Monday, March 22, 2010

Inner Stallion

I’m not Italian. I didn’t grow up eating fancy pastas, tortas, or tiramisus... our pasta was spaetzle or mac n' cheese, our tortas were huckleberry pies, and our tiramisus were German chocolate cakes with coconut pecan frosting. Italian just wasn’t our thing. I don’t even really like going to Italian restaurants that much… I mean, I can boil some pasta and throw some marinara on it myself. Evan’s part Italian, but he doesn’t really even like pasta.

I’m starting to realize, however, that there’s a lot more to Italian than spaghetti, chicken fettuccini, and fist-pumping members of the Jersey Shore cast. I’m starting to understand what good Italian cooking is all about. I like the idea of simple, fresh ingredients, with little fuss but a lot of flavor. The more I learn, the more I like it. Italian food, I mean… not the Jersey Shore.

It was this new found appreciation of the simplicity in Italian cuisine that helped me come up with a new risotto recipe…which is so good it almost had me pumping the ol’ fist a little bit. I made a margherita risotto with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Apparently red, green, and white ingredients (representing the Italian flag) make something “Margherita.” It was fresh, flavorful, and what I like to think basic Italian food should taste like.

And then… because I can’t just leave well enough alone, I decided to go a little crazy with my new love of Italian—making a honey ricotta gelato with honeyed almonds. At this rate, I’ll be tanning, poufing my hair, and pumping my fist at the club before you know it.

Eat your heart out, Snooki.

Margherita Risotto

3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white onion- diced
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 garlic cloves- minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh or good quality canned)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Shredded parmesan and chopped basil for topping

Warm chicken broth in a saucepan, keep on low heat. Heat oil and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat- add onions, black pepper to taste, and oregano and sauté until onions are softened. Add garlic and sauté until softened and fragrant (about 3 minutes). Add rice and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes (and natural amount of juices, but not excess juice if you used canned) and basil- stir in.

Ladle in 1 cup simmering broth and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next. Continue until rice is tender and creamy, 16 to 18 minutes. (Add water or more broth to simmering saucepan if more liquid is needed). Stir in mozzarella, and serve topped with parmesan and additional basil!
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