Friday, May 9, 2008
Spring Is In The Air
I recently realized that when it comes to culinary fears, people are scared of more than just ingredients and sad looking veggies. Sometimes it's an entire dish or even the action in the kitchen that scares them away. I, for example, happen to face anything even remotely resembling the act of baking with a great deal of fear and trepidation. The mere sight of a pressure cooker can also lead me into a tearful, hive filled frenzy. Other people fear grilling, undercooked food or choking on a fish bone. It's recently come to my attention that many people fear risotto, even though I have it on very good authority (my own) that it's incredibly easy to make and unlikely to kill you by choking. I'm still not quite sure how risotto developed it's reputation for being difficult, but just like J.Lo and Mariah Carey before it, somewhere along the way risotto came to be known as a high maintenance dish.
While it's still unclear if the aforementioned divas actually require that much attention, risotto most certainly does not. As I've blogged about before, making risotto is not the time consuming, labor intensive treat that restaurants would have us believe. In fact, I like to think of making risotto as kind of like babysitting--you don't have to smother the kid with attention and watch his every move, but from time to time you check in on him and see what he's doing, just to make sure he's doing okay. You're basically just adding chicken stock to a pan of rice every few minutes or so until the rice is cooked through. Old wives tales about lording over the stove and stirring the rice are complete rubbish. After all, do you really think there's a chef in a kitchen at some fancy Italian restaurant standing in front of a skillet for 20 minutes, stirring without stopping? No, of course not. In fact. I recently caught an episode of The Best Recipes In The World with Mark Bittman, where chef Mario Batali said all of this, and let's face it--I'm not arguing with him about Italian technique.
So, faced with a fridge full of springtime goodness, I figured nothing would be more delicious to make than a spring vegetable risotto (risotto primavera, as I call it). I used some delicious and absolutely enormous leeks from the greenmarket instead of onions, lovely fresh asparagus, and some nice sweet French beans. For some color and a bit of tartness I threw in some sun-dried tomatoes. I topped the whole thing off with Parmesan cheese once I took the dish off the flame, and it was wonderful. The dish tasted straight out of the greenmarket, and the rice really absorbed all of the great, fresh vegetable flavors. I can't say enough great things about risotto making and how easy it is, but the best advice I can pass on is what I heard Mario Batali say the other day when asked how to make your homemade risotto taste more like the kind you get in a restaurant: "More butter, more oil."
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup French beans or green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup leeks, chopped and well rinsed
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 cups chicken stock or non tomato based vegetable stock
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Sauté leeks on medium heat until just starting to brown, then add rice and cook another 2 minutes until rice turns opaque.
2. Add all of the vegetables and sauté another 2 minutes. Add 2 ladles full of stock to skillet and cook until almost all liquid is evaporated. Repeat until rice is cooked through.
3. Remove dish from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese. Plate and serve. Enjoy!
**This would also be great with fresh spring peas!!