05 September 2009

Bowl Food, Late Summer

Risotto was my first introduction to Italian food. Sure I grew up eating spaghetti and lasagna just like all of us, but it wasn't until my mom's friend Claudia introduced us to risotto that I got a taste of the real deal. As I recall, Claudia's dad was an Italian opera singer so really, how much more authentically Italian can you get? Since Claudia's risotto some 15 years ago now, I've chalked up quite a few memorable risotto experiences...massive overcooked heaps of the stuff in my co-op in college, a toothsome wild mushroom version at a fancy restaurant in Canada complete with a rusty nail (rest assured, I got a free dessert!), and, most memorably, a winter squash and gorgonzola masterpiece in the Po River valley of Italy, regional home of risotto. Versatile enough to make a satisfying meal-in-a-bowl (my favorite kind of meal) in pretty much any season, risotto might just be my ultimate comfort food.

The recipe that follows is my risotto tribute to late summer, featuring chard, tomatoes, basil and topped off with a poached egg and some creme fraiche (decadent and optional--just happened to have on hand--recipe soon!). It probably goes without saying that you can riff on this to your hearts desire...in lieu of a poached egg top with grilled shrimp or chicken, etc. The possibilities are truly endless. **Also a disclaimer--I'm not sure if this recipe or my instructions will pass muster with you "real" Italians so please feel free to correct my technique or amend the recipe!

Late Summer Risotto
serves 4

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 small minced onion
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 a bunch of chard (about 4 big leaves) stalks separated from leaves, both relatively finely chopped
4 roma tomatoes
1/2 cup peas (frozen is fine, thawed and drained)
fresh basil (about a handfull)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Place stock in medium pot, cover and bring to a simmer. Heat butter or oil in another large heavy pot over medium low heat. Add diced onion and saute until soft and translucent. Increase heat to medium and add rice, stirring until you can see a white dot in the center of the grains of rice--maybe 3 minutes. Stir in wine and continue stirring until wine is absorbed. Start ladling in simmering stock, about a cup at a time, stirring between additions and waiting until liquid is fully absorbed before adding the next cup. When you have only a few cups of stock left, add the chard stems and begin tasting the rice--you want it to be tender but still firm. When the rice is just about finished stir in a little more stock with the remaining greens, peas, and about half the tomato and basil. Remove from heat and fold in creme fraiche (or a little bit of butter) and about 1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan. Let it rest a few minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve risotto topped with remaining tomatoes, basil, more grated cheese and your protein of choice.


Anonymous said...

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LaLaLaLeah said...

Yum! This makes my mouth water. It's definitely been too long since my last bowl-o-risotto!

LaLaLaLeah said...

I like the bowl food theme - want to share any other winning recipes? (Pretty please?!)