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Butternut Squash Risotto - Meatballs&Milkshakes

This was an incredibly easy weeknight dinner after a week of long and involved meals. You can also potentially use up holiday leftovers, since I pre-roasted the squash the day before and added the mashed squash right at the end. It still has all the holiday flavors, but it’s great all winter long.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1/2 butternut squash

2 cups arborio rice

zest and juice of 1 orange

3 tablespoons fresh thyme

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought, warmed in the microwave or on the stove (you could substitute vegetable stock to make it vegetarian)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 shallot, minced

1 cup grated parmesan

Roast the squash in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes on a baking sheet with some of the olive oil brushed over it. It will become soft and you can scoop out the flesh. Mash up the squash well.

Meanwhile, saute the shallot and garlic in the remaining olive oil. Once they have softened, add the rice and allow to toast for a minute until they start to look a little translucent. Add the white wine and allow to cook down. Add the thyme and a little chicken stock. Continue to add stock slowly as it cooks away. It should have enough liquid to just cover, about the consistency of oatmeal.

When the rice is almost al dente, add the orange juice and zest along with the mashed squash. Stir to combine and allow to cook together for the last few minutes. Off the heat, stir in the parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Butternut Squash Risotto - Meatballs&Milkshakes

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I haven’t made risotto in a while, and I had almost forgotten how wonderful it is. Risotto should be loose and a little runny, not a tight little ball when scooped onto a plate. I finished this one with a handful of grated cheese and a little butter to give it a richness. The term mantecare in Italian means to stir, and it’s usually used to refer to the process of quickly stirring in this finishing butter. By aggressively stirring, it emulsifies the butter and brings it all together.

Squash Blossom Risotto

6 squash blossoms, chopped

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 onion, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used a dark homemade chicken stock, but boxed or canned is fine)

1 cup white wine

1 cup grated parmesan

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until they have softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and toss in the oil to coat. Allow the rice to toast for a minute, until the outsides of the grains start to look translucent. Add the wine and stir. Warm the stock in a separate pan.

Slowly add the stock a ladle at a time, keeping enough liquid in the pan to continue the cooking process, but it shouldn’t be higher than the level of the rice. Cook at a medium heat and stir frequently with a spatula to let the rice emit it’s starches. Add the squash blossoms halfway through the stock. Cook until al dente, and you can use additional water if you run out of stock. It should be a little runny when done. Add the butter and stir vigorously to emulsify. Add the parmesan and olive oil and stir through.

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Arancini are a traditional bar snack in Italy and they are usually made earlier in the day and sit at room temperature on the bar until they are eaten. I usually don’t get around to making them because I rarely have leftover risotto. In fact, for my party I made a whole batch of risotto just to make these. Be warned, they do take a bit of work and I probably won’t make them in such a large batch again but they are great. With some homemade marinara, they’re a perfect, filling snack.

Arancini

1/2 onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pinch saffron

2 cups arborio rice

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup white wine

1 cup pecorino, grated

2 eggs

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup olive oil

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and saute the onion, garlic, and saffron for a minute. Add the rice and toss in the oil to coat and toast for a few seconds. Add the wine and reduce. Add the chicken stock as the liquid gets reduced in stages. Season to taste. Once the rice is al dente, let the risotto chill until cold. Add an egg and the pecorino and mix together. Roll into small balls and refrigerate at least an hour. In separate bowls, place the flour, 1 egg beaten with a splash of water, and the panko. Dip the balls into the flour, then the egg, then the panko. They should be kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook. Put the rest of the olive oil in a pan and fry the balls, rotating them on each side as they brown. They are cooked already, so you really just need to brown them.

Marinara

1 onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 carrot, grated

1 can San Marzano tomatoes

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a couple minutes. Add the oregano and carrot and cook for a couple minutes. Season with salt. Add the rest of the ingredients and let cook for 15-20 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender if you wish.

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Risotto is much easier to make than most people think. I sometimes even skip warming up the liquid, because it doesn’t make that much of a difference if I’m in a hurry. I recently was in Los Angeles and Colorado, and had trouble finding arborio rice in regular supermarkets. I’m hoping that was unusual because the rice makes such a difference. Definitely seek out arborio rice for risotto, it’s the only way to get the creamy texture you’re looking for.

And the leftover possibilities are just as delicious (if you can manage to leave leftovers): risotto cakes and arancini. Roll them into balls and dip in breadcrumbs. For risotto cakes, flatten them out and saute in olive oil. For Arancini, dip in egg before the breadcrumbs and then shallow fry them.

Risotto with Spinach, Lemon, and Bay Scallops

1/4 onion or a shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup frozen spinach or sauteed fresh spinach

1 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock or water, heated to a simmer

1 cup arborio rice

1 lemon juiced and zested

2 tablespoons basil, torn

1/2 pound bay scallops

3 tablespoons olive oil

Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with a pinch of salt. Add the garlic and saute until softened. Add the rice and let it toast for a minute or two. Deglaze with the wine. Add the stock or water in small increments so that the rice has some liquid but isn’t covered. Stir occasionally until the rice is almost al dente. Add the lemon juice and zest and the spinach. Add the scallops and cook for the final minute together. Off the heat, add the basil and the rest of the olive oil.

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