Saturday, September 5, 2009


Tonight, we decided against going to the store to buy ingredients for dinner. Lissa challenged me to use what we had in the fridge and the pantry to create a culinary delight. The result? If I do say so myself, it was delightful indeed. In the pantry (our "pantry" is actually just a big have to make due when you live in a remodeled garage) I found polenta, pasta, lentils, and...white arborio rice.

Ah, risotto, (pronounced ree-zoh-tto, holding that 't' sound for an extra second) that wonderful dish that hails from Northern Italy, is rich and creamy but still has a nice al dente bite, and can be cooked with so many different ingredients. In my Il Cucchiaio d'Argento cookbook (the most famous Italian cookbook...50 years, over 2 million copies sold) there are recipes for risotti with seafood, red wine and mushroom, jerusalem artichoke, blueberry, caviar, nettle, strawberry, cream and arugula, black risotto with cuttlefish, and many more. (By the way, I made the blueberry one a while back...awesome). The name 'risotto' really refers to the method of cooking the rice, not the rice itself. High-starch, round, medium-grain rice is used to make risotto, the most popular varieties being Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, and Arborio.

So, back to the matter at hand...what else do I have lying around that would be happy in a risotto. Sweet potato? Yes... Apples? Yes... A hunk of blue cheese? Yes... Radicchio? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!! Oh my, this is starting to get exciting. We had some chicken broth in the fridge, to which I added some water, and brought to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Diced onion gets sauteed in a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter. I added peeled and cubed sweet potato, poured in a cup of the warm stock and covered so the papa could steam slightly before I added the rice. Then I added the rice and peeled diced apple, tossed to coat, and started the 'add broth, stir constantly, let evaporate, repeat' cycle. Once the rice was fully cooked, yet still al dente, I tossed in my blue cheese, sliced radicchio, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, and fresh from the garden chives. Dy-no-mite.
I wanted to serve something fresh and crisp to balance the richness of the risotto. A green salad would be great, and I happened to have a bag of arugula in the fridge. Perfetto. What else?... I also found a handful of chanterelle mushrooms left over from the previous p.m.'s pizza night. Those got chopped up and sauteed in olive oil with chopped garlic and a sprinkle of morel sea salt (a present from our friend Dick) from Entre Sel et Terre, and a splash of wine. Once they softened up a bit, I let them cool and then added some more olive oil, along with some white wine vinegar and sherry vinegar. A handful of yellow pear tomatoes and, voilĂ .
Not bad for working with what we had on hand. Then again, when you love to cook as much as I do, you happen to have a kitchen filled with some pretty special ingredients, like, morel sea salt. If I may inspire nothing else, do try to make a risotto sometime. It is not as difficult nor as time-consuming as many people think.

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