Move over pie, here comes Strawberry Rhubarb Risotto, my answer to Round #2 of the Marx Food Integrale Risotto Throw-down, in which contestants are challenged to make risotto become dessert with this whole grain version of Arborio.
(Nuts and bolts: I was wrong about voting! This time Marx foods and the participating bloggers vote for each other; thanks for all who supported me the first time!)
Friend and food blogger Chris Delgrosso, of the Delgrosso Food Blog, who’s tsunami of votes almost blew most of us out of the first round with his Risotto Milanese Mexicana (The video will be out soon!) coaxed me into a brilliant risotto dessert idea of using cajeta, the Mexican caramel syrup made with cooked goat milk, and fried plantains.
But I woke up this morning to the pint of local strawberries and bundle of freshly plucked rhubarb I had foraged yesterday. Add a sparkling June sky and the smell of freshly cut peonies to that, and New England was just begging to be the star of my dessert. So, with all due respect to the luscious cajeta, I began with what has long been a springtime rite from Massachusetts to Maine, the marriage of strawberries and rhubarb, and made a warm, creamy pudding no DownEaster would refuse.
This is rice pudding, served hot, laden with the honest sweetness of local berries, the tart love of those ruby red stalks, and almond paste, a little Vienna to sophisticate the ruddy New England basics. Served warm with good vanilla ice cream on top, this risotto stopped the hearts of the first tasters, even a fourteen-year-old who in the past, out of loyalty to her dessert favorite, chocolate mousse, refused to speak the word “rhubarb.” Whispering, she asked for seconds.
Strawberry Rhubarb Risotto
serves 4 for dessert
1 cup Integrale risotto or Arborio risotto
1 pint strawberries, sliced into quarters
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 T. white sugar
2 T. almond paste
good vanilla ice cream
sliced almonds, toasted
a tea kettle full of simmering water
First, separately, stew the rhubarb and cook the strawberries into a syrupy compote.
Cook the rhubarb over low heat covered until juice begins to run. Stir in the brown sugar, and simmer until the rhubarb is completely soft. (You will probably have more stewed rhubarb than you need for this recipe. Either add more or save it for another use.)
Put the berries in a separate saucepan with the white sugar, and cook over low heat until juicey. Hopefully you will have lots of liquid to pour into the risotto as it cooks.
Now make the risotto. Heat the kettle full over water. Warm a saute pan over medium heat. Add the rice and let it toast just a little. Add the first cup or so of hot water, and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Watch the clock at this point, because almost without fail your risotto will be done 25 minutes from this point.
Continue adding the hot water, stirring until all is absorbed, and adding more. Intermittently, stir in the liquid from the hot strawberries, using all of it in the 25 minutes. (You will stir in the strawberries themselves at the end.)
At about the 20 minute mark, or when the risotto is almost done, stir in the almond paste, mashing it and whisking it to make sure it dissolves into the risotto. This will take a little work, but eventually dissolves and makes the risotto creamier.
When the risotto is just al dente, stir in all of the strawberries and a cup of the stewed rhubarb.
Serve immediately in dessert bowls, and top with ice cream and toasted almonds.