Inspiration is a funny thing, isn’t it? It can come from the oddest places sometimes. And when an iconic ingredient like arborio rice is the subject, inspiration can come from half-way around the world.

Yesterday, I was reading a really interesting recipe for congee. I’ve never had this Chinese rice porridge, but I was fascinated by the concept. At it’s heart, congee is a very simple, custard-like rice porridge. While it’s often eaten by itself, it’s also frequently accompanied by meat or fish, veggies and flavorings.

That got me thinking – could a risotto be made in the same way? A simple, even plain creamy rice that acts as a foil for mix of intense flavors.

I started with a very simple leek risotto. Salmon and blackberries are a great combination, but to up the flavor intensity I opted for hot smoked salmon (a close, but very different cousin to the more common cold smoke salmon typically served on a bagel). A micro greens salad with a lemon vinaigrette adds some crunch and tartness to the dish.

All in all, it’s a pretty darn good plate of food, if I do say so myself. But what I think doesn’t matter. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Let’s Get Cooking

The Prep

Slice and thoroughly rinse two leeks.

Rinse one pint of blackberries.

Rinse and let dry one cup of micro greens. I used radish, but mustard would be equally good. Prepare a simple vinaigrette of lemon juice and olive oil. Do not add the dressing to the greens until ready to serve (or they will get SOGGY!).

Crumble 5 oz hot smoke salmon.

Measure 1 cup arborio rice.

Measure 1 cup dry white wine.

Bring four cups of water to just below the boiling point.

The Assembly

Heat a 5-quart stock pot over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Add two tbsp of unsalted butter.

One the butter’s melted, add the leeks and sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. And one cup of Arborio rice and – stirring constantly – cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Add one cup dry white wine. I use a brut Prosecco, but any dry white wine – that’s good enough to drink! – will work. Continue stirring the arborio until the wine is mostly absorbed. Add 1 cup of water to the rice and continue stirring until the water is absorbed. Continue adding water in 3/4 to 1 cup increments until the rice is al dente. If you don’t make risotto often, just keep tasting a few grains as you go. You know you’re there when they change from gritty to smooth with just a hint of a firm interior.

When the rice is ready, add a tablespoon of butter to round out the rice. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

The Payoff

In the center of a dinner plate, place a serving of the risotto. Sprinkle the crumbled salmon on top. Place the micro greens salad on the side and add a few blackberries as garnish.

Salty. creamy, smoky and sweet-tart. This dish delivers on flavor, for sure!

Leek risotto with smoked salmon and blackberries
You are a culinary genius!