|Fresh Herb and Pea Risotto|
Rice was introduced to Italy by the Arabs who dominated Sicily and parts of the Southern mainland in the late Middle Ages, but, proved best suited to the vast marshy regions of the Po Valley. Here it was enthusiastically adopted by the residents of the Veneto region, Lombardia and Piemonte. Thanks to the Arabs we now have one of the best comfort foods on the planet!!!
Italians have been growing rice for a very long time, and have developed many ways to prepare it. The best known to us is risotto. Historically, risotto is the name given to all recipes that use rice as the main component and are served as a first dish in a traditional Italian lunch or dinner. In the Italian culture pasta is also served in this way and risotto is a delicious and delicate alternative to pasta. In short, risotto is perfect for any occasion as a meal or a side dish!!!
Risotto is much easier to prepare than you might think, and is extraordinarily versatile. Making a good risotto is like riding a bicycle. You need to learn how to do it in the beginning and it requires a certain amount of concentration thereafter. Risotto is very sensitive to timing but with a little know how you can make this easy peasy dish perfectly over and over again. It is something that needs to be served immediately and you need to watch and stir it. It is a "labour of love" and the time that is invested in making risotto is well worth it in the end. This is one of Italy's true comfort foods and since I am adopting Italy this week (or it has adopted me) this was a perfect muse.
There are many risotto recipes that suit a myriad of taste buds and we love this great Italian dish in all its disguises. The ingredients chosen are very important to the outcome of your dish. Use the best that are available to you. Buying the rice to make a risotto is also very important. Choose short-grained round or semi-round rice; among the best rices for making risotto are Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli. Other short-grained rices such as Originario will also work. Long grained rice such as Patna will not, because the grains will stay separate. Nor should you use Minute Rice...wink...wink...
In honour of the first day of Spring I made this one-pot dish. It is simple yet sophisticated and can be served as a side dish or as the main attraction. The colour alone just screams Spring!!!! If you make this risotto outside of pea season, you can use frozen peas (just add them in the last 5 minutes of cooking). And if you have any fresh mint on hand, shred it and sprinkle it over the risotto. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of young white wine, sit back and enjoy all that life has to offer.
**Fresh Herb and Pea Risotto**
3 cups (750 mL0 fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup (125 mL) loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (25 mL)tablespoons butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) onion, finely diced
1-1/3 cups (325 mL) short grain rice such as arborio, Vialone Nano or carnaroli
1/2 cup ( 125 mL) white wine
3/4 cup (175 mL) frozen peas
1-1/4 teaspoon (6 mL) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
In saucepan, bring about 3-1/3 cups (875 mL) water to a boil; reduce heat to low and keep warm.
In food processor or with immersion blender, puree together spinach, basil, oil and 1/2 of the garlic to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
In large deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the butter over medium high heat; saute onion and remaining garlic until softened and transluscent; about 3 minutes. Add rice, stirring to coat and toast grains, about 2 minutes. Stir in wine until completely absorbed.
Add water, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time and stirring after each addition until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 20 minutes total. Add spinach mixture, peas, salt and pepper. Taste before adding last 1/2 cup (125 mL) water; rice should be loose, creamy but not mushy, and still slightly firm in centre of grain (al dente).
Remove from heat. Stir in Romano cheese and remaining butter. Let stand for 2 minutes before serving.
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Greek-Style Vegetable Risotto
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