Lemon & Kale Risotto

Confession time: until last week, I’d never actually cooked with kale before. I’ve had kale in dishes in restaurants and at friends’ homes, but I’d never actually bought kale and worked with it until I saw a beautiful bunch of rainbow kale at my local farmer’s market. It called to me, and I always say that when a green leafy veggie picks up the phone, you’d better answer. (Ok, I’ve never actually said that, but it’s logically sound.)

Of course, it’s one thing to stand in a farmer’s market and say, “Why, yes, Mr. Kale, you’re just my type,” and quite another thing to stare him down in your kitchen the morning after and think, “Well, now what?” Because the truth is, my love of spinach has blinded me to most other greens for years, and I wasn’t sure where to even start with kale.

So I went to the one person I knew would have the answer: Heidi over at 101 cookbooks. Heidi’s kind of a goddess, and is always a solid bet when you’re looking for good vegetarian fare. And she didn’t disappoint: her Meyer Lemon Risotto recipe was the inspiration for this recipe. I changed up a few things, most notably by taking out the creme fraiche. It’s standard in risotto to use some type of cream, but this comes out so smooth by itself that no one will believe you that it doesn’t have cream in it. I know; I made it and still didn’t believe.

The flavor here is predominantly lemon, but the kale offers its own peppery flavor. I didn’t add salt to the recipe–the veggie bouillon I used had sea salt already in it. Depending on how salty the broth you use is, you might want to add some to the risotto. And I strongly recommend that you wait until you’re ready to serve before adding in the walnuts; you don’t want them to get soggy: their crunch is a wonderful addition! (By the way, how is everyone else doing on their New Year’s Resolutions?)

If you’ve never made a risotto before, a couple of quick tips: first of all, you should know that this is not the kind of recipe I would make on a Tuesday evening, after a long day of work. It requires a lot of work and focus, so I usually make risottos on days off. Also, you have to stir the risotto constantly, so I always recommend doing all the prep work ahead of time. It just cuts down on stress during the making. Finally, if you’re wondering when to add more liquid to the risotto, you want to wait until you can “cut through” the rice; that is, you want to be able to see the bottom of the pot for a second or two before you add the next batch of liquid. And keep tasting as the rice cooks; you probably won’t need all the liquid called for in the recipe, so check for texture.

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