I never was a big fan of risotto. I didn’t understand why it was pasta. During our 2011 trip to San Francisco and the Napa wine region of California, I developed a better appreciation for the taste and flexibility that Italian rice gives a dinner. Most folks who want to make their own risotto dishes are concerned about the pep time and wearing out their wrist and arm from the incessant stirring. So once I decided to try cooking the rice myself, I made reference to Jeff Smith’s recipe for basic risotto in his book The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. The recipe was simple and easy to execute.
The required elements are the Italian style rice (ARBORIO), olive oil, some sort of liquid, which I generally use a broth (vegetable, chicken or beef), white wine and salt. A half cup of uncooked rice makes a nice size meal for Becky and me.
The olive oil is heated and the rice is sautéd until the color is off-white and some of the kernels may turn light brown. I burned some of the kernels on my first try and the finished product was still good which demonstrates the saving grace of chicken broth & wine. The key is to keep stirring the rice as it sautés and begin slowly adding the liquid as the rice begins to change from white to an off white and or light brown. Keep stirring and adding broth until the rice is tender but firm to the taste. The preparation of tonight’s risotto required about a half cup of chicken broth and wine and 20 to 30 minutes.
The rest of the preparation is like stir frying. Tonight I used cannellini beans from a can, fresh steamed broccoli, fresh red pepper, pearl onions from a jar, roasted garlic, and the tops from 2 green onions. The raw veggies were sautéd first in olive oil and butter and the canned and prepared veggies were added through the course of the sautéing. As I combined the risotto with the veggies, I added salt, dried basil leaves and the chopped green onion.
The risotto is colorful, tasty and generally very consistent in quality. The real advantage is the variety of meats and vegetables that can be used with different types of broths and liquids. Risotto also is a tasty accompaniment for main courses such as fish and roasted lamb, chicken and pork.
This Easter night, we had a chopped green salad with cashews and a sweet oil and vinegar salad dressing. The wine was a Yellow Tail Chardonnay. All my friends know that I favor economical wines in ample quantities.