vegetarian options on the menu was risotto cakes with roasted vegetables in a rosé sauce, so I ordered it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The Pie and I kind of have a policy where we won’t order it in a restaurant if we can make it ourselves, and I think this is one of those things that I could easily re-create.
I had to think about this for a bit, and do some research. I haven’t made risotto in years and the last time I did so things ended badly. Not only did this risotto have to be well-done, but I had to figure out how to bake it into wedges.
I also had to think about the sauce I was going to use. I could just buy some rosé sauce in a jar from the store, but I figure if I was going to take the time and have the patience to make risotto that turned out right, then I was going to make the effort to create an original sauce to put it in.
Also, I was on a quest for the right kind of roasting vegetables. The vegetables I had at the restaurant were red, yellow, and green peppers, with eggplant and I believe zucchini. I was going to do it with red peppers only, onions, zucchini, and butternut squash because I couldn’t find any eggplant anywhere (you make do with what you have, right?).
The nice thing about this recipe, I think, is you can do all three parts separately and ahead of time, and then heat the whole thing up later on.
So let’s start with the vegetables. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cut one large onion into eighths and chuck in a large baking pan. Chop 2 small zucchini into thick discs and add it to the pan, along with a red pepper, cut into long thick strips, and one butternut squash, seeds and stringy bits removed, cut into wedges. Season with salt and pepper, and toss with olive oil until all the vegetables are coated. It’s easiest to do the tossing in a bowl, actually. Cover tightly with foil and bake until golden and aromatically soft, about 30 minutes or so. I then uncovered them and baked them for a further 30 minutes so they crispened up a tad. Use your judgment. Leave the vegetables to cool for a bit while you do other things, but leave the oven on.
While the vegetables are doing their thing you can start on your sauce.
Finely chop about 6 or 7 regular-sized mushrooms. Sauté them in a large pan with a bit of butter and a bit of olive oil (the oil keeps the butter from burning) until brown and tender. Add 3 or 4 teaspoons of minced garlic (from a jar, because that’s how I roll) and reduce the heat.
Add a 28oz can (about 800mL) of crushed tomatoes to the pan. Add a 5oz (150mL) can of tomato paste and mix evenly over medium heat. Sprinkle in generous amounts of dried parsley, dried basil, and dried oregano. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream). Alternately, you can use plain yogurt or coconut milk. Stir carefully until fully integrated, then reduce heat to low and leave it like that, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Now we can work on that risotto of ours. In a medium saucepan, melt some butter with some olive oil (again, to prevent the butter from burning), and chuck in one whole onion, diced. Sauté that sucker for a little while until translucent.
Add in one cup arborio rice (that’s right, it’s not actually called risotto — risotto is what you make out of it), one cup of dry white wine, and a heaping tablespoon of powdered vegetable broth. Stir at high heat and allow the liquid to evaporate.
Add one cup boiling (or very hot) water to rice and stir occasionally to release the stuff that sticks to the bottom. After about 3 or 4 minutes, the water will have been absorbed by the rice. Repeat this step twice more, so the total amount of liquid you will have added will be 3 cups of water and one cup of wine. It will take about 20 minutes for the risotto to achieve its signature creamy consistency. While it’s doing that, carefully butter a springform pan and set it aside.
Add 2 tablespoons butter to the rice as well as 3 tablespoons grated romano cheese. Remove from heat and beat in 2 eggs.
Pour the risotto mixture into the buttered springform pan and level the top. Pop the pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the ‘cake’ is firm and golden. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
Run a soft spatula around the edges of the ‘cake’ and pop it from the springform pan. Allow to cool a bit more, then cut into wedges.
While the risotto cake is cooling, go back to your vegetables. Peel the skin from the roasted squash and roughly cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
Add the vegetables to the rose sauce and heat the whole thing up until it starts to bubble a bit.
Arrange one or two wedges in a bowl and surround with vegetables and sauce. Sprinkle with more grated romano cheese. Serves 4-6.