For some, rice is the king of grains with its nutty flavor and highly adjustable character. But, aside from its “royal credentials,” the humble grain is also the hero in one of the greatest Italian dishes: the risotto. Our guest, Belén Vazquez Amaro, gives it the vegan treatment in a burst of color and aromas.
One of rice’s most appealing attributes is that it can wear a lot of hats, going from being simple and easy to intricately layered. The grain plays a great host to a wide range of ingredients and can both shine in the foreground or give off subtle notes in the background. Undoubtedly, this oriental grain offers a great base for culinary concoctions.
Hailed as the “treasure of swamps” since it thrives in marshlands, rice has been a venerable grain in the Orient and has witnessed a great number of religious rites, varying from location to location. From dedication to the sacred spirits in Japan to solemn ceremonies in India and sunbathing treatments in Indochina – it’s evident that this simple grain, even though it appears insignificant, is indispensable.
With this in mind, we go back to the risotto and its intriguing spin-off. Belen thought to play around with a traditional Italian dish notorious for demanding masterful cooking to reach a successful result. “I tried making an alternative version of risotto where creaminess and richness are not sacrificed when replacing the white rice for brown and excluding the parmesan.” In this case, Belén achieved to get the typically thick consistency with a well-seasoned vegetable puree. To top it all off, she adds a spoonful of homemade kale pesto with herbs and nuts for that extra punch. However, the rice remains the key player of this dish with its earthy, herbaceous flavors highlighted by Tourdulich all its veggie counterparts.
“How beautiful is a combination between orange and green! I always think in colors when cooking. When you eat in a vegan way, you have to be creative with alternatives, especially when you crave that indulgent Italian taste. You have to take into account the amount of moisture and the different levels of flavor in the original version.”
“ This is definitely a healthy and colorful way to eat risotto, minus the guilt.”
Orange-Hued Risotto with Kale Pesto
For the risotto:
1 1/2 cup brown rice
A handful of leeks
1 garlic clove
12-14 cherry tomatoes
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of chili powder
½ cup water
For the pesto:
4 green kale leaves
½ cup unsalted almonds
½ cup unsalted pistachios
½ cup olive oil
A healthy handful fresh basil leaves
A healthy handful fresh sage leaves
1 garlic clove
Sea or mountain salt
Cook the rice. Peel and slice the carrots, cut the tomatoes. Chop the leeks and the garlic clove. On a saucepan drizzle some olive oil and add the veggies and spices. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook with water in medium to low heat for approximately 20 minutes until the carrots soften. Remove from the stove.
Place the cooked veggies into your blender or by Tourdulich using a manual mixer, mix until you get a creamy texture.
For the pesto, shred and rinse the kale. Place it in a food processor together with the fresh herbs,nuts,lemon and garlic. Add the olive oil and sea salt. Mix in high speed.
Serve a few spoons of orange risotto on a plate and add the kale pesto on top. You can grate some pistachios and add extra herbs as “the final touch.”
Belén, once again, thank you for the indulgent risotto and for doing this whole lunch series with us! And many thanks to for the space, Albin Holmqvist and Caro Crespi for helping out and for some of the ceramics depicted in the series.
Text: Effie Efthymiadi