Wow, this is the first time I make a food challenge so late. Normally I try to make them the first week so I can forget myself until posting day. Other times I'm simply not able to make the challenge, and that bothers me quite a lot.
Ok, let's go with this month challenge, hosted by charming Debyi from The Healthy Vegan Kitchen. She chose a delicious Asparagus & Lemongrass Risotto, a recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero from Veganomicon. Here's what Debyi tells about this recipe:
Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish. It is also one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. Its origins are in North Italy where rice paddies are abundant. While this is not a traditionally prepared risotto, it is pretty close. You really want to use Arborio rice, but you can substitute any short grain rice and get a similar dish.
The biggest challenge this month for some of you will be: Vegan & Gluten-Free
1.You must make the lemongrass broth from scratch, no meat broths allowed (including chicken, beef, fish, etc).
2.No cheese or milk of any kind is to be added to the risotto.
Why? Well, for one, it doesn't need it. I was watching an episode of No Reservations & he had some risotto that consisted of broth and rice, period. I have indicated the optional ingredients that you can add or leave out, or substitute, your choice. I have also included a side dish for you, but you can make whatever you want to go with it. I wanted to do a challenge that everyone would be able to eat. All of the soy in the recipe is easily omitted for those who are allergic.
This is the recipe as Debyi presented it, though due to some "technical problems" I had to slightly change (my modifications in italic and orange)
Asparagus and Lemongrass Risotto
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes Serves 4-6
This one does have peanuts in it, so if you are allergic, just leave them out. Personally, I liked pine nuts in it best (me too, so I used pididne nuts) Fresh lemongrass is available in most grocery stores, but if you can't find it, you can use dried. If using dried, you will want to use a cheese cloth or tea strainer. Place the dried lemongrass, ginger and garlic. I couldn't find either fresh or dried lemongrass, so I had to left it out Don't worry about the heat of the serrano pepper, it only adds a nice hint of flavor.
3 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
1” piece fresh ginger, sliced into ¼” slices
1 small stalk lemongrass, or 1 TBSP dried, chopped lemongrass
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
3 TBSP tamari (or soy sauce, or more broth)
½ cup cooking sherry or white wine (D'Aquino Pinot Grigio is a good choice, any dry white wine, or just water)
1 lb asparagus
2 TBSP vegetable broth
1 cup basil leaves (Thai, if you can find it), sliced into thin strips
2 TBSP chopped fresh mint
6 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
serrano red chile, sliced very thinly (or ½ – 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes) 3 small Cayenne chile, they are dried so I didn't slice them
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 tsp sugar (optional)
lime juice lemon again
Chopped roasted peanuts and lime wedges, for garnish (you can use pine nuts or sliced almonds instead of the peanuts)
1.If using fresh lemongrass, peel away and discard any brown stems from the stalk. Slice the stalk in half lengthwise and cut into 3” to 4” lengths, then julienne. I wasn't able to find lemongrass where I live. My first idea was to try a cilantro broth, but the ones I found were too old (yellowy leaves and didn't smell at all to cilantro), so I substituted it for lemon.
2.Give the garlic and the ginger a could whack with the side of your knife, keeping them whole. Prepare your herb pouch, if using.
3.Place all of the broth ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the broth, discarding the vegetables and herbs. Pour the broth back into the pot, cover and simmer over as low a heat as possible to keep warm.
4.Slice the asparagus into ½” pieces, removing any tough parts from the bottom of the stem. Separate the tips from the stems and place each in separate bowls.
5.In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot, saute the asparagus in 1 TBSP vegetable broth over medium heat until bright and crisp tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the basil and mint, saute for 30 seconds, remove from heat and set aside.
6.Add the remaining tablespoon vegetable broth to the pan. Saute the shallots and garlic, stirring occasionally, until shallots are very soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the serrano and rice, saute for about 8 minutes, until the rice smells slightly toasted. Add the cooking sherry (or white wine) and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.
7.Now, time for relaxation and stirring. Get a glass of your favorite beverage, turn on some soothing music, or a good movie. Ladle about ½ cup of the broth at a time into the rice, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed. Stir and cook until the rice is creamy but still somewhat firm in the center.
8.When the broth is almost gone, stir the sugar and lime juice into the remaining broth before adding it to the risotto. You may add more water or vegetable broth in ¼ cup increments if needed. This will take about 35 minutes.
9.Stir the asparagus stems into the risotto and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the asparagus has reached desired tenderness.
10.Garnish each serving with the asparagus tips, chopped roasted peanuts, and lime wedges.
Tangerine Baked Tofu
Time: 1 hour Serves 4
You can sub orange juice, oranges, tangelos, or clementines for the tangerines. Had to use lemon instead of orange fruits as the ones I could only find here weren't very good... I use only one lemon and taste was good but too acid so next time I'll try to find better oranges so it's sweeter...
1 lb extra-firm tofu, sliced width-wise into eighths.
tangerine lemon zest 1/3 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice (2-3 tangerines)
lime lemon juice
2 TBSP tamari (or soy sauce)
dark rum (or 1 tsp rum extract) white rum
1.Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. My first attempt was using the oven, but it was a failure as tofu got burnt and I was a whole week washing the black sticked in the glass baking dish, So, I used microwave instead at 900 W
2.In a shallow 11” X 7” glass baking dish, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. Place the sliced tofu in the marinade. Using a fork, poke a few holes into the cutlets, flip them over, and do the same on the other side.
3.Bake the tofu for 30 minutes, flipping several times, about every 15 minutes or so. The tofu is ready when the marinade is reduced. Spoon any remaining marinade over the tofu before serving. As I used microwave instead of oven I reduced quite a lot the time: 4 minutes for each side, and this time believe me it worked...
And here's the final result:
Thanks Debyi for this tasteful challenge. I keep the recipe for future reference, and I'll try my best to get all the ingredients...