I haven't forgotten about part III of the Garden Series of posts, it's only been delayed by the weather. We've been having what will most certainly be the final cold front of the season here in Central Texas. We've also had rain. Much needed long over-due rain. In fact, in the last four days we've had more rain here in Austin than we've had since August of 2007!
When the blustery weather chases me out of the garden, I retreat to the kitchen.
The cold, gray, damp days were perfect for comfort foods, and one of my favorite comfort foods is risotto. Risotto originated in Northern Italy. It is a creamy, hearty dish that is substantial enough to serve as a main dish. For larger groups, or especially big appetites, risotto pairs beautifully with fish. Risotto is traditionally made with Arborio rice - a short grained Italian rice. Arborio is an essential staple in any well-stocked pantry.
Risotto with Zucchini and Parmesan
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock heated
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion diced
2 gloves garlic minced
1 medium zucchini chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup grated Parmesan
fresh ground white pepper
6 fresh basil leaves (for garnish)
Heat the stock in a saucepan, and set to simmer. In a separate saucepan heat the 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil. Add the onions and cook until tender. Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until toasted, about 1 minute. Add one ladle of the hot stock to the rice mixture and stir until absorbed. Continue to add the stock one ladle - about 1/4 of a cup - at a time, stirring until absorbed and then adding another, until all of the stock is gone. The rice should be tender, and the risotto should have a creamy texture. (If not, add a bit more hot water.) Remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, the 1 tablespoon of butter, and 3/4 of the Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of the remaining Parmesan cheese and a chiffonade of fresh basil.
Serves 4-5 as a main dish
Risotto is a very versatile dish. I have included zucchini but that could be replaced with asparagus, or spinach. I've also used fresh goat cheese instead of the Parmesan. Risotto is a little labor intensive - it can take up to 45 minutes for all the stock to be absorbed. I recommend that you put on a favorite CD and pour yourself a glass a wine while you cook.