Last week, I received all the fully designed pages of our cookbook for proof reading. What an exciting feeling to see all our hard work so nicely framed and organized into a book format! While proofreading all of the 300+ pages, I thought it’s finally a good time to share this tasty recipe. The photos of this risotto were taken in the spring, but this post kept being pushed back by a seemingly more important and seasonal recipe every week. Thankfully this dish is so delicious and versatile, that I’ve probably made the risotto at least once every couple of weeks since then.
I’ve always loved broccoli stems (snacking on them raw while cutting broccoli), and I try to utilize them in vegetable broths, soups and green juices instead of just throwing the stems away. One day, when thinking of experimenting with riceless risotto, this underrated part of the broccoli came to mind. The great thing about this risotto is that you can use practically any vegetable along with the broccoli stems or stay with just the broccoli on its own. Back in the spring and summer, I enjoyed adding tender asparagus tops, fava beans, fresh peas and fiddleheads to the risotto, while now it’s broccoli with winter squash, beets, or sweet potato – and I can’t get enough!
Broccoli Stem Risotto
Note: When shopping for broccoli, choose broccoli stalks with thick, long stems if possible. The thicker they are, the less peeling you’ll have to do.
stems of 4-6 broccoli heads, depending on their thickness (about 580 g or 20 oz) – I usually reserve the stems from one bunch in the fridge, until I’m ready to buy and cook the next one (usually soon after)
florets from 1 large broccoli head – cut into bite-sized pieces
a couple handfuls of other vegetables, such as chopped asparagus, peas, edamame, etc. (optional)
a large handful of green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, etc.
1 lemon – zest and juice
salt and pepper to taste
3 1/2 tablespoons ghee or grapeseed oil – divided
1 shallot – chopped
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan to taste – finely grated (I used unpasteurized sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano)
baby greens or microgreens for garnish (optional)
1. Trim the tough, woodsy ends of each broccoli stem. Peel off the thick outer skin of each stem. You can skip the places where the stem begins to branch into thinner stalks – the skin there is usually is tender enough (although I peel it all off, being a crazy perfectionist).
2. Chop the peeled stems into medium-sized cubes and place them in the food processor. Pulse into rice-sized pieces – you should end up with about 3 cups of broccoli stem “rice.” You can also do this with a good knife if you prefer.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Blanch the broccoli florets for 3 minutes, then immediately transfer them to an ice-water bath to stop the cooking.
4. If using other vegetables, continue to cook or blanch them according to their type. I like to blanch asparagus, fava and edamame for just a couple of minutes, and peas – for just 30 seconds.
5. Blanch the leafy greens for 30 seconds, drain and transfer to an ice water bath, reserving the cooking liquid.
6. Once the vegetables are cool, drain them thoroughly and squeeze the water excess out of leafy greens. Add about half of the broccoli (and a few pieces of other vegetables, if using) to a blender, along with the leafy greens, 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly ground black pepper and cheese. Add about 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid and start blending, adding more of the liquid if needed, a little bit at a time, to achieve a thin, creamy consistency. Make sure not to make it too runny.
7. Heat the remaining ghee or oil in a large saute pan or saucepan, add in the shallot and sweat it for 3-4 minutes at medium heat. Add the broccoli stems and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often.
8. Add the sauce, stirring well to combine and adding more of the cooking liquid if necessary. Add blanched broccoli and other vegetables (if using) to the pan and warm everything through. Remove from the heat, add more cheese, salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice, if desired. Serve garnished with lemon zest, another sprinkle of cheese, baby leaves or microgreens.