Last weekend, we flew to North Carolina. Air travel means lots of time to catch up on the latest and greatest in the culinary magazines, and the Thanksgiving issues are some of my favorites. This fall, it seems that risottos are very popular, especially those made with butternut squash. While that sounds really good to me, somewhere along the line, I got the idea to cook the rice in coconut milk for an ultra-creamy Thai-style rice and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
My instincts were spot-on, if I do say so myself. This recipe is sure to become a favorite if you like Thai food and maybe even if you don’t! I start with a saute of onion, garlic and red bell pepper, but you could add any Thai-compatible vegetables of your choice, like baby broccoli florets, mushrooms, and the like. Pineapple bits would be tasty too, but wouldn’t require much cooking time–just heated through. Honestly, I don’t think it would be possible to go wrong.
In the past, I shied away from risotto because of the protracted hands-on cooking time. But I found that, as long as I had other things I was doing in the kitchen, stopping to give the risotto an occasional stir was no big deal and the time went by quickly.
For a complete meal, try spooning the risotto onto a serving platter, making a slight depression in the top, filling it with crisp tofu cubes, and garnishing with chives/scallions and cashews.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
3-4 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
1 cup rice (jasmine is nice for an authentic Thai flavor)
1/2 cup intensely-flavored vegetable stock or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes dissolved in 1/2 cup water, warmed on stove or in microwave
1/2 cup white wine (I like something slightly sweet)
1-15 ounce can coconut milk, warmed on stove or in microwave (substitute “lite” if you must)
1-2 tablespoons minced Thai or Italian basil (I used some that was fresh-frozen in my freezer)
1/2-1 teaspoon dried mint (it’s not fresh mint season here right now)
3 tablespoons vegan fish sauce
chives or scallions
chopped or halved cashew nuts
In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic and red bell pepper and saute until softened. Add rice and saute, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes or until it starts to toast. Add vegetable stock and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium if necessary. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. If you haven’t already, reduce heat to medium and add 1/3 of coconut milk. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Repeat two more times until all of the coconut milk is added. Just before the last 10 minutes of cooking, add basil and mint. After the risotto is fully cooked, stir in vegan fish sauce. Garnish with chives or scallions and halved or chopped cashews.