Recipe: risotto with spinach and feta cheese

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Spinach and feta cheese risotto, served on a beautiful serving plate. Photo by Marquel Plavan.

Risotto is one of the many gems that Italian cuisine has brought to the world. As with most Italian dishes, it capitalizes on simple ingredients by maximizing the flavor of each.

The rice takes on a toasted flavor and absorbs the aromas and richness of the onions and garlic. The white wine infuses the dish with complex and deep fruitiness as it reduces over the heat. The slow addition of liquid and stirring of the dish throughout brings out the starches of the rice, providing a creaminess enhanced by the addition of butter at the end.

The whole dish is cooked in one pan, ideal for the college kitchen where there might be only one pan available and where rice is often kept in abundance.

Risotto is versatile; you can use a variety of vegetables such as mushrooms, squash, peas or no additional vegetables at all. I used spinach because that is what I had, and spinach and feta can be sourced from the salad bar in the Haggar Café for any resourceful student looking to make the most of their meal plan.

Ingredients:

2 cups of white rice

1/2 cup of chardonnay or another full bodied white wine — equal parts white wine vinegar and water can substitute

2 onions

2 cloves of fresh garlic minced or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

4 cups of spinach

1/2 cup of feta cheese

6 cups of vegetable stock —  chicken stock or even water will work if stock is not available

1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of butter

2 additional tablespoons of butter kept cold in refrigerator

1 teaspoon of salt

Pepper to garnish

Procedure:

  1. Add the vegetable stock to a pot and place over medium heat so that the stock will stay hot throughout the cooking process.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a pan over medium-high heat until they bubble.
  3. Add the diced onion and reduce heat to medium.
  4. Season onion with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook until it softens and becomes translucent but does not brown.
  5. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the rice to the pan and toast with the onion until the rice becomes more translucent and smells slightly toasted, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the chardonnay, and let it simmer while stirring occasionally until the rice absorbs almost all of it, about 3 minutes.
  8. Add a cup of the warm stock, and stir the rice as it absorbs the stock, about 5 minutes.
  9. Repeat step 8 until all the stock is used, adding each time the liquid in the pan is absorbed.
  10. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Check that the rice is cooked fully. It should be al dente, that is, cooked but not mushy and retaining a little bite. The rice should take around 15-20 minutes of cooking in the liquid.
  11. Before the last bit of stock is absorbed, stir in spinach and allow it to wilt slightly from the heat of the risotto.
  12. Take the risotto off the heat before the liquid in the pan completely dries and stir in the 2 tablespoons of cold butter.
  13. Transfer to a serving plate and top with feta cheese and pepper.

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