Fish Glue and Clam Risotto

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That.  That time of day.  One of my favourite times of day.  Time for a glass of wine.  Time to look forward to making supper.

 

Some time last week we had a fish-themed dinner.  It included boiled fish.  Boiled fish. Now, does that sound tantalising?  Ahem.  I expect “no/no way” to readers outside of Italy.  The fish in question is called ‘orata’ and translates as seabream or gilthead seabream.  Gilt stands for gold leaf, because the fish’s scales can indeed be very shiny and on the golden side.  It’s a great fish to smother with salt and bake in the oven and that’s how I would usully cook it.  On this occasion, however, I decided to just boil it.  I placed the gutted fish (there were two of them, they were not very big) in a large saucepan and poured boiling water over them.  I added some parsely and black pepper corns and covered them with a lid.  It took about twenty minutes for them to cook through until the flesh turned pearly white.  I filleted the fish as best I could and served it at room temperature with home-made mayonnaise.  Very understated and yet most delicious.  So, try it some time, it’s very much a no-fuss/can’t go wrong way to cook fish.

Anyway … what was left of the filleted fishes was their heads and bones and tails and skins, i.e. the full monty of leftovers that should never be thrown away.  I just gathered it all and transferred it to another saucepan and cooked it for about half an hour (again with a lid on).  And hey presto, what do we have?  Fish broth – ta daaa.

Once cooled, I strained the fish stock and put it in the fridge.  And forgot about it until last night.  I had had other plans for the fish stock but in the end sloth took over.  Blame that beautiful sunset for that.

“You know what?”, said my sensible if at times overbearing inner voice, “why don’t you use it to make a risotto!”  LIke you, I would never dream of disagreeing with my inner voice (oh it can get so holier than thou, can’t it, anything to keep it in a good mood).  I had bought some clams and was going to make spaghetti with them.  Instead, and with the addition of a lonesome courgette/zucchina that popped out of nowhere in the bottom drawer of the fridge, I underwet a risotto conversion.  And this is what I did.

I chopped up a small onion and braised it with some olive oil.  Then I added the courgette that I had sliced and diced into small lego-looking chunks.  While that was cooking away, I went to get the fish stock in order to heat it and bring it to the boil.  And what did I find? It had turned into a thick unyielding jelly!!!  That’s right – fish stock will solidy into a jelly of sorts.

And that’s when the penny dropped.  The name for gelatine leaf in Italian is “fish glue” (colla di pesce) and now I can see why.  I get really excited over etymology, you’ll have to pardon me.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  I couldn’t get all of the jelly fish stock out of the bottle in which I had placed it, so I poured boiling water into it and that did the trick.  I then transferred the fish stock to another pan and brought it to the boil, ready to be used.

By now the onion and courgette were ready to welcome the rice.  I like to use either the vialone nano or carnaroli rice variety.   I used the latter because it’s the first one I found in my store cupboard.  In it went and it got toasted for the appropriate of time and then I poured in all the hot fish stock.   None of that one-ladle-at-a-time risotto stuff.  Not tonight.  My name happens to be Josephine and it was very much the case of “not tonight, Josephine”.

While the risotto was getting cooked in a bubble, bubble, toil and thankfully no-trouble way, I steamed open the clams.  You just plonk them in a pan and cover with a lid until the shells open.  When the rice was finally cooked, I added the clams, their liquor, shells and all, to the risotto.  It looked very pretty, I have to say.  (Oh, I had also added a small tomato, all chopped up … I don’t know why I did that.  I just did.  Oh yes, and I had also added a slice of lemon zest.  And oh, of course, some parsely.  Clams just love parsely.)

Fun fact number one:  Clams are full of iron. Good for haemoglobin in our red blood cells.

Fun fact number two: gelatine is good for us (for our bones, hair and nails I believe).

My inner voice was on cloud nine, it was holier than all the thou’s in the world! Not only had I been thrifty (by actually making a fish stock), not only was I inventing a new risotto recipe (creative juices all fired up), I was indeed also taking care of my body’s overall health.  And then I tasted the risotto.  One must always taste before serving.   Actually, even during cooking.  Well.  How disappointing!  The risotto was bland.  I added a bit of salt but that didn’t help.  Still bland.  I was crest-fallen.

And then … rebellious genius idea came to the rescue.

Grated pecorino cheese.

Pecorino, mind, not parmigiano.

