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Zucchini Blossom Risotto with Prosecco, Risotto ai Fiori di Zucca Col Prosecco

Zucchini Blossom Risotto with Prosecco, Risotto ai Fiori di Zucca Col Prosecco

Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini Blossoms

In spring Italian markets fill with brilliant gold zucchini blossoms. The best use for them is (I think) frying, but there are other options as well, and here is a recipe for a risotto with zucchini blossoms and Prosecco. As is the recipe will serve four, but if you reduce it by half it will also be quite nice in a romantic meal.

  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) Vialone Nano or other short-grained rice
  • Simmering vegetable broth (unsalted canned will work if need be; you’ll want a quart, or a liter)
  • 10 zucchini blossoms
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Half a white onion, minced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup sparkling Prosecco (warm)
  • 2 walnut-sized chunks of unsalted butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Wash the blossoms gently, removing the stems and pistils, and pat the yellow petals dry. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and gently sauté the onion, stirring it with a spoon, until it has begun to turn golden. Add the rice and turn the burner up to a brisk flame; cook, stirring, until the grains have become translucent – 3 to 5 minutes.

Add half the wine and stir until it has evaporated, then lower the flame and begin adding broth a ladle at a time, stirring gently. When the rice is almost done, thinly slice the zucchini petals and stir them in too; check seasoning, stir in the butter and the cheese, and turn off the flame. Let the risotto sit covered for about 30 seconds, then sprinkle the remaining Prosecco over it, Stir again, and it’s ready to serve.

What with? More Prosecco, of course!

How to make Risotto, Illustrated

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Asparagus Risotto, Risotto agli Asparagi

This is especially good in June, when asparagus is at its freshest. Though I generally use green asparagus, you could use wild asparagus, or — for a different color cast — either white or purple asparagus.

  • 1 pound (500 g) asparagus
  • 1/2 a small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) short-grained rice along the lines of Arborio
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, or: 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, warmed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano
  • The water the asparagus was cooked in, topped off with enough beef broth or vegetable bouillon to make 1 quart, simmering
  • Salt and white pepper

Set a pot of water to boil, and while it is heating clean the asparagus.

Loosely tie the bunch of asparagus together, set it upright in the boiling water, and cook it for a few minutes, or until a fork easily penetrates the tip of a spear. Use tongs to remove the asparagus from the water. Trim the tips from the stalks and set them aside. Cut the remaining green part of the stalks into one-inch lengths and set them aside too. Return the white ends of the stocks to the pot, along with the broth or bouillon.

Sauté the onion in half the butter or the oil, and when it’s translucent, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Next, stir in the rice and sauté, stirring, until the grains have turned translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the warmed wine and cook until it has evaporated. Then add the one-inch lengths of green asparagus stem to the rice, and begin stirring in the liquid, a ladle full at a time. Should a white stem find its way into the pot, remove it. Continue adding liquid, and when the rice is almost done, stir in half the reserved tips. Check seasoning and continue cooking the rice till it’s al dente.

Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining butter and half the grated cheese. Let the risotto stand covered for two minutes, then transfer it to a serving dish and garnish it with the remaining tips. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over it and serve.

Yield: 4-6 servings asparagus risotto.

How to make risotto, illustrated.

Risotto alle Fragole, Strawberry Risotto

Risotto alle Fragole, Strawberry Risotto

Risotto alle Fragole, Strawberry Risotto

One of the nicest things about late spring and early summer in Italy is the tremendous abundance of strawberries that floods the markets. While they do make for wonderful desserts, one can also do other things with them. For example, make risotto:

  • 2 tablespoons minced onion (or shallot)
  • 3 tablespoons julienned celery
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (400 g) short-grained rice, along the lines of Carnaroli or Arborio
  • 1 cup (250 ml) good dry sparkling wine (it need not be Methode Champenoise)
  • Simmering broth, ideally vegetable, though chicken will do
  • 3/4 pound (350 g) firm strawberries, hulled and finely sliced
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano

Sauté the onion and celery until well wilted in 2/3 of the butter, then remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Stir the rice into the butter and cook over a moderate flame, stirring, for 5-7 minutes.

Stir the onion and celery back into the rice, stir to heat the mixture through, and add the bubbly. Continue stirring until the wine is completely evaporated, then begin adding broth a ladle at a time. The rice should be done in about 15 minutes; at this point stir in the strawberries, cook stirring gently for one more minute, turn off the flame, stir in the remaining butter and cheese, cover for a minute, and serve.

If you want to serve individual portions (they do look better) set aside the four prettiest strawberries, split them, and place them on top of the risotto in the bowls, garnishing with either mint or celery leaves. This recipe will serve four hefty eaters, or 6 more normal people. If you’re serving more, set aside more strawberries.

