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Mixin' in the Village Gravy by Amy MagnusVegan Risotto

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Risotto is a tantalizing dish rich to a fault. Onion and rice is warmed on the stove in a bath of butter, wine, and stock. The dish takes your full attention for a good twenty minutes until the rice grains become engorged with liquid and all but lose their crunch.


I made my first batch of risotto just this week using a vegan recipe from The Purple Carrot. The recipe replaced butter with more restrained amount of white miso paste. I began by setting a kettle on the stove to heat a quart of water. I minced a medium sized onion and sauté it at medium low heat in agrumato—a favorite oil pressed from olives and citrus—until the onion softened. I added medium grained rice–about a cup—to the onion and tossed the skillet until oil coated the rice with a glossy sheen. I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and a hint of citrus rind.

Now, I started the rice’s bath. I pulled a Chardonnay from the fridge…a 2013 vintage from the Errazuriz vineyard…and added a half cup of the dry white wine to the skillet. I stirred as the wine bubbled away in the heat of the pan. As the wine dissipated, I replaced it with water keeping the rice mixture equal distance between soupy and dry. Over the span of twenty minutes, the rice plumped up sipping the infused liquid in a long eager drag. When it reached a tenderness mixed with crunch that I found pleasing I folded in a tablespoon of miso paste and two great handfuls of spinach. Another dose of salt and pepper and it was ready to serve.

The dish met with the family’s full approval. I was pleased with it myself. I had previous gotten the impression—most likely from the film The Big Night—that risotto was a fussy dish but that proved not the case. Yes, I attended it at the stove for a half hour but with a nice glass of Chardonnay in my company it was time well spent.

On top of the risotto, we placed crispy spicy chickpeas. I had made these treats earlier in the day and almost had to hide them. They proved a delicious snack and my daughter wondered aloud if she might be able to take some to school with her the next day. Since the risotto did not survive dinner, I offered to make another batch of chickpeas with her the next morning.


We got up early and I set her up with a can of chickpeas and a can opener. Piercing the metal top, I showed her where to stop so that we could use the can to drain the liquid from the chickpeas but just setting their can upside down. While she worked the can opener, I got out a sheet pan and set the oven to 400 degrees. We spread the chickpeas across the cooking surface, and my daughter dosed them with salt, pepper, and the agrumato. I tossed the chickpeas to coat them well then we loaded the pan into the preheated oven.

As we dressed for the day, we could smell the toasting chickpeas…both the peas’ nuttiness and the perfume of citrus and olive from the oil. We took the pan from the oven after 20 minutes with the chickpeas bubbling hot and crispy.

We will happily make these recipes again. Since my first venture, Chris Wyatt—brewmaster and cooking mentor—has given me a cooking lesson making a proper risotto. I brought him a bottle of my favorite dry white wine and watched enthused as he brought a pound of arborio rice to full and glorious bloom. The most important lesson that he taught me was to keep the stove temperature low so that more liquid makes it into the rice. I realize now that in my first batch that I kept my pan on the hot side and lost most of my liquid to evaporation. Risotto is a beautifully flagrant dish…rice bathed in wine and as much infused goodness as its grains can possibly hold. I’ll be testing those limits in my next risotto…with my own apprentice chef at my side.


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