Why?

Let me explain.  In Italy the very thought of adding cheese to any fish dish will make people’s eyes pop out.  Heresy.  Very recently, a young crop of Italian chefs has indeed toyed with the idea but the only cheese I have seen added is either buffalo mozzarella or burrata … i.e. very creamy fresh cheeses that are a little on the bland side, let’s face it.

So, within the context of Italian traditional cuisine, my wanting to add a hard cheese to a fish dish makes me a rebel, see?  Quite the iconoclast.

Mindi you, there is an exception to this caseous culinary rule.  Here in Lazio, there is a pasta dish that is indeed served with cheese and that is spaghetti with mussels and pecorino.  For some cheesy reason, this dish is thoroughly approved of.

Hence my choosing pecorino over parmigiano.

I can’t remember how much I added.  I do remember adding a little at a time.  I didn’t want the cheese to overwhelm the delicate taste of the risotto.  The risotto was still hot and steaming, so the pecorino melted in no time at all.

And, in the end, finally, was it good?

Yest it was.  Hip hip hurrah!  Feeling very pleased with myself (and my inner voice over the moon).

Below are two links to older posts I wrote about pasta with mussels and pecorino cheese.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/pasta-with-mussels-and-pecorino-cheese/

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/fishing-for-compliments-part-3-pasta-with-mussels-and-pecorino-cheese/

These are photos I took this morning, of the leftovers.  Please bear that in mind because the risotto looked a lot more come-hither when I was serving it piping hot!

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Here you catch a glimpse of the lemon zest (in the centre).

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Frascati-style Sartù

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

I would not blame purists from the Campania region if they wanted to throttle me for daring to refer to the rice concoction I am writing about as a ‘sartù’.  A sartù is an iconic conglomeration of a recipe, a precious pearl in the crown of posh recipes that were served to the noble families in the Campania region.  If you want to read more about it, check out my previous post.

Here in the Alban hills south east of Rome, an area known as the “Castelli Romani”, we too have posh antecedents.  We are famous for our baroque estates, sometimes built over the remains of ancient Roman villas (the popes’ summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, for instance, was built over Emperor Domitian’s villa).  Popes, cardinals and Rome’s noble families liked to spend part of their Summer here and enjoy all that it had to offer. If Rome were to be thought of as New York City, then our Castelli Romani could easily be regarded as its Hamptons.  And this all the way from pre-Roman times to just after the Second World War.  A lot changed after then.  And not just in Frascati, naturally, but all over the world.

These days, as far as current Romans are concerned, we people in the Castelli Romani are to be thought of as ‘rednecks’ or ‘hill-billies’ or something akin to a peasant whichever way you look at it.  Their word for us is “burino”.  We are country bumpkin ‘burini’ whereas they are city dwellers, with Rome being the centre of the world.  A lot of this is in jest of course but even so when I hear talk levelled at us burini, I put my hands on my hips and fight back.  I like to counter the view by letting THEM know that one cannot consider himself/herself a true Roman unless he or she has Roman relatives going back at least five generations (even seven).  So mneah, take that!  So many so-called Romans have parents who relocated from other counties just after the Second World War.  Including my husband, for instance. He was born of parents hailing from the Marche Region.  And though he was born and raised in Rome, in theory he couldn’t be considered a ‘true’ Roman.  At least we Castelli people are authentic burini, ha ha.  (Actually, even that wouldn’t be totally correct: so many labourers and workers, during the mid-century 1800s onwards all the way up to the 1950s, came to find a living in these parts.  They hailed mainly from Abbruzzo and the Marche regions, as well as southern Lazio but sssssh, don’t tell.)

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Favourite son asked that I make polenta for him when he came to visit us last month.  Obliging Mamma of course makes some, double quick,  Favourite daughter loathes polenta and favourite husband isn’t overly keen either, so this request gave me the opportunity to finally make some and know it would be thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.

I am so used to cooking for a fair amount of people that I ended up making too much sauce (the classic pork and sausage sauce) and thus put the remainder in the freezer.  Except I didn’t – put it in the freezer, I mean.  I thought I had but I hadn’t.  So days after my darling boy had left I discovered a large glass jar of the sauce at the back of the fridge. I tasted it and it was fine thank goodness.  What to do? what do do?  What to do?  I used the sauce to make a risotto.  And then I had one of those beautiful Aha moments and realised I could invent a Roman rendition of the Neapolitan sartù.  Another name for this could be “Timballo di Riso”, I suppose, but it isn’t half as catchy as Frascati-Style Sartù, do admit?

