I used to think that risotto was a fearful and extremely difficult dish to make - one left only for the expert chefs of several starred restaurants. Then I went to dinner at my aunt's house where my cousin, Sarah, had successfully mastered and produced a delicious wild mushroom risotto. She said it was easy, you just have to make the time to stir the rice. With her as inspiration, I made my first risotto and I've been making them every since. I actually find the 15 minutes spent stirring the rice to be quite soothing; to me cooking is comforting. Plus it'll wow your family when you tell them risotto is on the menu for dinner. Technically a rice dish could hardly be described as refreshing, but this scrumptious simple vegetarian dinner is just that: refreshing. The flavors of mint and lemon meld perfectly to create a bright and clean taste for your palate. To see the recipe,

Lemon MInt Risotto
From Everyday Food magazine

3 yellow peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
5 cups Homemade Chicken Stock , or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
1/2 pound pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch lengths
6 sprigs fresh mint, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped leaves
6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup minced shallots (about 1/2 pound)
1 cup finely diced fennel (about 3/4 pound)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons lemon zest, about 2 lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice

  1. In a small saucepan, combine peppers, 6 tablespoons water, and 1/4 cup chicken stock; cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until very soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and puree peppers with liquid in a food processor. Strain through a coarse sieve into a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. While the peppers cook bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add asparagus. Cook until bright green and still slightly crunchy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in an ice bath for several minutes. Drain, and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine remaining 4 3/4 cups chicken stock with sprigs of mint, parsley, and rosemary, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and keep stock at a bare simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, fennel, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until very soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in rice and coriander, and cook, stirring constantly, until the edges of the rice are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine and lemon zest, and cook, stirring constantly, until nearly all the wine is absorbed, about 30 seconds.
  5. Remove herb sprigs from stock with tongs or a slotted spoon. Add salt and pepper and about 1/2 cup of simmering stock to rice, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until nearly all the stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to be nearly absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy-looking and each grain is tender but still firm in the center. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from heat, and stir in pepper purée, asparagus, Parmesan, 1 tablespoon chopped mint, all the chopped parsley, and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.
  7. Divide risotto among six plates, and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon mint. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Make It FAST: If you're in a hurry skip the first step (the pepper puree) and add the chopped peppers to the saute pan (step 4) with the shallots, fennel, and garlic. Proceed following the rest of the recipe.

Substitute: one cup of frozen peas if asparagus is unavailable.

Per serving: 269 calories, 6 g fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 43 g carbohydrate, 633 mg sodium, 11 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber.