We are on to our second week of blogging marathon today and my theme for this week is to ‘Cook from 1 European Country‘ and I picked Italian cuisine. When I think of Italian food, pizza and pasta are the first to come to mind. But there is so much more to the world of Italian cooking. The many regions in Italy have distinctive cuisines based on the local ingredients available, cooking styles and eating habits.
For the first day, I have this Spring Vegetable risotto. Risotto is a north Italian rice dish that is cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. Arborio, Carnaroli etc are the principal varieties of rice used to risotto. These are high in starch, round medium or short grained white rice — they have the ability to absorb liquids and release starch, so they are stickier than the long grain varieties.
Risotto can be made using vegetable, meat or fish broth. Vegetables or meat can be added to risotto. I added some fresh sping vegetables, asparagus, zucchini and green peas. It is usually served as an appetizer or as a first course before the main entree. But I think it is filling enough to eat by itself.
This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen. Lightly sauteed spring veggies are stirred into cooked creamy arborio rice and then topped with fresh gremolata. I used a dark colored veggie broth, so the risotto turned out a tad bit darker than I would have liked, but it tasted awesome. Use a light colored broth or water for a lighter colored risotto.
Make Gremolata: In a small mixing bowl, combine parsley, mint and lemon zest. Mix well and set aside.
Combine veggie broth and water in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and keep warm.
In a medium saucepan or dutch oven, melt 2tbsp butter and after the foaming subsides add the zucchini and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper; cook for 3~4 minutes or until the veggies are crisp tender. Stir in the green peas; cook for 1 minute. Remove the veggies onto a plate and set aside.
In the same pan, melt 1tbsp butter and after the foaming subsides, add the onions and garlic; saute till the onion turns translucent, about 2~3 minutes.
Add the rice and saute for 2~3 minutes stirring occasionally until the rice turns translucent around the edges.
Add 2cups of hot broth to rice and simmer, stirring every 3~4 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the bottom of the pan is dry.
Stir in ½cup of broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 3~4 times until the rice is al dente. Season with salt and pepper.
Turn off the heat, stir in remaining 1tbsp butter, parmesan and lemon juice; gently fold in the cooked veggies. If risotto looks too dry, then add ¼cup of hot broth to loosen the texture.
Serve immediately, sprinkling each serving with gremolata and more parmesan cheese.