A Collaborative Effort

Veggie Risotto

Though it didn’t start out that way, this week’s Meatless Monday dinner ended up being an incongruous amalgamation of several ideas and recipes.

Firstly, I wanted something relatively quick that wouldn’t heat up the kitchen too much.  That immediately put my original plan of revisiting last week’s awesome potato salad out of the running because the spuds needed to be oven roasted.

Next, I considered peas because I’d spent all that time shucking 2 quarts of them on Sunday, so I might as well use them before they went bad.

From there my mind wandered to risotto, and initially settled on a light spring pea and parmagiano version.

But before long I started to recall the delightfully nutty braised fennel I’d made courtesy of a Serious Eats recipe (initially sampled for a pared down version of the pizza minus anisette cream, which by the way makes one outstanding pie!).

The dish began shaping up into a pea and braised fennel risotto with shavings of parmagiano.  But then I realized I’d need stock or broth to cook the risotto, but the most recent batch of veggie stock I’d made was much too rich and dark for such a delicately flavoured dish.

Which is about when I serendipitously recalled the quarts of frozen tomato water the Everyman had lovingly prepared for us last fall.  I knew the water was all I would need to round out the meal.  If you’ve never tried tomato water before, it’s like the purest, cleanest, faintly tinged essence of tomato, without all of those messy skins and seeds.

With a clear direction formulated in my mind, I began braising the sliced fennel bulb in a small amount of olive oil and veggie stock.  Meanwhile, I sweat onion and garlic in another pan with more olive oil, then added the arborio and stirred to coat.  Slowly I ladled alternating scoops of tomato water and regular water into the pot of rice and kept stirring until the liquid was absorbed.  Once the risotto was just about ready I poured in a shower of raw peas and stirred until they were well incorporated, but also slightly cooked by the heat of the risotto.  The braised fennel went in next, along with some seasoning by way of parmagiano and peppercorns.

It might not have been the idea I’d started with, but this faintly rose tinged risotto was just what I was looking for.

Foodie’s Tomato, Pea And Fennel Risotto

1 onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic

3 c. tomato water*

3 c. water

2 c. arborio rice

1 fennel bulb, sliced

1 c. peas, shelled

0.25 c. vegetable stock


olive oil


In a hot pan, lightly saute the sliced fennel in a little olive oil until it begins to caramelize, shaking occasionally to brown all sides.  After 7-8 minutes, add the vegetable stock to the pan and cover with a lid, then lower heat to medium low and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes or until the fennel has absorbed the stock and softened completely, then remove from heat.  In a medium pot add a splash of olive oil and heat until shimmering.  Add the chopped onion and garlic and stir frequently.  Once translucent, add the arborio rice to the pot and stir to coat the grains with oil, reducing heat to medium.  Working with about a half cup at a time, add alternating ladles of warmed tomato water and stock to the pan, stirring until each ladle of liquid is absorbed.  After approximately 20 minutes, the risotto should be nearly done, so gently stir in the shelled peas and incorporate the braised fennel.  Shave generous amounts of parmagiano and crack profuse amounts of pepper over top, then serve immediately.

Makes 6-8 hearty servings.

*Tomato water is made by pureeing whole tomatoes in a blender, then straining the resulting clear liquid through a cheesecloth lined chinois or colander.

Until next time…

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