Wednesday, August 31, 2011

End of Summer Risotto

Today marked the end of summer in my house- school began for my new 1st grader.  New school, new teacher, and a kid so full of confidence in himself that he barely needed me to walk him to his classroom.  How did he get so big?

I refuse to believe that summer is over and I suppose that here is Southern California, it really isn't.  The weather is great, there are plenty more beach days in my future, and the produce is still literally falling off the vines and trees.  I mentioned in my last post that I was living completely on tomatoes in the recent weeks and here's why.......................

This is just a small sampling of the cherry tomatoes that I picked last week from the four plants in my backyard.  That doesn't include the huge beefsteaks and heirlooms that are just days from ripening at the moment.  What's a girls to do with them all?  This was the dilemma that faced me a few days ago as I was deciding what to make for dinner.  A salad (again)?  A pasta (eh)?  A risotto (YES!!)?  I make a killer salad with corn, tomatoes, zucchini and basil and I had a hunch that those flavors would work just barely cooked into a risotto with its creamy rice.  Of course, I just happened to have all of those things in my kitchen.  So off to the stove I went.

Risotto is nothing to be afraid of, friends.  It's really very quick to make and just requires a turn of the spoon every few minutes.  The rice and broth do most of the work themselves.  All you need to do is stand by and watch the magic happen.

End of Summer Risotto
This, to me, is a meal in and of itself.  However, if you have an eater in your house who is anything like my husband, it will also make a nice side dish for grilled or roasted chicken or fish.

1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
1 small onion, diced
1 cup arborio or canaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups homemade chicken broth or store bought low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups diced beefsteak tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
kernels from 2 ears of corn, cut off the cob
1 small zucchini or summer squash, diced
1 cup grated perorino romano or parmesean cheese
handful of basil leaves

In a medium saucepot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer, then turn the heat to low.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter.  Stir in the onions and saute until they are soft and translucent.  Add the rice and stir for a minute or two.  The rice will begin to become translucent as well and it will get coated with the butter and oil.
Add the wine to the skillet and let it cook until almost evaporated.  Add a ladle-full of the chicken broth and stir into the rice mixture.  When the liquid is nearly evaporated add another ladle-full of the broth, stirring occasionally.  Continue cooking the rice this way, adding the broth a bit at a time until the rice is creamy and tender.  Be careful not to overcook it- it can go from perfectly tender to mush very quickly.  The whole process should take about 20 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, zucchini, and corn and cook with the rice for 4-5 minutes, adding more broth as necessary.  You don't want to fully cook the vegetables though, what you're looking for is for the tomatoes and zucchini just to soften a bit.  Again, you don't want to be eating mush.  Stir in half the cheese.
To serve, spoon into individual bowls and sprinkle each with additional grated cheese and a few shredded basil leaves.  A glass of chilled white wine is a great accompaniment.  What a way to enjoy the best of the end of summer produce.

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