After work, instead of taking a pitstop at the bag of chips at the bottom of the snack drawer, I open the fridge and see what’s staring back at me. Can this quarter head of cabbage be combined with the last cup of cooked chickpeas? And what about the mint I bought for cocktails last week? That’s dinner.
This is the argument for batch cooking. That there is always something on hand—and it can always be turned into something else on a whim. This recipe relies heavily on that premise. The parsnip puree can be made whenever parsnips are on sale, then kept in the fridge or freezer. The caraway-paprika oil and orangey walnuts can be scaled down into tiny batches or scaled up into big ones. These components go great with tons of things—try the puree as a mayo substitute on sandwiches, the oil spooned over roasted carrots or squash, the walnuts on your morning oatmeal—but especially risotto.
This is my perennial solution to: What’s for dinner? Creamy, al dente rice pairs well with just about any collection of vegetables I have floating around, from root vegetables in the winter to tomatoes in the summer. Risotto often gets bad-mouthed for taking forever to prepare, but it really only takes about 20 minutes of active time (when you start adding liquid, a ladle at a time, you’re tied to the stove until the rice is ready). Lots of restaurants streamline risotto by cooking the rice until mostly tender, sticking it in the fridge, and reheating a single portion whenever someone places an order. That works in home kitchens too.
After you try this dish, feel encouraged to mix and match the puzzle pieces depending on what’s in the fridge, wherever the spirit takes you. —abraberens
Test Kitchen Notes
Every month, in Eat Your Vegetables, chef, Ruffage cookbook author, and former farmer Abra Berens shares a seasonal recipe that puts vegetables front and center (where they should be!). Missed an installment? Head here to catch up. —The Editors
- Prep time 45 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 4
Neutral oil, such as rice bran or grapeseed
yellow onion, sliced thinly
dry white wine
parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups
olive oil, divided
walnuts halves or pieces, toasted
orange, zest and juice
parsley, roughly chopped
stock (or water in a pinch)
- Make the parsnip puree: In a medium pot, heat a glug of neutral oil over medium heat. Sweat the onion with a big pinch of salt until soft but not browned. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the parsnips, 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of olive oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook until the parsnips are very tender (can easily be mashed with a fork). Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Blend in a food processor until silky smooth and set aside. (Note: This puree can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 7 days or frozen for up to 12 months.)
- Make the caraway-paprika oil: In a small saucepan, heat a glug of neutral oil over medium-high heat. Fry the paprika and caraway seeds just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately remove from the heat, pour into a heatproof bowl, and add 1/2 cup of neutral oil to cool the mixture. Let the oil steep at least 10 minutes.
- Make the orangey walnut topping: In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, orange zest, orange juice, shallot, the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, and a big pinch of salt. Use a spoon or muddler to mash the mixture to make a chunky paste. Add the chopped parsley and taste adding more salt as desired.
- Make the risotto: Heat the stock or water in a pot. When it comes to a boil, reduce to a low simmer. Heat a big glug of olive oil in a frying pan and toast the rice for 1 to 2 minutes. Add a ladle of stock and cook, stirring continuously, until the liquid has evaporated. Repeat this until you’ve added all the stock and the rice is tender but still has a bit of chew to it, 20-something minutes in total. Fold in the parsnip puree to bind the risotto. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Dish the risotto into serving bowls. Drizzle with the caraway-paprika oil. Spoon the orangey walnuts on top and serve.