No-Rice Risotto with Chard

Every other friday we get a box of organic fruit and vegetables delivered to our door. It feels like Christmas when the box arrives and we dive right into it to see which vegetables we get each week. Some vegetables are like close friends – we meet them on a day-to-day basis. Other vegetables are more like distant cousins – we barely know their names. Last Friday we got chard. And strange as it might be we had never cooked anything with chard before. So we were excited to find out what we could do with it.

Chard has some similarities to kale and spinach. You can use it raw in a salad, you can saute it or use it in any kind of stew, pasta or risotto. After some consideration we decided to make a new version of our favorite spinach risotto. But since we try to cook food without using white rice and pasta we wanted to use something else than the usual arborio rice. We have tried switching the rice for barley with a merely ok result. We couldn’t get the arborio creaminess from the barley. We have seen some recipes and heard stories about successful barley risottos – and we will surely try it again some day – but this time we made it a lot easier for ourselves. We used canned cannellini beans! It turned out to be the quickest risotto we had ever made. And it tasted really good too. You could do a lot more with this recipe: not using canned beans, adding white wine and maybe some more greens, but this version worked perfect for us. Quick, tasty, creamy and simple.

Cannellini & Chard Risotto
Serves 3-4

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 chard (slice the leaves into thin strips, cut the smaller stems into 1/4-inch dice, discard the larger stems)
2 cans (2 cups) cannellini beans (rinsed well)
4 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1/2 lemon, juice & zest
fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Bring vegetable broth to a bare simmer in a saucepan over medium heat and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onion, garlic and the stems of the chard. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add one cup of the broth, cook and stir, until almost absorbed. Now add chard leaves, cannellini beans and the rest of the broth. Cook and stir for a couple of minutes, then add mascarpone cheese, lemon juice and thyme. Season with salt, pepper and more thyme if needed. Top it with some grated lemon zest before serving.