Friday, April 10, 2009

Risotto with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

It’s so great when you set out to do something and it comes out exactly the way you wanted it to. I do have a lot of bravado when it comes to matters of the kitchen, but when attempting my first risotto, I was a little wary. As a result, I followed the recipe almost to a T, with one exception, just because I didn’t want to screw it up. And I didn’t! Oh my goodness, it was so good and although time consuming as far as prep goes and trapping me at the stove, easy enough and so worthwhile. I saved a bit a time by doing most of the prep earlier in the afternoon.

My exception to perfection in following the recipe comes from the fact that Marcella Hazen, from which I got this recipe, is so bossy! Everything is supposed to be done in a certain, particular way that there is no room for change and if you do it wrong, it’s stupid and so are you. That’s how I read it anyway. For example, for the risotto you need homemade broth, not stock like I used. It needs to be “a pale amber broth in which veal and beef predominate, with minimal amounts of chicken and bones. Pure chicken broth generates distractingly sharp flavor”, etc., etc. I used my homemade veggie stock because I don’t make meat broth and I’m not going to go near veal. So ha! My stock was just fine and everything tasted wonderful.

Risotto with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen:

For 4 persons

1½ lb. firm, ripe plum tomatoes (I used organic romas)
5 c. veggie stock
4 Tb. butter
1 Tb. oil
1/3 c. chopped onion
Salt (I used kosher)
Black pepper in a grinder
1½ c. Italian Arborio rice
½ c. freshly grated parmesan
10 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

Wash the tomatoes in cold water, skin them with a peeler (she recommends not doing the blanch and peel method as you want the tomatoes to be very firm when you start cooking them), and cut them into ½” pieces. If there are very many seeds, pick out most of them with the tip of a paring knife. I cut mine in half and washed the seeds out. Sorry Marcella!

Put the stock in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot put ½ of the butter, the oil, and the chopped onion and turn on the heat to medium. When the onion becomes colored a pale gold, add the tomatoes with a little bit of salt and grindings of pepper. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir it a few times to coat it thoroughly.

Add a ladleful of stock and stir the rice constantly to wipe it away from the bottom and side of the pot. When there is no more stock, add another ladleful. Stir steadily to keep the rice from sticking at any point, adding more stock, a ladleful at a time, as required. Repeat the procedure, never ceasing stirring, until the rice is done. It should be firm but tender, without a chalky center. This took me approximately 25 minutes, with a little bit of stock leftover.

Add the remaining butter, the grated cheese, and the basil, stir for a minute or two, taste and correct for salt and pepper, and serve at once.

The only thing I would change about this recipe is the addition of garlic, but that should be obvious. I’m going to fiddle around with this, adding and creating, and see what I come up with. As Hannibal says, I love it when a plan comes together.

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