One of my favorite things to make is risotto. I love it for its versatility and simple preparation. The basic formula for risotto is pretty simple, all you need rice, an onion, white wine, cooking stock and Parmesan cheese. This creates a nice and agreeable canvas to put any imaginable combination of ingredients into.
Risotto may seem intimidating if you’ve never made it before, but once you resolve to be invested in the constant stirring that is required, you will see how nicely the effort pays off. Well-cooked risotto should be slightly creamy, and slightly al dente. The constant stirring allows the starch in the rice to be released, and that is what contributes to the creamy texture of the finished dish, so do not underestimate the importance of this part of the process. Now when I talk about stirring, I don’t mean just standing there and swirling the contents of the pot around – I mean aggressive, arm-toning stirring.
With an abundance of asparagus this time of year, using it in risotto is a great way to enhance this basic recipe!
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup white wine
- 6 cups unsalted stock (vegetable or chicken), lightly simmered and kept warm
- 1-2 tbs fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch slices on the bias, tips kept separately
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a sauce pan on medium and warm the olive oil. Add the onion and let sauté until translucent and soft, but do not let it brown
- Add the risotto and cook 1-2 minutes until it’s well incorporated into the onion mixture and starts to turn translucent
- Deglaze the pan with the wine, and continue to stir until the wine is fully absorbed
- Add 1 cup of stock to the pan, and continuously stir until fully absorbed
- Continue adding stock 1 cup at a time until the rice is almost al dente, about 14- 15 minutes
- Add the asparagus to the risotto and continue to add stock and stir for another 2-3 minutes
- While the asparagus is cooking in the risotto, heat a small sauté pan and add ½ tbs butter or olive oil. Lightly sauté the asparagus tips, 2-3 minutes
- Add the salt and pepper, and stir and taste for flavor
- Add the lemon juice and parmesan and continue stirring until it’s well incorporated
- Taste again and adjust for seasoning
- Once the risotto is done, plate and garnish with the asparagus tips
Exhibit A – gnocchi mush.
Typically, our weekend is planned around “what’s for dinner”, and this weekend was no exception, even with the holiday mixed in. Inspired by my latest issue of Bon Appetit and the amazing tomato sauce I had left over from class, I figured why not make gnocchi!
Well, the culinary gods had other ideas. The sauce was not the issue, it was the gnocchi that foiled the plans. It started out easy enough, but I think I may have over cooked it because it turned in to a big mush ball. See exhibit A.
Time for plan B. This dish was always about the sauces to begin with, so all I had to do was get another pot of water going and boil whatever pasta I had in the house, which turned out to be about a cup of cavatapi and some lasagna. That’s not much but it would work.
If you’re looking for a project, I’ve got a good one for you here. Had it not been for the awful showing of the Bears at New England today, I might still be in the kitchen putting this together. I got irritated and shut the game off at half time and went to work on dinner. It was too nice out to be sitting around watching TV anyway.
Squash rule the autumn dinner plate and rather than make a soup or stuff it with something, I wanted to make this sauce.
When done all at once, this will probably take you about 3-4 hours. Ravioli is a pretty labor intensive pasta to make, and I always question myself why I continue to make it. Oh, yeah, that’s right – it’s totally awesome. The good news with this is that you can spread out the tasks and even do some the day before. Especially the pasta. That’s probably the most labor intensive part of this dish – rolling out the dough, filling it, cutting it just right. You can’t rush that part, it just takes what it takes to get it done. If you make the pasta the night before, cover and store it in the refrigerator. You could also just use store-bought pasta and use this sauce to fancy it up.
Tomato sauces are not something I usually go for. Something about them just doesn’t do it for me. I think it’s probably because I totally over did it on spaghetti in college. It was an easy, cheap thing to make so I made it all the time because I could also get a few meals out of one batch.
It’s a rare occasion that I want anything tomato sauce based, but I had a bunch of ingredients to use up this weekend and the best thing to pull together was this spicy tomato sauce. “Fra Diavolo” by the way, means “Brother Devil” – an appropriate name for this given the level of spice in this sauce.
As previously mentioned and evidenced by the number of recent risotto postings, I am a bit obsessed with risotto. Even though I made it just last weekend, I tried a new recipe last night. With the dramatic dip in temperatures, I was craving some comfort food and this fit the bill perfectly.
I borrowed the recipe for cream sauce from Real Simple, adapting it to not use the onions, but this sauce is AMAZING and light and would go well over many types of vegetables or fish.
I have a confession to make: I am a bit obsessed with risotto. I love everything about it – the process of making it, all the ingredients that go into it and not least of all, eating it. I love it because it’s versatile and is a dish you can eat year-round, customizing to ingredients and flavors that are in season. It can be made to appeal to any diet preference as well – it works wonderfully with light seafood such as scallops or shrimp and is a great vehicle to highlight seasonal vegetables.
Forever on the hunt for the next awesome flavor profile, I decided that caramelized onions and apples sounded like a good idea to try. I know what you’re thinking – there’s already plenty of onion in the base of risotto, won’t this be overkill? I was worried about that too, but I did it anyway and was glad I took the risk. Caramelizing the onions gives them a different flavor, so this wasn’t overkill with onion. You’re also only going to use a half cup of the onions, so you’ll have some leftover. (Looking for what to do with them? Try this crostini recipe.)
Five weeks into the baking and pastry course and I’m super-ready to move on to the savory side. You’ll notice that I didn’t post a “week five” of culinary school because I’m kinda sort of over pastry. However, I really did enjoy the kudos doled out by my colleagues when I brought in the devil’s food cake with coconut-vanilla buttercream frosting. Yep, that was pretty good – I even had a small piece.
This weekend, I was really ready to get back to cooking what I love the most – savory foods. And what better to make than a season-appropriate risotto? I was anxious to try the Arborio rice I picked up from Eataly a couple weeks ago and this seemed the perfect opportunity to take advantage of it.
I love risotto because you can pretty much do anything with it. There are ingredients that will work with every season of eating and it’s a hearty dish, that when made well, can even work as a light summer dinner. Tonight’s recipe is no exception. Everything that went into this one was acquired at the local farmer’s market and was super delish.
Risotto can’t be rushed, so make sure you allow yourself at least 30 minutes cooking time (more to prep your ingredients) to pull this together. It will be well worth the time investment!
Recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Serves 2-3 (Or just 2, if you’re really hungry and want to have seconds. Which you probably will.)
- 3 – 3-1/2 cups vegetable broth (can substitute chicken broth)
- 1 Tablespoon butter (To make vegan, use 2 tbsp olive oil)
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- salt & pepper
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 small zucchini, quartered and chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut from cob (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- handful torn fresh basil
- Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep hot.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat then add shallot and garlilc, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until tender, about 3 minutes.
- Add rice then stir to coat in butter. Add wine then stir until nearly absorbed by rice. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth then stir constantly until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until nearly absorbed before adding more.
- When there’s 1/3 of the broth remaining, add zucchini, season with more salt and pepper, then continue stirring. When there’s 1/4 of the broth left, add corn then continue stirring. Add the tomatoes with the last batch of broth then stir until absorbed.
- Take risotto off heat then stir in parmesan cheese and basil. Add more salt & pepper to taste then serve.
- Garnish with whole basil leaves, if desired.