Meatless Mondays: Leek Risotto

You don't need Italian rice to make the best risotto.

risotto recipe vegetarian

(Photo: Ian Knauer)

Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.

I have chosen to live in a part of the country that encourages great food. Here in Pennsylvania there is a long tradition of farming and stewardship of land and livestock. And right across the river (just a couple miles away) is a place called the Garden State—no joke—that’s New Jersey’s nickname, and for a reason.

There is a rich sense of community here. Farmers and chefs are in constant contact, and the (nonprofessional food) community is so active and involved that if you didn’t know where you were, you might think you were in California, not Jersey.

Last weekend a group of us food people gathered at a local produce farm called Blue Moon Acres for a Friday-night hello. There, I found that the owners, Jim and Kathy Lyons, are growing rice. That’s right, Garden State–grown rice.

Now, if someone handed you a bag of arborio rice from New Jersey, what would you think? Yeah, me too—I'd be skeptical. Even though I sing the praises of my local food community and all. And it would make for a pretty good little story here if I could tell you that the rice was not up to par with its Italian equivalent. We could all chuckle and make Sopranos jokes and drop the vowels off the end of words like arborio. “Eh, pass dat arbor ova ere.…”

But the rice grown at Blue Moon Acres makes risotto just as creamy and delicious as any Italian rice I’ve eaten. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to report that to you.

If you live anywhere near New Jersey, get your hands on some of Jim and Kathy’s rice. If you don’t, then talk to your local farmers about growing some. If they can grow outstanding rice in New Jersey, they can probably grow it anywhere.

Leek Risotto

Serves 4

3 large leeks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 cups vegetable stock

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Remove and wash the leek greens, then place in a pot with the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.

Finely slice the white and pale green parts of the leeks and wash well in a bowl of cold water.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until hot; then stir in the leek whites and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice; then add the wine and cook, stirring until the wine has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in enough of the stock to cover the rice and cook, stirring constantly and adding more stock as needed, until the rice is tender and creamy, about 18 minutes. Stir in the cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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