Dinner Tonight: Leek Risotto + Italian Celery Salad

This meal won't ask much from you. A minimal amount of ingredients, with a little time on the stove, transform into two satisfying, comforting dishes -- just what you need after a long day. Spring isn't often associated with comfort food, but these dishes can be described as just that. With the emphasis on humble ingredients, like celery and leeks, you'll quickly be reminded that simple can be wonderful.

The Menu

Leek Risotto by nicolecooks

Serves 4

Leek Risotto

4-5 cups vegetable stock
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 small leeks, halved and thinly sliced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup carnaroli rice
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Kosher salt, to taste
Minced chives, for garnish

1. Place the stock on a low simmer in a stockpot and keep a ladle nearby. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep, heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent; do not let them brown. Add the leeks and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the leeks have softened. Stir in the rice and toast for 2-3 minutes.

2. Pour in the wine and let it simmer until the liquid is absorbed, and continue scraping the pan so that the rice doesn't stick. Season the rice with salt, then begin adding stock a ladle at a time, stirring often, and allowing most of the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. The rice is cooked once the grains are al dente, fully cooked but with a soft bite on the inside.

3. Turn off the heat and vigorously beat in the butter and cheese with a wooden spoon to help it emulsify with the rice. If you prefer not to do this on the stove, move the pan to a towel on the counter. Whatever you do, don't hesitate. Really shake the pan back and forth with one hand while stirring with the other.

4. Add the whipped cream, then season with salt, only if needed. Continue stirring with abandon until all the ingredients have been incorporated. Serve immediately, garnished with additional Parmesan cheese and chives.

Save and print this Leek Risotto recipe at Food52.

Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad

Get the recipe for Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad on Food52

The Grocery List

Serves 4

4 to 5 cups vegetable stock
3 small leeks
1 shallot
1 lemon, for juice
1 cup carnaroli (or arborio or other risotto) rice
1 cup white wine
1 pound mixed mushrooms
8 stalks celery
1 1/4 cups parmesan cheese, shaved
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
Chives, for garnish

We're assuming that you already have olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper on hand. If not, you'll be needing those things, too!

The Plan

1. Place stock in a pot, and bring to a low simmer. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, and cook shallots for 2 minutes. Add leeks, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Lastly, add rice, and toast for a couple of minutes.

2. Add your wine to the rice mixture, simmer until absorbed, and then add salt. Add stock, one ladleful at a time, allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Stir often. Repeat with remaining stock, stopping once rice grains are al dente.

3. While risotto is cooking, begin the salad (but remember to stir the rice often). Sauté the mushrooms in a separate skillet for 5 minutes. Season, and let cool. Whip the cream you'll be adding to the risotto.

4. Once the rice is done, turn off the heat, add butter, cheese, and cream. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then toss all salad ingredients together. Serve the risotto, garnished with chives, and the celery salad in a bowl alongside. Enjoy!

All photos by James Ransom