My friend Beth came home from a trip to the ocean on a windy, chilly day. Risotto, she said, was just what she craved to warm herself up and “get cozy.” I can still picture her in the kitchen, telling me how she liked to make it. It was an introduction to her world of comfort food. Risotto can be simple — mostly rice with stock and herbs — or it can be loaded with greens and vegetables, meats, and more. You can use this recipe as a base, adding other ingredients as you’re inspired.
• 2 heads garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and sliced 1/8-inch thick
• 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 cup whole sage leaves
• 5 to 6 cups bone broth or other broth or stock
• Salt, to taste
• 1 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
• 2 cups Arborio rice
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1. Combine the sliced garlic and 1/4 cup of the oil in a small skillet over low heat. Cook, stirring often, being careful not to let the garlic burn or even brown much, until the garlic is softened and aromatic, 10 to 15 minutes. Set both the softened garlic and the oil aside.
2. Crisp the sage leaves: Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small pan over medium heat (you may need more oil if you use a larger pan). Once the oil is hot, add the sage, keeping the leaves separated as best you can to increase their contact with the pan. Keep them moving to prevent them from burning, flipping them as needed. They’re done when they’re crispy but still bright green, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and set aside. Also set aside any oil remaining in the pan.
3. Bring broth to a gentle simmer in covered saucepan on a side burner. Season to taste with salt.
4. Transfer garlic and its oil, along with any remaining oil from cooking sage leaves, to a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add shallots and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice, season with a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper, and cook, stirring almost continuously, until the rice is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits stuck to bottom of pan. Continue to stir until rice has absorbed the wine, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat and add the hot broth 1 cup at a time, stirring almost continuously until the rice has absorbed the broth before adding more. If rice is sticking to the pan, stir it more, reduce the heat, or both. When done, the risotto should be al dente and creamy, but not runny. In total, this can take 20 to 25 minutes.
5. When risotto is done, stir in the cream, Parmesan, and crispy sage leaves. Season to taste with salt. Optional: garnish with crispy sage leaves.
Learn more about growing garlic in Using Healthful, Pungent Garlic.
Brittany Wood Nickerson shares her experience in herbal medicine and professional cooking through her business, Thyme Herbal. This is an excerpt from her book Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen, available in the Heirloom Gardener store.