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Steel-cut Oats Risotto
with the flavors of spring, inspired by Chef Floyd Cardoz
Spring forward with this warming yet lively risotto, flavored with leeks, fresh mint and lemon. Sweet green peas and sugar snap peas add texture and crunch. Perfect for this time of year when you get a tantalizing glimpse of warmer weather every once in a while. This recipe is heavily inspired by Chef Floyd Cardoz, one of the most talented Indian chefs of our time. A master of crossing genres, he played a huge role in bringing Indian flavors to a global table.
My husband and I were lucky enough to meet him twice. Once at his popular restaurant Paowalla (and later Bombay Bread Bar) in Soho, that we frequented. On enquiring, he kindly referred us to the website that featured the most adorable paintings of Indian street food carts, which we now have hanging in our home.
The second time was in February 2020. My sister took us to Intersect by Lexus for a celebratory dinner that featured O’Pedro, an acclaimed Goan-Portuguese restaurant where Floyd was the culinary director. When he came over to chat, we told him we loved the food but lamented the lack of vegetarian options on the menu. He was gracious enough to tell us to come back in a couple of weeks and he would ensure there were more.
He passed away due to COVID-19 on March 25th, 2020, at the age of 59. His sudden passing was a rude shock - he was the first person that we actually knew that we lost to this disease, and it woke us up to the severity of the pandemic in a personal way.
The world has come a long way since then, but it’s hard to fill the void he left in the food space. I had the opportunity to watch Top Chef Masters (season 3) recently, which he won, beating other heavyweight contenders. His quiet confidence, grace and inventiveness throughout the season were so inspiring. While his upma polenta that he made in the final is definitely more well known; in one of the early rounds, he made a steel-cut oats risotto that stuck with me and ended up in this dish. May his food and his flavors live on.
Steel-cut Oats Risotto (click here to download recipe card)
1 large [100g] leek(s) (sub scallions or onion)
1.5 Tbsp. + 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 bay leaf[ves]
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves
¾ cup [132g] steel-cut oats
3-4 cups low sodium vegetable broth, as needed
½ cup [80g] frozen green peas
1 tbsp butter
⅓ cup [38g] grated parmesan
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 cup [63g] sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
fine sea salt, to taste
cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice, to taste
Step 1. Trim the dark green portion of the leek and slice the white part in half, lengthwise. Cut into thin ribbons and then wash thoroughly by immersing a colander in water. Similarly slice and reserve the darker part for garnish (after washing).
Step 2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add 1.5 Tbsp. olive oil, bay leaf and leeks. Cook, stirring for 5-7 minutes or until lightly caramelized. Add garlic and 2 Tbsp. mint and cook, stirring for a minute or until aromatic. Add oats and broth. Simmer, stirring often for about 20 minutes. The oats will swell up and the broth will get starchy. Add more broth if needed.
Step 3. In a separate small skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and snap peas. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until peas are cooked but still crunchy.
Step 4. When oats are cooked but slightly al dente and broth is a bit runny, add peas, butter, parmesan, lemon zest and remaining mint and stir until cheese melts. Add salt and pepper to taste and turn off the stove. Discard the bay leaf and stir in lemon juice. The oats will continue to swell in the residual heat.
Garnish with reserved green part of leeks, snap peas and serve.
Use 2-3 Tbsp. vegan cream cheese in place of the butter + parmesan