Red Miso Eggplant Risotto with Watercress, Sweet Onion & Shiitake


Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty

"Red curry is my new obsession. It has heat, depth of flavor, and can surprise you when cooked with different foods and bright herbs. All the local farmers markets carry beautiful eggplant and I like to buy from The Food Project because it's a great way to support the urban community."

Serves 4

2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake
4 tablespoons red miso paste
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 large globe eggplant, cut into ½ inch dice
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups vegetable stock, either boxed or homemade
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of picked thyme leaves, plus 1 sprig whole thyme
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup watercress leaves
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
zest of one lemon
1 bunch fat scallions or small fresh onions, greens removed and root ends trimmed away
1 cup sliced shiitake or chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and patted dry, woody stems removed
Nasturtium flowers or chive blossoms or any other edible flower, optional, for garnish

Preheat the broiler to high. Combine the mirin and sake in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add the miso and whisk until smooth.

Stir in the sugar, reduce the heat to very low, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 3–5 minutes. Remove 1 tablespoon of this mixture and set aside to use at the end of the recipe.

Meanwhile, toss the diced eggplants with enough olive oil to coat evenly and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange on a sheet tray and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, checking often to avoid burning. Stir and continue to cook for another 3 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven, transfer to a bowl, and pour the red miso mixture over the eggplant and toss to coat evenly. Set aside to keep warm. For the risotto, heat vegetable broth in a saucepan over medium heat; keep at a simmer.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bay leaf, and thyme leaves and sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir in rice; stir until rice is lightly toasted, about 2–3 more minutes. Pour white wine into rice mixture, stirring constantly, until liquid is evaporated, 30–40 seconds. One ladleful at a time, stir vegetable broth into rice, allowing liquid to absorb completely before adding more, stirring constantly, about 20 minutes total.

While the risotto is cooking, and before the vegetable stock is all used up, blanch the watercress in the simmering stock by submerging it quickly and straining it out with a slotted spoon. Transfer to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth, or chop it finely on a board with a knife. Set aside.

When all the broth has been absorbed by the rice, stir in the watercress purée, mascarpone cheese, and lemon zest. Taste and re-season with salt if necessary. Cover and keep warm.

For the onions and shiitakes, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, some salt and pepper to taste, and the reserved miso glaze. Heat a sauté pan on high with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook with the sprig of thyme for about 5 minutes or until tender. Keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve, make sure the risotto is very creamy so it will spread across the bottom of a bowl (add a bit more stock or water if needed). Divide the risotto between 4 shallow bowls, topping with the red miso eggplant. Arrange the onions and mushrooms around the eggplant. Garnish with nasturtium or chive blossoms, if desired.