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.