Young Garlic & Squash Blossom Risotto

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 cloves of the mild, young garlic with soft, wet skins, OR 3 cloves of pungent, cured summer garlic. 
  • one large or two smaller spring onions
  • arborio rice (350 g, about 3 1/2 cups)
  • white wine (200 ml- a little less than a cup)
  • hot vegetable stock (1.25 litres- about 5 1/2 cups)
  • butter (have a stick on hand, use your own judgement from there)
  • olive oil 
  • squash blossoms (several, from your garden, or available at farmers markets)

Directions

Peel and slice, then chop the garlic and spring onions. 

Wash and set aside your squash blossoms.

Grate the parmesan cheese and set aside. 

Melt the butter and olive oil in the base of a good heavy bottom (half-height, if you have one) soup pot. I do feel strongly that a wide base is essential for good risotto. 

A good tool is also essential. Make sure your tool can safely scrape the bottom of your pan. A wooden flat spatula (just make sure its tip is thin enough) is good on enamel pots, a strong metal spatula on steel. 

In another soup pot or tall saucepan, heat your prepared stock. Ideally, make a good garlicky broth. You could also make a fresh young garlic stock by cooking some other cloves in butter, topping off with salt and water, then boiling/simmering (perhaps with a cheesecloth sachet of parsley stems) until the taste comes through. 

Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until softened. Add the arborio rice and cook for a minute or two more. Scrape out a circle in the center, then add the white wine. It should sizzle and steam on contact. Stir vigorously so the rice absorbs the alcohol. Cook this way for about 2 minutes, until the liquid is gone and the rice is just barely starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Make another circle with your tool. Add a ladleful of stock, then stir vigorously to incorporate. Repeat this process, taking progressively longer between ladlefuls. You'll notice the stock absorbs quite quickly at first, then as the rice cooks, it will slow. You don't want the rice to break down very much and become gummy, so the sweet spot is where you can feel whole grains on your tongue, but they are entirely tender. 

When most of the stock is absorbed (I almost always stop before I've reached the end of the pot) and the risotto is delicious, turn the heat off. Add the squash blossoms and parmesan and another good knob of butter. Stir to incorporate, then cover to let the squash blossoms delicately steam.

Serve with grilled summer vegetables, dressed with lemon zest and lemon juice, grassy olive oil, salt, and pepper. Top each serving of risotto with another sprinkling of parmesan and, if you have access, some herb flowers. 

Recipe courtesy of Andrew Barton, photo by Peter Schweitzer.