If there is one staple that is iconic to the Castelli Romani (over and above wine that is), then that would be the roast hog known as “porchetta”.  Instead of adding  meatballs and salami to my rice dish, I would substitute with porchetta.  Genius.

RECIPE

(1) The Sauce:

The sauce I made is the following one: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/sausage-and-spare-rib-stew-for-polenta-polenta-con-le-spuntature/

You don’t have to go all the trouble of making an identical one.  However, do include pork sausage in it whichever way you want to make it.  Pork sausage, garlic, tomato sauce and pecorino are a must.  The rest you can improvise or tweak.

(2) Bechamel

You will also need to make a bechamel: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/the-queen-of-sauces/

(3) Porchetta

https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/my-home-made-porchetta-roast-hog/

(3a) Cotechino – explanation follows

(4) Other ingredients

Both parmesan and pecorino cheese, peas (frozen will do), red pepper kernels (optinonal), butter.

PRELUDE TO ACTION

Well, more of in-action to be honest.  Long story short,  I was unable to buy porchetta and had to do with cotechino.  Cotechino is another iconic item on the Italian table, and specifically towards the end of year, in order to celebrate the new year.  It is served traditionally with lentils.  Read all about it by fellow and much-loved blogger Frank Fariello (https://memoriediangelina.com/2010/01/01/cotechino-lentils/).  Cotechino and brother Zampone (another end-of-year sausage) are to be found in stores already towards the end of November.  I picked one up, just because.  And just as well I did.

ACTION

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When the going gets tough, call upon a softie.  In this case, Rossella my sweet next-door neighbour.  We needed to catch up on some gossip and so I inveigled her into coming over for a much needed catch-up, and while we were at it, would she give me a hand in the kitchen?  “Ma certo!” was her gracious resopnse, but of course.  I got her started on the cotechino.  It needed to be cut into cube-like shapes, see above.

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I had alread made the risotto with the leftover sauce and had placed it inside a biggish pyrex dish.  Rossella  spread a layer of cubed cotechino on the surface of the risotto, and then sprinkled another layer of previously cooked peas.

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I call that quite pretty, huh.

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And now, lots of fresh mint and parsely to add a bit of green.  And then much freshly grated parmigiano AND pecorino cheeses (equal parts of).

5aA snowstorm of parmigiano and pecorino with the herbs playing peekaboo.

8And now it’s time for the bechamel.

9Here is Rossella lovingly spreading the bechamel.  She has the patience of a saint.

9aLast-minute addition: red peppercorns. Not too many of course, but enough to get noticed.  I love red peppercorns – they make me feel happy.

10Butter, dollops of butter.

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Ready to be placed in a previously heated oven, at 180°C.

Except that I didn’t bake it straight away.  I froze it.  So …. hip hip hurrah, this is the sort of dish that can be prepared in advance, frozen, and used when necessary.  Especially when a party is necessary.  You do all the hard work days or weeks before and little else on the actual night.

12And this is the only measely photo I have of the completed dish.  I know, I know.  What one does manage to discern doesn’t look very enticing, more like a dog’s dinner.  But I promise you it was very very good and all my guests complimented me.  You’ll just have to trust me.  (You’d think at least one of the guests, or my husband, would have taken a nice photo, no?  Too busy eating?)

Pumpkin Risotto with a Gorgonzola Finish

Dedicated to Ian Rosenzweig.

Yet another potluck, tee hee.  Oh, I do so love potluck evenings!

This time chez George and sister Claire from Casale Sonnino. I have already written about the Casale Sonnino farm near Frascati in another post: https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/sora-maria-e-arcangelo-and-casale-sonnino/ .

Claire lives in New York and visits as often as she can and especially when it’s time for the olive harvest.  Their olive oil has won a silver medal in the past.  Last year, just as with so many other olive farms in Italy, they basically did not have a harvest – the previous winter had been bitterly cruel and ruined the growth cycle of the trees.  George runs the Casale (the family’s olive and wine estate) which has been in the family since …. oh gosh, I really don’t know but centuries I believe.

Theirs was quite the posh bourgeoisie family back in the day,  living in a beautiful town house in Rome.  They were forced to flee the country after 1938 on account of Mussolini’s hideous “racial laws” which targeted the Jewish population in Italy and saw so many of them die a ghastly death in Nazi camps in Germany.  Their mother was a Sonnino from Rome.  Their father was a Treves (also from a prominent Jewish family) from Piedmont.  The parents met and married in Princeton and carried on with their lives – some of their other family members were not as fortunate.

Claire and George (and another brother whom I’ve not met) were all born in the States and grew up there, in New Jersey.  George thinks it’s a bit of a giggle that the family shared the same dentist as Einstein! Their mother never forgot the Casale, however, and longed and longed to return there, and came back often.   Very often.

The Casale Sonnino is a place I’ve come to fall in love with.  And I am not the only one. Look up the website and you’ll see why.  It’s like wafting into a time warp.  One just wants to slow down, read a book, paint, sing, think, sit and converse as opposed to ‘talk’, in a Jane-Austenish kind of way.  Cooking and entertaining are its middle name.

The Casale is there to be used as a holiday-let for small groups and families, and those who return do so because it has become a sort of home-from-home for them. George ends up adopting dogs because they too find a home there.  The views are stunning and New Year’s Eve from the terrace is hard to beat – with Rome below and all the fireworks on display till the early hours of the morning.

As I wax lyrical over my ‘interpretation’ of the place, I realise that it’s not quite the same matter for George (and Claire) who have to run it as a business.  Oh the amount of work! You wouldn’t believe it.  Never ending.  And if it’s not one thing, it’s another.   Farmers are farmers all over the world and have Nature to contend with as well as to give thanks for.

Friends of ours from Los Angeles who regularly visit Frascati for work reason have a son who has become entranced with the story of this house.  His name is Ian, he’s in his early twenties, and he is a writer.  From what I’ve heard, he intends to delve into the story of this family and write about them and their Casale – I am so glad, someone really ought to.

Without going into all the boring details that resulted in the coming together of this potluck dinner a couple of weeks ago, suffice it for you to know that: I’d been hard at work that day, so had George and Claire at the olive mill, so had friend Michelle at the winery where she works, and so had another friend Michelle with her lovely young daughter, and, last, Ian – young Ian, who had literally just rolled in from Florence that late afternoon.  Result?  Despite the hurry and fatigue, a great dinner ensued as always.  (Not a late night for a change, we all had an early morning the following day.)

salad

One Michelle and sweet daugther cobbled together a super salad with mixed leaves, walnuts, burrata and peaches.  The other Michelle brought a couple of rotisserie chickens that were literally finger-lickin’ good.  Ian came along with cured meats and cheeses (parma ham … you know what I’m talking about).  And then there was loads of other stuff and a traditional tomato bruschetta … and we told George we really did NOT need the meat he had brought along to barbecue.  My offering was a pumpkin risotto.  I started it at home … so that I could finish it off at the Casale with minimum fuss.

Such is the magic of potlucks – and there are leftovers too, for the next day!

Anyway … about the risotto.

INGREDIENTS: Leek, sausage, pumpkin,  olive oil, pink pepper corns, a glass of wine.  Part II: cream, grated parmigiano, gorgonzola, butter, lemon juice, more red pepper corns, fresh chilli, wild mint.

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So what you see here are … red peper corns, a mashed up sausage and the white part of a sliced leek.  (The green part of the leek I reserved for making the stock with which to cook the risotto).  I started cooking it with some olive oil and then added a splash of wine.

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Chop up some pumpkin.

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Once the sausage meat was pretty much cooked, I added the chopped pumpkin.  Sprinkle plenty of salt and a good pinch of pepper.  Cook for about 10 minutes?  Something like that.

IMG_5023Bit of gorgonzola hiding in the fridge. I got some kitchen/parchment paper and wet it under running water.   Maybe too much water.  Anyway, the idea was to wrap the gorgonzola in something ‘damp’ so that it would not dry out.  I waited for everything to cool down and then …  It was time to get into the car and drive to the Casale.

AT THE CASALE

Once there, I got some water onto the boil and added the ‘other’ half of the big leek, the very green part, in order to create a vegetable stock.

img_5024.jpgI toasted the rice – without any oil !!! please note — and then added one ladle of the hot leek water.  The white ‘splash’ you see among the pumpkin is a bit of fresh cream.

IMG_5025Here is the hot leek water on the left – kept hot.  When you add the water/broth/stock/whatever, it must always be HOT.

img_5026.jpgThe risotto is  bubbling away now – that ‘fat’ weird green thing in the saucepan, that’s the leek that was used to make the stock/broth.  Iadded it to the risotto – to flavour the risotto even more.  I removed it towards the end, naturally.

img_5027.jpgKeep adding the broth and stirring away – and do avail yourselves of a glass of wine to keep your spirits up, for goodness sakes!  At one point I added some more pink pepper corns and a bit of chilli.  You know, to spice things up a bit.

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Aha.  Some butter.  Some French butter no less, the very nicest there is!  And a half of a lemon.  Yes.  Funnily enough, a risotto will always benefit from a bit of either lemon juice or vinegar.  I prefer lemon juice and that’s what I did: squeezed about one half of a lemon into the risotto.img_5029.jpg

When the risotto was almost done, I added a profusion of grated parmesan cheese.IMG_5030And once that had been properly assimilated, I added the little bits of the gorgonzola – which took no time at all to melt into the risotto.IMG_5031Things were coming to a head now – the risotto was cooked and I switched the heat off. I added plenty of butter (and I mean plenty) and stirred like crazy.  Actually, this is Ian stirring like crazy.  Good lad!

73395280_10220946760724699_24852866913009664_oHere I am – half way through  cooking, in one of my favourite kitchens.

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Here he is, young Ian.  Giving it a final stir.  The green stuff? It’s wild mint from my balcony (called ‘calamint’ in English apparently).   You could use rosemary or sage or any other kind of mint instead.

72689793_10220946758484643_8665815076298555392_oThe last-minute potluck people: readying ourselves and happy, and looking forward to tucking in.

Yes … but … where ARE George and Claire?

Ah of course – Claire is taking the photo and George is in the dining room laying the table.

Asparagus and Courgette Risotto for Belinda

 

Today’s post is about every cloud having a silver lining when dinner needs to be made.

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The ‘cloud’ in question was the lack of an ingredient – proper, nice locally grown romanesque courgettes/zucchine such as the ones shown in the photo above.  The ‘silver’ turned out to be my having to add asparagus to the recipe, in order to bolster the overall taste, and the result is the recipe I am writing about today.

It is very easy to find the romanesque cougettes where I live, the markets and veggie shops sell them all the time (sometimes even when they are theoretically out of season).  It just so happened that for various reasons of busyness and business, I had to perforce opt for my least favourite place for sourcing vegetables – the supermarket.  You should have seen my face, I was hardly able to contain a surly stance as I looked around.  Most of the veggies looked sad or came in plastic packaging.  The artihcokes were floppy instead of firm.  Onions hailing from Argentina and Egypt???? What, we can’t grow onions in Italy?  Garlic from Morocco.  Don’t get me started.  And, just as I had surmised, there wasn’t a local romanesque courgette to be seen, only those dark green tasteless kind, very fleshy, very watery and seriously unappetising unless you choose to jolly them up with all kinds of gastronomic bells and whistles.  Yes, I do boycott supermarkets because I think their policies towards producers are thoroughly reprehensible but that is not the only reason:  you simply cannot compare their produce with the good stuff sold at markets and greengrocers.  No contest.  Harumphm, sniff and snort, thus spake Frascati Cooking That’s Amore.  I had to grudgingly admit that the asparagus weren’t bad looking, so I bought two bunches.

Once home, I got on with the risotto.  Since the end result was actually very good indeed, I have to do an about-turn and say to myself that it was thanks to the forced option of dark green courgettes that I came up with the recipe in the first place.  There you go, always a bit of Pollyanna lurking about in me.

This risotto was in honour of visitors from New Zealand, Belinda and her husband Peter, together with friends Alison and Gary.  That’s why I am calling this the “Belinda Risotto”.

Okay on with the recipe now.

INGREDIENTS:

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Courgettes/zucchine, asparagus, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk, carnaroli or vialone nano rice (arborio will do it that’s all you can find), olive oil, half a lemon, mascarpone, one apple, parmesan, fresh mint, a teensy amount of fresh rosemary.

COURGETTES: I started by slicing HALF the courgettes into rounds which I set aside, and slicing the other HALF into rounds which I then roasted in the oven until they were cooked.

ASPARAGUS: I trimmed the asparagus of its points, then cut the rest of the asparagus spear also into thick rounds.  I used what was left of the asparagus spears to boil into an aparagus ‘stock’  of sorts.

