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BAKED RISOTTO with tempting variations

4 to 6 servings
A cool-weather “slow food,” risotto, a creamy rice dish made with Arborio rice (available in well-stocked supermarkets and Italian groceries) is a classic Italian comfort food. Traditionally, it's made by cooking the rice on the stovetop, ladling in hot broth and stirring almost constantly. An easier route to this wonderful dish is simply combine the basic ingredients in a deep casserole dish and bake, giving it a good stir every 15 minutes until done (the entire process takes an hour).

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice 
4 cups prepared vegetable broth, two 15-ounce cans 
reduced-sodium vegetable broth, or two vegetable 
bouillon cubes dissolved in 4 cups hot water 
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the rice with the stock, one additional cup of water, and the garlic in a two-quart casserole dish. Cover and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. At the third stirring, stir in one more cup of water. When done, the rice should have a tender and creamy texture.

Let the risotto stand for 5 minutes before serving. 


VARIATIONS:
Here are some wonderful ways to dress up individual portions of risotto. Normally, additions are stirred into the risotto, but you can also use them as toppings, as I do. This way, kids are more likely to enjoy the risotto, while allowing adults and older kids to savor more complex flavors. I also reserve a portion of whatever vegetable I am planning to add, to serve on the side for the children’s portions:

Wilted spinach or Swiss chard and corn kernels or goat cheese 
Sautéed zucchini, red pepper, and herbs 
Finely diced baked winter squash, sautéed red onion, and toasted walnuts 
Sautéed leeks and chopped imported black olives 
Roasted eggplant and Italian-style stewed tomatoes 
Steamed asparagus and wilted spinach 
Grated fresh Parmesan or Parmesan-style soy cheese 
Grated mozzarella or mozzarella-style nondairy cheese