Risotto alle Fragole, Strawberry Risotto

Risotto alle Fragole, Strawberry Risotto

As a variation (use the proportions above)

  • 2 shallots, minced
  • Butter
  • Strawberries, quartered
  • Brown rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Mint leaves for garnish
  • Simmering broth
  • Grated Parmigiano (optional)

Sauté the shallot in the butter, and when they have turned golden remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and set it aside; stir the rice into the butter and cook, stirring, over a moderate flame for 5-7 minutes. Return the shallot to the pot, stir in the wine and cook until evaporated, then stir in half the strawberries and mix with a spoon until they come apart, forming a syrup. At this point finish cooking the risotto by adding broth a ladle at a time. When it’s done (brown rice will take longer than Arborio to cook, 20 minutes or probably more) stir in the remaining strawberries, a walnut-sized chunk of butter, and, if you want, a few tablespoons grated Parmigiano.

Cover for 2 minutes and serve, with the mint-leaf garnish.

With either of these risotti, I’d serve a zesty, unoaked white wine, for example a Fiano or a Lugana.

 

How to make risotto, Illustrated

Squash Risotto, Risotto alla Zucca

Squash Risotto

Squash Risotto

Risotto made with zucca gialla, winter squash, is one of the most popular north Italian first courses during the winter months. Little wonder, because good winter squash has a delightful tangy sweetness to it, while the risotto has a libidinously creamy texture. Perfect on a cold, damp, gray winter day!

You’ll need:

  • Half a Butternut Squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) Carnaroli, Arborio, or other short-grained rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, warmed
  • 1 quart (1 liter) stock, either meat or vegetable (bouillon will be fine)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano, or more, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Squash doesn’t sauté well, so you will need to cook it separately and then add it to the rice. Begin by putting the diced squash in a pot, adding broth or bouillon to cover, seasoning with a little pepper, and heat the pot over a medium flame. Heat the remaining bouillon or stock in another pot.

In the meantime, chop the onion and sauté over a medium flame it in the olive oil in a broad fairly deep pot. When the onion is translucent and light gold, add the rice and continue to sauté for another 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly lest the rice stick and burn. The grains of rice will become translucent.

While the rice is toasting, heat the wine in your microwave for about 30 seconds. Add it to the rice, and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated. Now add the simmering squash, the pieces of which will by this time be falling apart.

Vegetable Stock, Simmering

Vegetable Stock, Simmering

Stir gently, lest the rice stick to the bottom of the pot and burn, and add more liquid as the rice absorbs what’s in the pot. Let the rice absorb most of the liquid (you’re not making soup), but don’t wait until it looks dry, because the grains will begin to flake if you do.

Continue adding liquid until the rice reaches the al dente stage of doneness — chewy but firm. If you prefer a drier risotto, make the last ladle of liquid a little smaller. If you instead prefer a more liquid risotto (what’s called all’onda, like a wave, in Italian) be a little more abundant with the final ladle.

Stir a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter into the risotto if you want a creamier texture, and then add the grated cheese, followed by minced parsley. Turn off the burner, cover the risotto, and let it sit for two minutes, during which time everything will come together and meld.

A wine? White, and I’d be tempted by a Lugana here.

Yield: 4 servings squash risotto.

How to make risotto, illustrated.

Risotto ai Funghi Porcini, Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Risotto ai Funghi, Mushroom Risotto

Risotto ai Funghi, Mushroom Risotto

Risotto with porcini mushrooms is a classic fall dish, and if you’re lucky enough to have fresh porcini, a perfect use for the mushroom stems (the caps are much better grilled — figure 3/4 pound to a pound (3-400 g) of stems, dirt & roots removed, and finely chopped).

If you do not have fresh porcini, this risotto will be very good with dried porcini too, and indeed Italians generally use dried porcini in preparing it. If you cannot find dried porcini either, use good quality local wild mushrooms.

  • A one-ounce packet dried porcini (25 g, or about a packed half cup)
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, or: 3 tablespoons olive oil + 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups short grained rice along the lines of Arborio, Vialone Nano, or Carnaroli
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, warmed
  • 1 cup (about 50 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1/3 cup (about 80 ml) heavy cream (optional)
  • The water the mushrooms were soaked in, strained, and a quart of simmering vegetable broth (see the photo below), beef broth, or unsalted bouillon
  • A bunch of parsley, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steep the porcini in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes.

While they are steeping, slice the onion finely and sauté it in either three tablespoons of oil or 1/4 cup of butter. When has turned a translucent gold remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon and stir the rice into the drippings in the pot. Sauté the rice for several minutes, until it becomes translucent, stirring constantly lest it stick and burn.

Return the onions to the pot, stir in the wine, and continue stirring until it has evaporated completely. Then stir in a first ladle of liquid, and while it’s absorbing, chop the mushrooms and strain the liquid they soaked in, as it may contain sand.

Add the mushrooms and their liquid to the rice, then continue adding water or broth a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally.

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, cooking

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, cooking

About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning.

As soon as the rice reaches the al dente stage turn off the heat, stir in the remaining butter, half the cheese, the cream if you’re using it, a little bit of ground pepper, the parsley, and cover for two minutes.

Serve the risotto with the remaining grated cheese.

How to make risotto, illustrated.

Yield: Four servings risotto ai funghi porcini, mushroom risotto.