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On the left … I chopped up the carrot, onion and celery and sweated them down in extra virgin olive oil before adding the courgettes.  On the right, are the tough part of the asparagus spears that I was simmering for about 15 minutes.

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I threw them away and kept the cooked water to use as stock for the risotto.

img_2836.jpgI transferred the cooked courgettes into a saucepan and added the asparagus stock – and proceeded to blend all the ingredients into a thick creamy stock.  I added a little squeeze of lemon juice.

While all this was going on, in the meantime, this is what I was doing with the OTHER HALF of the courgettes:

IMG_2837I coated them with olive oil.

IMG_2839And roasted them in the oven until they went a nice golden colour.

 

IMG_2840I added more water to the asparagus and courgette stock and got it simmering.  I dropped a large tablespoon of butter into it for good measure.

IMG_2841And now I could get cracking the the risotto.  As you can see from this photo, the stock is simmering away in the background and the risotto is being toasted in the foreground.  Please notice: no olive oil, no butter, no nuffink.  Once the rice turns pearly white, add a ladle of the hot stock, let it get absorbed, and add more.

IMG_2842A risotto will take about 18-20 minutes to cook.  Once you are getting close to the end, add the asparagus that you chopped up, as well as the spears.  Keeping stirring and keep adding the stock.  Taste and add salt and pepper.

IMG_2843Add the roasted courgette rounds, the mint and the rosemary.  Nearly there.

IMG_2844And here is the touch of cheat’s genius: a good dollop of mascarpone. Add some of the grated parmesan too, at this point, and taste.  You might need more salt, a twist of white pepper would not go astray.  A little bit of butter will also help.

img_2845.jpgThis was a serving of the risotto the next day, i.e. the leftovers.  I didn’t get a chance to take photos as I was serving the risotto, there was too much chatting going on and people’s appetites were more than ready for quick relief.  Those pretty flowers are flowers that I picked from my chives on the balcony.  Look closely and you’ll see a couple of little cubes: those are bits of apple. The apple complemented the dish really well.

img_2846.jpgThank you for inspiring me Belinda!

Risotto with Leftover Coda alla Vaccinara Sauce

I don’t normally have any leftover sauce when I make Coda alla Vaccinara … it all gets mopped up with hefty doses of good bread.

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This time, however, I had decided to use the extra sauce to make a different kind of supplì, the rice croquet that is breaded and deep fried, and is usually eaten as an antipasto or as street food.

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Well, my intentions were good but sometimes the body baulks at too much effort on a Sunday …and the end result was, instead, a risotto.  Nothing to be ashamed, of by all means … Take a look.

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Start by heating up the sauce …

IMG_3265.JPGWhile it is heating up, toast the rice.  This is carnaroli rice but you could use arborio if you prefer, or even vialone nano.  Vialone nano would not work for a supplì …but I wasn’t making supplì, now, was I?  Also … ssssh … big secret … big new tip … well, at least new to me: apparently the rice can be toasted in the pan without any oil or butter whatsoever ! Here is a link to more risotto-making tips: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/hands-on-hips-over-risotto-making-and-seeing-the-light-with-a-leftovers-risotto/

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I added the first ladle of the sauce, and it sizzled fiercely and I had to step away – so watch out if you intend to repeat this recipe.  I stirred the rice for a few seconds and then quickly added another couple of ladles and carried on as I would with any other risotto.  I had to remove some of the celery leaves, however, because they just kept ‘getting in the way’ of the stirring.  No matter.

IMG_3267.JPGOnce the rise was cooked, I added a knob of butter and plenty of grated pecorino romano cheese. As you can see, hardly any celery leaves left in the risotto.  Less worry over them sticking to our teeth in a most unsightly way.IMG_3268.JPGI then put the risotto inside a pyrex dish.

IMG_3269We were going to a friend’s house for a celebratory aperitivo dinner … and this dish came in very handy and was duly appreciated, served just warm from the oven.

Sometimes it pays to be ‘lazy’ ! And it’s good to know that one can continue Loving the Leftovers !

Risotto with Courgettes/Zucchine

There used to be, in the days of yore, days that were composed of working life followed by ‘normal’ life, i.e. the 9 to 5 day.  Kids went to school on their daily time schedule, and dads went to work from 9 to 5, and the family would eat supper together at some point.  Now we all work.  At all times.  During all days of the week, including Sundays.  It’s ridiculous and none of us really enjoys it but … what to do? what to do?  We just have to get on with it and get by, grow, and hope for the better.

