This is a luxurious risotto, enriched with pesto at the end of cooking. This time I used pumpkin seeds for the pesto with terrific results. They contributed not only great flavor but a rich green color to the pesto.
For the pesto:
1 or 2 garlic cloves, to taste
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds or Mediterranean pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan
For the risotto:
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and broken in half
7 cups chicken or vegetable stock, as needed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or fumet blanc
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. To make the pesto, turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop in the garlic. When it is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the basil, pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, salt, pepper and olive oil. Process until smooth and creamy. Add the Parmesan, and pulse until well combined.
You can also use a mortar and pestle: Add the basil leaves gradually, and mash with the pestle. Add the pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper. Mash to a paste with the basil. Work in the olive oil and the Parmesan.
2. To make the risotto, bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan, and add the green beans. Boil for five minutes, remove the green beans with a skimmer, and refresh with cold water. Turn down the heat under the stock, and keep at a simmer. Make sure that it is well seasoned.
3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add the rice. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until the grains separate and begin to crackle.
4. Add the wine. Cook, stirring, until there is no more visible in the pan. Stir in enough of the simmering stock to just cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add more stock. Continue to cook in this fashion — stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is almost dry — until the rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
5. Add the green beans and another ladleful or two of stock to the rice. Stir in the pesto, taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, stir a couple of times, and serve. The risotto should be creamy.
Yield: Serves six.
Advance preparation: You can begin this dish several hours ahead, and cook the rice for 10 to 15 minutes (halfway through step 4) as instructed above. Spread in a thin layer in the pan, and resume cooking about 20 minutes before you wish to serve.
Nutritional information per serving: 348 calories; 15 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 4 milligrams cholesterol; 43 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 121 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 10 grams protein
By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN