Italian or not, this Lemon risotto with arugula and salmon is G.O.O.D.!

The more I cook and blog about it, the more I want my recipes to stand out. This Lemon risotto with arugula and salmon, for instance, really does. The bright lemon and spicy arugula balance really well with the smooth risotto and sweet salmon.


Although I cook almost every day, not every dish ends up here on edie eats. It has to be really special and good will I try to decrypt the notes I jotted down while I was cooking, if any.

And with special and good I don’t necessarily mean fancy nor high brow. No, I cook ordinary, plain food at home.

No, it has to be blog worthy in another way.
I basically want some variety on my blog and if I cooked four great pasta dishes in four consecutive weeks, I won’t publish four pasta dishes in a row. Or risotto dishes, to stick with today’s subject.

Risotto is a staple in my home cooking. I eat it at least every other week, usually on days that I’m late and have not much inspiration what to make.

‘Cause risotto’s always good.

Real risotto, but not so real risotto as well.

I don’t eat risotto the way Italians eat it.

In Italy, risotto is considered a primo platti. First course. Pasta, gnocchi, polenta, all are carb rich first courses. And they’re quite basic. Think pasta pesto. Think polenta with some roasted tomatoes. Nothing fancy, just your carbs and other ingredients that let the starch shine.

For me, risotto is a main dish. A full meal. Dinner with all the bells and whistles that comes with that. I mean, veggies and protein. And that’s okay, easy even, because everything pairs well with risotto.

But I do make risotto the way Italians make it.

Oven risotto really is a no-go for me. It just seems to taste more blend. Adding anything other than some butter and cheese to cream things up is a no-go as well. Stirring the rice regularly helps the grains to release their starch which makes the dish creamy and rich.

And I like to keep it simple. Less is more, we all know Italian cooks invented that. I usually use only one veggie to play the starring role. And I love risotto because it’s so easy to keep it vegetarian, by adding only some lots of cheese or a poached egg. Sometimes I add a bit of bacon or prosciutto for some saltiness.

But I do add lots and lots of vegetables. But one kind. Mushrooms are good. Leeks are better. Tomatoes are Summer-ly and squash celebrates fall. Grilled asparagus on top. Red beets with fennel seeds for a pink risotto. Spinach. Roasted fennel and goat cheese. You’ll get the drift.

If you learn how to make a dish, you know how to play with it. Remember?

I made this Lemon Risotto with Arugula and Salmon in 2008 for the first time. It was good enough to write about it on my Dutch food blog, but strangely enough, I never made it again. I rediscovered it when it was time for risotto again last week and I scrolled my old blog for inspiration. Lemon Risotto with arugula and salmon it said.

“Yes, it is.” I said in turn.

And slightly took a different road than Italians usually go.

No, not chicken this time. Can you guess what’s not so much Italian about my recipe below?
I must confess, it might change the way I make my risotto forever.

Yep, it was that good.

Lemon risotto with arugula and salmon

If there’s dish that screams Summer, this might be it. The lemon zest and juice makes it bright, the arugula looses is spicy-ness a bit and the salmon sweetens things up. Try it and you won’t regret!

I used:
1/2 onion
6-8 tablespoons olive oil
salt + pepper
1 cup | 110 gr risotto
1 2/3 cup | 400 ml vegetable stock
2 lemons
2 big hands full arugula, plus extra for salad
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

For the salmon:
2 salmon steaks
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
pinch of coarse salt
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Plus for the side salad: arugula, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I did:
Start the risotto. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet and on a very low heat, sweat the peeled and chopped onion. Add some salt and pepper. When the onion is getting softer, after about 5-7 minutes, add the rice. Give it a good stir and cook until translucent, 2 minutes.

Cook the risotto. Add the wine to the rice and stir. On moderate heat, let absorb by/evaporate the rice. In the mean time, bring the stock to a boil. Add 1/4 of the stock to the rice, stir well, and let simmer. Once all stock is absorbed, stir rigorously again. And add another batch of stock. Stir. Let simmer. Stir. Add stock. And so forth, until all stock is used and the risotto is done to your liking.
I like my risotto to be soft, but not mushy. That’s a bit farther cooked than what some people would describe as al dente. I don’t care, I think al dente is overrated.

Tip: When you don’t have that much experience in making risotto, train yourself to taste the rice just before you stir in a new batch of liquid. That way you learn to recognize how far the rice is while it’s cooking, which becomes handy to time cooking your other ingredients.

Prepare the salmon marinade. In a mortar with a pestle crunch the fennel seeds with the salt and add the thyme and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil for a thick paste. Zest both lemons and use zest of one in the marinade. Juice both lemons and set with the zest aside for the risotto.

Cook the salmon. Pat the salmon dry and rub the fennel mixture over the non-skin side of the salmon. In a skillet, heat up the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil reaches it’s smoking point add salmons skin side down. Lower the heat to medium and let the skin brown, about 4 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and with lid on, let salmon cook to your liking.
I like to keep my salmon juicy and rare in the center. Depending on the thickness of your salmon they’ll need about 4-6 minutes on the low heat.

Finish the risotto. Make sure you have cut your arugula into bite-size pieces. Once the risotto is done to your liking, stir in the arugula, cream, all the leftover lemon zest, and lemon juice, salt and pepper to your liking. Make it bright. Fresh. But not too tart.

Serve with the salmon on top and a side salad of arugula, halved cherry tomatoes and a lemon vinaigrette.
So, do you know what I was referring to when I said I did something good, but not Italian in this risotto? It’s something that might change my risotto making routine forever? 


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