Zucchini Millet Risotto with Kale and Basil
One may ask why I would make a warm dish in August? Well, sometimes summer weather takes a turn for the worse and a cold, blustery fall comes early. When that happens, you want to drown your sorrows in something warm and savory. Comfort food to make you feel a little less depressed about the fact that the glorious summer rug was just gruesomely yanked out from underneath you.
While the weather has turned for a few days, at least the late summer seasonal vegetables are out in full force, and while I was tempted to just grate the zucchini and turn it into zucchini bread, I roasted it instead.
I used to hate zucchini. hate is a strong word, especially for something that grew up liking almost everything. But zucchini and cooked spinach were two things I wouldn’t touch. Fortunately time and age bring wisdom; wisdom of the vegetable world at the very least, and I know better than to cast zucchini to the side.
So let’s get to this dish. It’s not a traditional risotto. No, this is one of those “throw a lot of ingredients in a bowl and mix them together and called it something impressive” type dishes. It uses millet because millet is one of those boring foods that should be cool, and we all should be making more of it.
Actually when I first made it I meant for it to be a warm salad, but was too impatient to let the ingredients cool down. This is classic Foodie Underground behavior: meals should be fun, quick and easy. If you have to wait an hour for things to cool, it is not all of the above.
While I may complain about this late summer dreariness, a little rain has been good to the plants in the window. Hence the need to fill a dish with balcony kale and basil.
Obviously risotto is usually a cheesy dish. Now, some of you readers are cheese eaters and some are not. You’ll be happy to know that since making this dish I’ve done two versions of it: one is with parmesan, because the day I made it I happened to have some on hand, and the other is a version done with toasted hazelnuts and sea salt all ground together.
The toasted hazelnut and sea salt concoction is actually something that I make in larger batches and then keep on hand in a glass jar as it’s a great topping to a lot of dishes, from salads to soup. It also happens to be vegan, which means you can still make this recipe if you need it to be dairy-free.
As with most Foodie Underground recipes, this is one that I don’t usually measure for, so don’t go losing your head about being precise. A little olive oil here, a little basil there.
Now, let’s hope the weather changes.
Zucchini Millet Risotto with Kale and Basil
1 large zucchini
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup (about 2 1/4 ounces, 64 grams) uncooked millet
1 cup (240 milliliters) water
2 to 3 kale large leaves, chopped
Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
Handful raw pumpkin seeds
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Traditional version: Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Vegan version: Toasted hazelnuts ground with sea salt (see below)
Slice the zucchini into rounds, a little less than 1/2-inch thick. In a bowl, add the zucchini rounds, cumin powder, chopped garlic and olive oil and using a wooden spoon or fork, stir together until the zucchini rounds are completely covered in oil.
Place the zucchini rounds on a baking sheet. There will be an olive oil, cumin powder and chopped garlic mixture left over in the bottom of the bowl. Don’t let this go to waste! Spoon it out onto the zucchini rounds.
Bake the zucchini rounds at 400°F (200°C) for 15 to 20 minutes, until the zucchini rounds are soft enough that you can easily cut them in half with the edge of a fork. Remove from the oven and cut the rounds into halves.
While the zucchini is in the oven, prepare the millet. In a saucepan, “toast” the millet over medium high heat about three to five minutes, until you get a nutty smell and the millet is golden brown.
Add in the cup of water and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer until the millet has absorbed most of the water, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let sit, covered, for around 5 to 10 minutes to fully absorb the liquid.
Once everything is ready, mix together the zucchini and millet in a bowl. Add the kale, basil and pumpkin seeds and mix together. Add balsamic vinegar to taste, along with salt and pepper as needed.
Top with freshly grated parmesan or some of the toasted hazelnut and salt concoction and mix together. The amount you use is up to you, just taste along the way until you get the dish to your liking.
Toasted Hazelnuts with Salt Topping
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 teaspoon sea salt
This is an approximate ratio, and you can change it depending on how much you want to make and how salty you want it. Simply grind the ingredients together until the nuts are finely ground. Store in an airtight container like a glass jar.