Cauliflower Caper Risotto
Last night I threw together this risotto willy nilly, completely unsure if the random things I pulled out the refrigerator would really taste right together. And boy howdy did they! This risotto blew my mind with awesomeness. The cauliflower became soft and almost silky, the herbes de provence gave this a very Thanksgiving kind of flavor (thyme and fennel will do that), and the capers added a hit of delightful briny saltiness that elevated the whole dish. This was one of those rare kitchen triumphs, the kind that feel even more special because the whole endeavor began under a cloud of doubt. This risotto is one for the records.
Usually when I’m cooking a vegetable risotto I saute the veggies first, then set them aside and only stir them back into the risotto when it’s done cooking. This time, I left the cauliflower in from the beginning, which allowed it to start breaking down and becoming integrated into the creamy rice. It didn’t cook long enough to completely disappear, so the finished dish had some nice, hefty chunks of cauliflower. If you don’t want hefty chunks of cauliflower, cut the florets into smaller pieces, and they’ll very likely melt away into the risotto, leaving only their slightly cabbage-y taste behind.
I use an herbes de provence blend that includes lavender, which I’ve heard is the subject of much debate. The thyme and fennel give this a distinctively fall flavor, and to be honest, it’s usually a little heavy on the fennel for my taste. In this dish, though, it works perfectly. This will taste good without capers, too, if you dislike them. However, they add so much that if you aren’t allergic, I’d highly recommend going for it.
I know I say this almost every time I write about risotto here, but I really, really love making risotto. I put on good music, pour myself a glass of wine, and stir stir stir away. It is so contemplative and ritualistic for me, I look forward to making risotto all day. Last night I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go ahead with my plans because I was getting a late start on dinner and was kind of tired, but the process revived me and soon enough I was singing and dancing around my kitchen while the risotto made my whole house smell wonderful. If you’ve never tried making risotto, don’t let all the talk about how hard it is discourage you. Sure, it took me a few attempts to figure out the basics, but once you’ve got it down, risotto is the perfect dinner. Like pizza, it can be a wonderful blank canvas for seasonal flavors and experimentation. And it tastes so indulgent, but isn’t really all that unhealthy, especially if you go light on the cheese. Would it be silly to make risotto two nights in a row? I’m starting to talk myself into it.
Cauliflower Caper Risotto
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 c. arborio rice
- 1/3 c. white wine or about 2 T. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. herbes de provence
- 2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tsp. capers
- 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for about four minutes, or until they are golden and soft. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, for about four or five more minutes, or until the cauliflower becomes lightly golden and maybe a little browned in bits. Stir in the rice, and cook until it starts to become translucent around the edges. Deglaze the pan with the wine or vinegar, scraping up any bits.
Heat the stock in a small saucepan, and keep to a low simmer while you cook the risotto.
Lower the heat under the rice to a little over a simmer, and stir in the herbes de provence. Then begin adding stock, about half a cup at a time, continually stirring. Add stock once the previous dose has been entirely absorbed. Once all the stock is added and the rice is cooked through and creamy, stir in the capers and the Parmesan, and add salt and pepper to taste (you probably won’t need too much salt).
I am actually sad that I don’t have more leftover. And I will definitely be making this again before winter is over. I’m already wondering how it would taste with some grated carrot cooked into it. Oh risotto, you make me so happy. And risotto can make you happy, too! Try it tonight! You won’t be sorry.