Spicy zucchini-corn risotto with toasted pumpkinseeds, and Risotto burgers

Zucchini corn risotto

Happy labor day! It strikes me as funny that many of the laborers in our workforce don’t actually get to call labor day a holiday, so I’d like to take a minute to thank the doctors, nurses, waitresses, cooks, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, shop clerks…anybody working this rainy monday. I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately, because I’m looking for a job. Oh, I have a job, of course, but I need what they call a “real” job, because, as everybody knows, waiting tables is a completely surreal job. And everybody also knows that raising children doesn’t count as work, it’s more of a walk in the park, really. I’ve been thinking about what defines something as “work,” and it seems to be money. If you get paid to do something, it becomes work. And the more the work is valued, the more money you’re paid to do it. Some things that certain people do for fun, like playing baseball, making music, painting pictures, or writing, other people get paid to do, it’s their job. Some of them get paid quite a lot to do it. They’re very lucky! Sometimes I imagine an alien race drifting down to observe humans as we labor away in our wide array of jobs. I wonder if they would be puzzled to see that certain jobs are rewarded over others. If they’d scratch their bright green heads with their long frog-like fingers to see that, say, the CEO of a company that makes weapons that kill people is given much more money than the nurse that cares for us when we’re at our most vulnerable, scared and, probably fairly sickening, in our time of sickness. I videotaped a remarkable lecture, once. (I was paid to do it! It was a job of work!) The man speaking, and I regret that I can’t remember his name, said that the idea that there aren’t enough jobs, and there isn’t enough money to go around is a myth. If everybody worked the same hours – not a forty-hour work week, but a shorter one – and if we were all paid a more balanced amount for the work that we did…well, we could all live comfortably. Everybody could. That sounds nice to me. I wish it was possible. America has always been a country that values hard work, it’s part of our myth of who we are as a people. We work hard, we’re proud, self-sufficient, we are entitled to certain things, but only if we work hard enough to deserve them. The problem, of course, is that plenty of people work incredibly hard and still don’t get those things. Many of the jobs that require long, unforgiving hours doing work nobody else wants to do aren’t well-paid, don’t come with health insurance, paid vacations, job security, or any benefits at all.

Risotto burgers

Here’s a kind of work I call fun! Making risotto. It’s just the right amount of hands-on stirring and mixing. You feel involved! But it’s not finicky or incredibly time-consuming. You stir a bit, you wander away, you stir a bit more. My pet name for this particular risotto is “taco risotto.” It’s got oregano, smoked paprika, cumin, sage, and jalapenos – so it’s a bit smoky, a bit spicy. The zucchini is grated, so it blends in with the rice. The corn retains its bright sweet qualities. Risottos are soft by nature, so I thought it would be nice to add a bit of crunch in the from of toasted pumpkinseeds, which also bring their lovely and mysterious flavor. And I made some crispy toasted tortilla strips to scoop up the risotto.

The next day I turned the ample leftovers into big juicy burgers, which we ate on buns with tomatoes and lettuce. If I’d had an avocado, I would have sliced that to go along with it.

Here’s a playlist of work songs for labor day.


3 T butter
1 onion, very finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t oregano
5 sage leaves chopped
1 jalapeño minced
2 small zucchini – grated
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
5 or 6 cups broth (see below)
1 cup corn – fresh or frozen
Big handful cilantro, chopped
Small handful basil, chopped

1/2 cup pumpkinseeds, toasted
1 cup grated sharp cheddar or jack cheese

3 large tortillas
Olive oil


2 T olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic Smashed
1 carrot, Roughly chopped
3 or 4 mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
Cilantro stems
a few sage leaves
Red pepper flakes
Smoked paprika
1/2 t marmite
1/2 can roasted diced tomatoes
handful of french lentils, or lentil-cooking broth
salt and pepper

Make the broth earlier in the day. Warm the olive oil in a medium-sized soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, red pepper flakes and mushrooms. Cook till they start to sizzle and brown, then add the carrot, celery, cilantro stems, parsley, sage leaves, lentils and marmite. Cook till they’re warmed through and sizzly. Add the cumin, paprika and about five cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for at least half an hour, but longer is better. You’re going to want it to be warm when you make the risotto. I didn’t drain it, I just put the broth through the strainer over the risotto as I went along, cause I’m lazy like that.

When you’re ready to make the risotto, have the broth warm.

In a large, fairly deep skillet over medium heat, warm the butter. Add the onion, and cook till it’s wilted – five minutes maybe. Add the garlic, oregano, sage, and jalapeno. Cook till the garlic starts to brown. Add the zucchini, and cook till it’s dried out and starting to brown, and the bottom of the pan has nice caramelly brown stuff sticking to it. Add the rice and cook for a minute or two.

Then add the wine, and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan for all the juicy bits. When the wine is thick and syrupy, add one cup of broth. Stir well, and cook till the broth is absorbed. It should take about five minutes. Keep adding broth, about 3/4 cups at a time, about five more times. Wait each time till the broth is absorbed, which should take about five minutes. So the whole process should take 25 – 30 minutes. The fourth time you add broth, add the corn as well. The last time you add broth, if you like your risotto quite runny, add a whole cup of broth. Taste the rice – it should be soft but al dente. When it’s done to your liking, and the risotto is just as wet or dry as you like it, take it off the heat. Stir in the basil and cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

MEANWHILE…Cut the tortillas into strips about 1 inch wide. Coat each side with olive oil, and toast or broil until brown and crispy, turning once. Let them cool on a drying rack.

Serve the risotto topped with a small handful of toasted pumpkinseeds and a few tortilla strips.

To turn your leftover risotto into burgers… Mix 3 cups of the leftover risotto (it should be fairly dry – warm it up in a frying pan if it’s too runny) with two pieces of brown bread, ground into crumbs, 1 egg, 1/2 t smoked paprika, and 1/2 t cumin. Mix well. Form into burger-sized patties, and fry in a skillet in olive oil or butter till browned and crispy on both sides. Add a thin slice of cheddar or jack cheese, if you like.

Serve with lettuce, tomato, and avocado if you like.


6 thoughts on “Spicy zucchini-corn risotto with toasted pumpkinseeds, and Risotto burgers

    • I used the stems in the broth and the leaves stirred into the risotto at the end. I guess I think of the broth as a way to use up all the parts of the vegetables too good to compost, but not quite good enough for the recipe!

  1. that is such a different set of ingredients for a risotto compared to what I usually use. I shall have to be more experimental! Good luck with the job search.

  2. Pingback: Drying zucchini | Figifoto

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