A few years ago I did an article on what restaurant chefs feed their families. In the process of interviewing one of the chefs, I asked, “How do you get your kids to try new foods?” The answer was simple. “I cover it in cheese.” Anyone who grew up in the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s is familiar with the technique. It’s certainly one my own mother employed at almost every meal.
Not that I have much room to judge. My youngest son might still not know what broccoli tastes like if he hadn’t first experienced it in a bowl, surrounded by a pool of cheese soup.
While I don’t recommend hiding all vegetables in a gooey cheese sauce, once in a while it can be a worthwhile treat. When I do indulge in the cheese/veggie combo, I usually make it the centerpiece of the meal since serving something that filling on the side just doesn’t make much sense to me.
One of these indulgences I recently made for my family was in the form of a broccoli and Cheddar risotto. Not only does it satisfy the craving for something rich and cheesy, it can be made quickly, and if you always happen to have a stash of Arborio rice on hand (as I do), it can usually be made with whatever you have in the refrigerator.
Risotto is made by sautéing Italian short-grained rice in a little olive oil with onions, or better yet, shallots, splashing in some white wine and continuing to stir it as you ladle hot broth into the pot. When the rice is almost done, I toss in a healthy amount of whatever vegetables I have on hand. Last week it was roasted butternut squash. This week it was broccoli. Usually I finish it with a bit of Parmesan cheese, but since I was already committed to the broccoli concept, I thought I’d make my son happy and substitute Cheddar cheese instead.
Twenty minutes from the time I walked into the kitchen, dinner was done. As an added bonus, I only had one pot to clean. Of course the real win was how happy it made my son. Yes, he usually eats his broccoli without cheese these days, but when the two are paired together, there’s nothing better.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.