Strawberry-basil risotto: $1.22/person.

Yes, I realize it’s not strawberry season, but this spring our strawberry patch yielded THREE POUNDS of strawberries. And they weren’t particularly good strawberries, either. They were a bit on the small size, and tart. I made a few halfhearted batches of strawberry frozen yogurt and ended up freezing the rest.

Come September, all that was left was a sad little baggie of about 2 cups’ worth, threatening to die a sad and lonely death of freezer burn. Because of the tartness I figured they would lend themselves better to a savory application, and I was right. Granted, I love risotto so much you could make it with roofing shingles and cat turds and I probably wouldn’t notice, but I have to say this wasn’t bad.

I’ll come out and admit up front that I don’t make risotto the “real” way with constant stirring. If that offends you, you should probably stop reading right now. After many years of making risotto, for me the technique of adding most of the liquid at the beginning and allowing it to simmer undisturbed turns out more consistent results. WIth that in mind, here’s what I did:

5 cups chicken stock made from discarded kitchen scraps and an uncooked carcass, OR vegetable broth: $0.
6 tablespoons butter from a $2 carton of 4 sticks: 30 cents.
1 red onion from the yard*, chopped: $0.
1.5 cups arborio rice @ $2.50/lb: $1.55.
2 cups strawberries from the yard, mashed: $0.
1 cup half-and-half: 60 cents.
handful of torn basil from the yard: $0.
kosher salt, bought in bulk: negligible.**
white pepper from peppercorns bought in bulk: negligible.

TOTAL: $2.45/2 extremely generous servings = $1.22.

Pour the stock into a medium saucepot and bring to a slow simmer.

Melt 3 T of the butter in a wide pot with a lid. Add onion and cook until softened. Add rice and cook for a few minutes more until coated well. Deglaze the pan with some of the chicken stock (most people would use white wine at this point, and you’re welcome to do so, but for me it’s too expensive) and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.

Add 4 cups of the stock, put the lid on, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring two or three times during cooking, until rice is just al dente. Stir in the strawberries and another 1/2 a cup or so of stock and let sit for about 5 minutes. Add the last 3 Tablespoons of butter and stir until creamy. Add the half-and-half and salt and pepper to taste, top with torn basil leaves.

*I’m not including the price of garden-grown produce because most—if not all—of our seeds and starts we get either on sale, in seed exchanges, or from friends. Also, because we live in Portland, watering isn’t really an issue.

**Because all of our spices are bought in bulk, I’ve included the price of using a teaspoon here or there as “negligible.” For instance, our latest supply of marjoram—several tablespoons’ worth—cost 16 cents. That’s about 1 cent per teaspoon, and we hardly ever use that much, so it would be difficult to calculate.

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