I find risotto to be incredibly fun to cook. I like to have something nice to sip by my side, some good music on, and all the ingredients measured out in advance. It’s a preparation process that really gets you in the zone, an almost meditative state of tending to the rice, and watching it magically transform from dry to beautifully creamy. Risotto has a reputation of being fussy, and although it requires constant attention, the ingredients it calls for couldn’t be more modest: alliums like onions and garlic, rice, wine, hot broth, and whatever other items you’d like to add to make it your own. In this recipe, it’s cabbage and lemon, both abundant in the depths of winter. Once you get the hang of it, the preparation becomes second nature as well.
We gently stew the cabbage in lemon juice until incredibly tender, so much so that it completely melts and disappears into the risotto. It’s a great way to eat a whole head of cabbage almost without noticing. The bright and assertive flavors from the lemon juice and zest complement the starchiness and richness of the rice really nicely. A small warning: this risotto is quite lemony, so if you’re sensitive to sour flavors, I recommend reducing the amount of lemon (this is detailed in the recipe as well). Also, the lemon mellows out as it sits and in the leftovers. Since this is a vegan recipe, there’s no cheese, but we throw together a quick, ‘cheesy’ cashew dust, a cashew Parm of sorts, and stir it through the risotto. The result is so incredibly cozy and comforting, we hope you’ll give it a try one day this winter!
- ¼ cup raw cashews
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
- 1 medium head white cabbage, thinly sliced with a knife or mandoline
- zest and juice from 2 small lemons (see note)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 6 cups hot vegetable broth, plus more if needed
- parsley or other herbs for garnishing (optional)
- Pound the cashews in a mortar and pestle or process in a mini food processor, until finely ground. Add the nutritional yeast, a generous pinch of salt, and plenty of black pepper. Mix to combine. Set aside for now.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to generously coat the bottom. Add the cabbage and a pinch of salt, and cook for 10 minutes, until the cabbage is just wilted. Add the juice of 1 lemon and stir it in. Turn the heat down to low, and cover the skillet. Cook the cabbage, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring periodically, until very soft. Transfer the cabbage to a bowl and wipe the skillet if needed.
- Heat the same skillet over medium heat and add more oil to coat the bottom well. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, saute for 7 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and stir it around until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice and mix well to coat it with the oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice grains are translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the juice of 1 remaining lemon and the wine, bring it up to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.
- Start adding the hot broth, one ladleful at a time. Bring the broth to a simmer and let it absorb into the rice, stirring often, about 2-4 minutes. Once absorbed, add another ladleful of broth and keep repeating this process of letting the broth absorb, then adding more. Stir the rice frequently and vigorously - this will help develop the starches/make the rice creamy. Add about half of the cabbage during the 4th addition of broth. Add the rest of the cabbage at the next addition of broth, and continue cooking, until the rice is creamy and al dente, and until the cabbage has collapsed completely into the risotto. The whole cooking process should take 25-30 minutes total from the first addition of broth. Turn off the heat, mix in the lemon zest and most of the cashew mixture, saving some for garnishing. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. Serve the risotto right away, garnished with more of the cashew dust and herbs, if using.