Even so, I find it very irksome that I should have to deal with the mundane aspects of running a home on a Sunday – think washing machine loads, hanging out the laundry to dry in good weather, using the dryer when the weather is less clement, tidying, de-cluttering, ironing, sorting out and generally trying to make a better place of the space one lives in.  It’s exhausting.  And yet it must  be done.  And at some point one gets hungry, and one must eat.

And this, then, is the Sunday lunch recipe for when household duties rule the roost and leave little time for anything special.  But, because it IS a Sunday, our repast MUST somehow be special … and here is the result.  The ingredients are dime-a-dozen desultory and available to all (save perhaps for very good extra virgin olive oil) but the end result is more than the sum of its parts and speaks of defiance and says ‘we shall overcome’.  Yeah.

THE INGREDIENTS
1Three large courgettes/zucchine.  1 onion.  A few black peppercorns. Some marjoram.  Some sage.  Salt.

2About 2 tablespoons of butter.
3Parmesan cheese … grated.
4 Plain vegetable stock/broth: made up of celery sticks, carrots and 1 courgette/zucchina.

LET’S GET STARTED

5So, back to our ingredients.  There are 3 large courgettes.  I of them needs to simmer in the vegetable stock, whole.
7 The other two courgettes need to be cut in such a way that we utilise only the green part of the vegetable and hardly any of the white part.  The ‘wedge’, that big white thing you see in this photo ….8Here is a close.up.  They represent the unsexy part of the vegetable, taste of nothing, and are basically good for nothing and would normally be thrown away.  But since I was making a vegetable stock … I added these white leftovers to it.6The vegetable stock simmering away (for about 15 minutes).
9Here are the other two courgettes, roughly sliced, and ready and waiting..10The onion is the next one to get the chop.
11And now we can begin.  Place some peppercorns in a saucepan, together with plenty of olive oil.  And yes, it does have to be olive oil, preferably evoo (extra virgin olive oil).12 Turn the heat on, and add the onion and the courgettes at the same time and cook over a fairly high heat.13 When the onion and courgettes are cooked … remove from the pan and place in a plate, and set aside.14 This is what is left back in the saucepan.15 Now add the rice (this was Carnaroli rice – but you could use arborio or vialone nano, so long as you use Italian rice).  Turn the heat on, to toast the rice.16 Toast the rice until most of the rice goes transluscent …17 And then pour about a glass of wine into the pan … and watch it sizzle and steam as it hits the heat!

18Add one ladle of the vegetable stock, and stir the rice until it has absorbed all the liquid.
19 I didn’t bother to remove the veggies from the stock.  So I used a cone-shaped colander to filter the liquid.20 See?21 Do this a second time – i.e. add enough stock to cover the rice, stir with a wooden spoon until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  22 Now add a good pinch (or two, or three even) of good quality salt.  I tend to use Celtic salt mostly (sel de Guérande).23 Stir …24 At this point, the risotto can handle itself for a while.  Pour more stock, enough to cover it by about 1 inch …25 26 And while it toils and bubbles …27 It’s time to deal with the one courgette that had cooked in the stock.28 Add a pinch of salt, and then process it with an immersion blender.29 Add it to the risotto, stir and carry on cooking.30There was a brightly coloured, rather cheerful looking persimmon just waiting to be used up.
31 So I sliced it.

32About 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time,  I added the previously sautéed courgettes and onions.

34 It was time to stir now.   Just 1 minute before the end of the cooking time, I added the herbs.35 I stirred them in.36 I switched off the heat.  Added the nice big lump of butter.  And smiled with glee as it melted into the risotto.37 Once the butter had melted, it was time for the grated parmesan.38 39 One final stir, and it was now time for a little rest.40 I covered the saucepan with its gleaming lid and left the risotto to ‘mantecare’ (to rest) for about five minutes.41 Served on the plates and ready to be enjoyed …42 43 44 Plate number one.45 46Plate number two.

And yes, the persimmon went very well with the risotto over and above providing some good cheer for the eye.

It’s the little things in life that make the difference.  Humble courgettes, vegetable stock and rice somehow banded together in perfect harmony and made Sunday lunch a nice one.