Sunshine on a Cloudy Debate

The backlash was so swift and violent, it surprised me, even after years of studiously avoiding any and all comment sections. Immediately, cries of injustice came from the purists; lectures spouted from the health-fanatics; doubts, bordering on outright disgust, resounded among picky eaters the world over.

Risotto made from sunflower seeds? What sort of heresy was this? How could you even call it such a thing, lacking grains entirely, traditional or alternative, and smacking of trendy food revelry? Besides, think of the nutrition!

It wasn’t until I read these complaints, numerous and increasingly frenzied, did I stop to consider how controversial the concept may be. We’ve seen endless twists on classic dishes at this point, spinning some brittle concepts well beyond their breaking point and still happily eating the pieces afterwards. Was this recipe really so malicious?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was simply enchanted. The point that these curmudgeonly commenters missed was that the motive was always to put flavor first. Sunflower seeds have been the backbone of many delicious concoctions, and it’s incredible to see their texture wholly transformed by merely cooking, soaking, or toasting them, to say nothing of the corresponding alchemy of taste. Slowly simmered with aromatics, they soften to a toothsome bite, not quite like rice, granted, but something else genuinely worthy of savoring.

Just the thought of featuring sunflower seeds, an often undervalued bit player, brightened my day, informing my inspiration for the completed meal to come. Naturally sweet, gently earthy carrot juice and turmeric lend a cheerful golden hue, blending with a small measure of the seeds to yield its own creamy base, no dairy need apply. Spring produce still holds sway over my mind and appetite right now, but with summer vegetables already on their way, I’m now plotting the next plate with crisp steamed green beans, halved cherry tomatoes, and perhaps grilled corn kernels instead. It really doesn’t take much to brighten anyone’s day with a comforting bowlful of this avant-garde risotto. Just don’t spoil it by listening to the haters.

Sunshine Risotto

1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Small Shallots, Finely Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Cups Raw Sunflower Seeds
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Cups 100% Carrot Juice
1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 Tablespoons White Miso Paste
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
Salt, to Taste
1/2 Cup Fresh or Frozen Peas, Thawed
Finely Chopped Chives
1/2 Pound Asparagus, Trimmed, (Halved if Particularly Thick) and Blanched

Place the olive oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. When it begins to shimmer, add in the shallots and saute until translucent. Introduce the garlic next, stirring well and cooking until lightly golden and highly aromatic. Toss in the sunflower seeds, stir gently but consistently for about 5 minutes before following with the lemon zest and juice, carrot juice, and vegetable stock. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 35 – 45 minutes. The seeds should be tender but still toothsome; al dente, if you will.

Transfer 1/2 cup of the seed mixture to your blender along with the coconut milk, nutritional yeast, miso paste, pepper, and turmeric. Thoroughly puree to achieve a silky, golden custard. Fold this cream back into the main mixture, cook on low for just 2 – 4 minutes longer until piping hot and the puree has slightly thickened to luxuriously coat the whole seeds.

Add salt to taste, if needed. Ladle onto plates, top with peas and chives, and serve with asparagus alongside.

Makes 2 – 4 Servings (2 as an Entree, 4 as a Side)

Printable Recipe

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23 thoughts on “Sunshine on a Cloudy Debate

  1. I love this idea. I don’t want carbs all the time with every meal so this is a tasty alternative for lunch. I only recently discovered barley risotto so this is great for me!

  2. Ooooooh, my! Beautiful photos aside—and tantalizing text (I always love your writing!), too—, the ingredient list really grabbed my attention. It sounds wondrously savoury. I soooooooooooo want to try it, even though carrot juice, I must admit, scares me. Thanks for venturing into unpopular territory with this. I’m excited to try this inventive recipe. Praise abounds right here!

  3. I think my neighbor would be so offended if he heard that i tried making risotto this way! Definitely needing to try it. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe! x

  4. This is a smashing idea & I’m so glad I saw this post! I’m going to try it out & let you know how it went. More than half the discoveries in the world wouldn’t have been made if the inventors had paid attention to haters :-D

  5. Looks delicious. That’s all I go by. Forget “traditional” if we all stuck to that concept there would be no such thing as veganism now would there? ;)

  6. As someone who has made all sorts of interesting things with sunflower seeds, and who is about to make pizza with a cauliflower crust, sunflower risotto sounds perfectly reasonable and delicious to me. Vegans have an advantage over other people in that they aren’t afraid to enjoy nontraditional flavors and textures!

  7. Never heard of making risotto with sunflower seeds, it is so interesting! And I got amazed by it! Definitely, will try it out when I get the sunflower seeds. Thanks so much for this great recipe, Hannah! :)

  8. I like sunflower seeds, but I’m having a hard time imagining them as risotto. I guess the only way to find out whether I like it just to try it.

  9. We cannot take life too seriously, and that goes for our food as well. If we don’t try something new and different, where would we be now with culinary foods? I am totally willing to give this a try–just because it is different and looks delicious! Keep up the great work, Hannah!!!

  10. I’ve not seen any comments from people who’ve actually made it yet, so here’s mine: It does work and it tastes good but as written I wouldn’t recommend it as a main dish, since it’s quite rich and the flavour is very strong. As a side dish it would do better – it just got to be too much by the time I was halfway done eating. Reducing the amount of miso paste might also help.

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