‘Tis the season of corn and chilis. Nearing the end of their harvest cycle, great stands of corn stalks are drying and rustling in the wind, yielding long plump ears for supper. After we’ve had a summer full of corn on the cob, we’re slicing off the kernels, simmering the cobs for stock, and adding them to soups, stews, corn bread, and now risotto.
Meanwhile, green chili peppers are populating their bushes in droves — long anaheims, shiny dark green poblanos, jalapenos, serranos, bird chilis and varieties I’ve never heard of in amazing shapes and colors. Our CSA plants hundreds of feet of peppers as a pick-your-own crop and this has been an especially successful season. We’ve been harvesting 20-30 peppers a week for about a month and there are many little ones growing, a testament to constant picking that stimulates the plant to produce more fruit.
I roasted the largest anaheims (in the same family as the famous hatch chili from New Mexico), a few poblanos and others that are relatively large on our outdoor grill until browned. The skins slip right off. The milder ones were eaten with a little salt and fresh cheese. The stronger ones were set aside in the refrigerator to add to various dishes or frozen in heavy plastic bags in quantities that are logical to add to individual dishes. Since thin-skinned chili peppers can be frozen raw, I halved and de-seeded some to be preserved this way. They get mushy but I use them in cooked food so no matter. (If you’re freezing bell peppers, blanch them first.) Yet others, the ones whose color is breaking, are left on a rack to turn red and dry out, so that they can be bagged whole or crushed. My pepper supply will last a year. Looking forward to local huevos rancheros in January.
So for a satisfying supper on the first day of fall, I decided to make risotto, using stock made with corncobs. I added roasted corn kernels and green chilis, and spiked the dish with lime juice and zest, and sprinkling of cilantro. Served with tomatoes sprinkled with a crumbly cheese, this was a perfect celebration of seasonality. (I cooked the corn in the oven, allowing half to brown and adding the other half partway through just to cook them lightly.)
Corn and Roasted Green Chili Risotto
2 ears of corn
3-4 c vegetable or light chicken stock
1-2 anaheim peppers
1 small onion, finely chopped
Butter (or olive oil)
¾ c Arborio rice
Cut the corn kernels into a bowl (they spatter less if you cut the cobs in half crosswise and slice one half at a time), reserving the cobs.
Place the cobs in a saucepan with the broth or stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard the cobs. Keep the liquid warm.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place half the corn kernels and the whole peppers on baking sheet and with a little olive oil and salt. Roast for around 7-10 minutes, turning the peppers and stirring the corn part way through. Add the reserved corn kernels and cook for 3-5 minutes until cooked but not brown. Remove the corn to a bowl to cool. Place the peppers in a bag to steam, and remove the skin and seeds. Chop and add to the corn.
To make the risotto, lightly sauté the onion in a little butter until soft. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains. Start adding the stock, about ¼ cup at a time, regulating the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer. Keep stirring and adding additional ¼ cup of stock. The entire risotto should take about 20 minutes to cook.
Add the reserved corn and peppers, the lime juice and half the zest and cilantro.
Garnish with the remaining lime zest and cilantro.
Serves 3 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish.