Zucchini noodles, zucchini chocolate cake, grilled & marinated zucchini, lamb-stuffed zucchini, stuffed squash blossoms. Shredded zucchini in salads, sliced zucchini in lasagna, chunked zucchini cooked in tomato sauce, panko-breaded baked zucchini sticks. Endlessly, I cook the zucchini emerging from my garden, always looking for another way to use the damn little squashes.
Enter my latest attempt to reduce the zucchini surplus: zucchini risotto. After twenty minutes of simmering and stirring, bite-sized zucchini chunks have the same melting, tender texture as cooked arborio rice, lending a creaminess to the risotto ordinarily delivered by a huge dose of cheese or other fatty ingredient. Diluted beef broth provides savory backbone to the dish, and finely grated parmesan, added just before serving, provides a salty counterpoint.
- 1 cup beef or chicken broth
- 2 cups water, plus more if needed
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces (quarter zucchini lengthwise, then slice crosswise into 1/2-inch bits)
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 1 T finely chopped fresh basil and/or sage
- Fresh-ground black pepper
- Salt, if needed
- 2 T freshly grated Parmesan
In a small saucepan, combine beef broth and water; bring to a slow boil. Keep the broth mixture at a simmer and reserve. In a wide, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then add chopped onion. Saute onion until golden, then add minced garlic, rice, zucchini, basil and/or sage. Stir to coat zucchini and rice with oil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the reserved simmering broth to the rice and zucchini; use enough broth to cover the bottom of the skillet and submerge most of the rice. Stir slowly, scraping the rice off the bottom of the skillet. Continue stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed, then add another 3/4 cup of simmering broth. Repeat stirring, adding broth as needed. After 15-20 minutes, test a grain or two–rice should be soft, with no hard center. If additional liquid is needed, use plain water.* When rice is tender, remove from heat and serve, sprinkled with black pepper, Parmesan (and salt, if needed). Yield: four generous servings, or six first-course servings.
*If additional liquid is needed, using water ensures that the risotto will not become too salty or meaty-tasting, thus overwhelming the zucchini.