Perhaps you're thinking, "didn't we just see a recipe with a few of these ingredients?" Necessity is the mother of invention. In other words, having the "necessity" to use some vegetables before they lose their freshness and the "necessity" to get your butt into the kitchen and cook something fast because you waited too long and now you're very hungry are both inspirations to invent something new on the spot for your next meal. In today's example, I wanted to use up the shiitake mushrooms and fresh basil from last week's recipe for Tofu, Arugula, and Shiitake Mushroom Sauté before they passed their peak, and I also found myself in the position of being rather hungry and needing to decide what to make fast, not having done any prep work. Fear not, this is not a disaster situation! Merely time to whip up some kitchen magic on the fly.
Using a certain grouping of ingredients more than once in a given period of a few days is a great way to take some of the reinvention work out of cooking and also a smart way to cut down on the amount you have to shop for at once, while also making sure than the beautiful food you have bought won't spoil and go to waste. And it doesn't mean that the dishes you make using a particular grouping of ingredients has to taste the same just because it has some of the same things in it, as this recipe will illustrate- that would be boring, and we don't like boring.
People generally associate risotto with being a creamy, indulgent dish, and this is- but by changing up the cooking method a little bit and using less oil in combination with whole grain millet instead of white rice, it packs in much more nutrition and much less fat than a standard risotto without losing any of the flavor, texture, or indulgence! For the string beans in this meal, I used wax beans (one of several versions of green bean, yellowish in color and sweet in taste) that I purchased at a farmer's market upstate, which worked particularly well, but you can use regular green beans too.
Millet Risotto with Basil, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Garlic String Beans
1 bunch string beans (about two large handfuls)
1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms, cut into in small pieces
3-4 large fresh basil leaves (more if leaves are small) torn into small pieces
1/2 cup dry uncooked millet
2 tablespoons olive oil, with some extra
fresh ground black pepper
Sauté mushrooms in a saucepan with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and a small splash of water over medium-low heat until they brown and shrink in size. Turn heat off and set aside. Wash millet well in a bowl of water and drain using a fine mesh colander or seive (using a regular colander will result in millet grains washing away through the holes). Combine the washed millet with 1 and 3/4 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add shiitake mushrooms, torn up basil, a sprinkling sea salt and a few pinches of dried thyme, then cover and turn down to simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim and wash string beans and set in covered skillet with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom, bring to boil and turn down to medium-low heat to simmer steam for about 8 minutes (check a bean part way through- you want them to be juicy and chewable but still firm, not tough and fibrous or limp and mushy). Drain string beans and set aside. Uncover millet mixture, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, stir well, cover again and leave simmering over low heat for another 10 minutes. (At this point when you've added the additional oil, mixture should be looking creamy and still "wet" with the water. If not, add a little more water along with the olive oil before covering to simmer for the last 10 minutes.)
While risotto is finishing, transfer string beans from the colander back to their skillet, drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and a light dusting of garlic powder and stir around to coat. After 10 minutes is done, check millet- the consistency should be very creamy, like that of risotto; if so, it's done. If not, add very small amounts of olive oil and water and continue to simmer until creaminess is achieved; this is why using correct amounts of water in the earlier stages of cooking is a time saver here and results in a more consistent dish. When ready to serve, warm string beans lightly over medium-low heat. Place risotto into mounds on two plates, and serve beans alongside on the plate.
This meal came together in less than 30 minutes with no prep time and no plan in place beforehand...and it was marvelous! All it takes is a little imagination...enjoy!
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