Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Thank god bikini season is over! Now we can hide behind bulky sweaters and trousers and demolish plates of carb-rich dishes with reckless abandon. Oops. Sorry – I forgot my audience. I used to write for some of those fancy women’s magazines and it seemed like every single article talked about how fat we were. Or old. Or how to get a better orgasm. Regardless, today I’m giving you a lesson in risotto, a creamy rice dish served as a first course in Italy and tossing heads back across the globe in gastronomic ecstasy for nearly a century. And yes, it’s a heavy dish that’ll fill up even the most bottomless of stomachs. As such, it’s a substantial side dish or can be served as a course on its own.

My father’s brother married an Italian woman named Silvana, and she was a wonder in the kitchen. She gave me a lesson in making perfect risotto more than fifteen years ago, so I am dedicating this recipe to her. First things first, risotto is made from a short, starchy, rather stout strain of rice called arborio rice – its shape adds to its ability to properly absorb liquid. It’s easily found in the rice and grains section is just about every grocer. Risotto is can be made with a multitude of flavours, including meat, shellfish and vegetables. Here however, I’ve adapted a basic risotto recipe to add some of the fullness of one my favourite fall flavours, pumpkin (which is still availabe fresh for a little while, but canned pumpkin will work just as well).

(Note that if pumpkin isn’t to your liking, pureed butternut or acorn squash works just as well.)

Risotto isn’t a particularly difficult dish, but it does require a little bit of practice. It’s not a plug-and-play dish, either – it requires you to stand over the stove for a while to stir. As such, read the recipe carefully before you give this a go. Be patient, the stock will absorb into the rice, just remember to keep stirring and keep your heat at medium-high. Finally, risotto is best served right out of the pan. For best results, plate it as soon as it’s finished cooking.

Harvest Pumpkin Risotto

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil        

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 cups arborio rice

1 cup  white wine

 6 cups of hot vegetable stock

1 ¼ cups of pureed pumpkin or squash

¼ cup of nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan substitue (omnivores use ½ cup of parmesan)

3 tbsp of butter substitute (I highly recommend Earth Balance, if you can find it)

¼ tsp smoked paprika

  1. First, warm up your stock. Over a saucepan is fine, but you want it steaming hot.
  2. In a heavy medium-sized sauce pan, heat the oil on medium high. Add your garlic and onion and sautee until the onions are soft and transparent (about four to five minutes).
  3. Add the arborio rice to the pan. Stir the rice until it is covered in oil, and renders a slightly toasty smell. This should take about three minutes. Be sure to keep stirring and ensure none of the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the white wine to the pan and continue to stir for about two minutes, until most of the wine has evaporated.
  5. Now for the stock. For the first pour of stock, use enough to just cover the rice, about half of the stock. Continue to stir fairly often until most of the liquid is absorbed. This should take about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add another cup of the stock, and stir every minute or two until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this step.
  7. Add the remaining cup of stock, and stir until absorbed. Give the rice a taste. It’s ready when it’s still a bit chewy, or al dente.
  8. Reduce your heat to low. Add the pureed squash and paprika and stir. Add the butter subsitute, one tablespoon at a time, and keep stirring.
  9. Finally, just before serving, add the nutritional yeast or parm. Top with fresh sage or parsley, and enjoy!

Questions? Comments? Book deals with non-recoupable advances? Shoot the author (authoress?) a line at mslindsayhutton at the almightly gmail dot com.