Risotto with Fennel and Fennel Frond Pesto
Olive oil and/or butter
1-2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
Squeeze of lemon juice
Trimmings of fennel stalks – fronds separated from stalks
4-5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
Clove of garlic (optional)
½ medium onion, diced
Olive oil and/or butter (about 1 tbsp total)
1 cup Arborio rice
¼ cup white wine
Additional squeeze of lemon (optional)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and white pepper to taste
Prepare the fennel and the broth. Saute the sliced fennel in the oil or butter over moderate heat, browning it a little. Add a little water, turn the heat down, cover the pot and let the fennel braise. Add a squeeze of lemon and set aside while you make the risotto.
Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil, add the fennel trimmings (not a lot of fronds) and cook slowly to impart a fennel flavor to the broth. Or make a vegetable stock using fennel.
Make the pesto. Place fennel fronds in a food processor, Add a little olive oil, salt, a few pine nuts for texture, and garlic if using. Process until it makes a thick pesto.
To make the risotto, saute the onion slowly in the oil and/or butter. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the white wine and stir to allow it to evaporate. Add 1/3 cup of stock, turn the heat to medium low or low (so it just simmers) and stir until the stock is absorbed. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/3 cup of stock, wait until it’s absorbed, stirring occasionally, and then repeat until the rice is tender but still al dente. This process will take about 20-25 minutes.
Add the braised fennel and fennel frond pesto to the risotto, and adjust seasonings.