Introduction to risotto
Risotto is made by 3 main components: rice, broth and a third element that could be a single ingredient or a mix of either vegetables or seafood (mussels, crustaceous). People prepare it in many different ways, sizzling rice and onions, adding vegetable stock and so on. I prefer risotto when it doesn’t have too many ingredients, actually I like recipes where I can identify a main flavor, but that’s me. So, what I do is trying to bring as much flavor I can to this ingredient using it while sizzling the rice, as a main seasoning for the broth, adding its pulp to the compound and making sort of a décor on top for presentation. Let’s make a typical example: risotto and zucchini. It sounds like a flavorless dish, but try to make it this way and you’ll be tastefully surprised.
Risotto with zucchini
Four people recipe (risotto shouldn’t really ever exceed this quantity, in case you have to make it for more than four people, split it into two preparations)
2 cups of Carnaroli Rice
¼ gallon of Vegetable broth
2 or 3 zucchini (depending on size)
1 tablespoon of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
½ to 1 cup of Parmesan cheese (as liked)
1 tablespoon of cold Butter (right from the refrigerator)
Fresh herbs (optional)
Cut off the zucchini tips and add them to the broth (vegetable broth). Cut the sides all around so that you get a central white core which you will add half to the broth and the other half set aside. Chop the sides evenly in small pieces. Use a little bit of them to flavor 1 tablespoon of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (not too many because they might release water) and when they are nice and sizzled add the rice and toast it for a minute or so. Pour half a glass of white wine (sometimes I use beer instead) and let it evaporate. Start pouring enough broth to barely cover the rice and stir it (one ladle of broth must be added each time the rice starts surfacing). It takes 15 to 16 minutes to cook rice so every now and then add the rest of the small little zucchini dice so that at the end they will have different texture. Add also the second core half sliced up so it will melt inside the rice. Taste your rice and adjust with salt if needed. While getting toward the end of the cooking time, grab a skillet add a touch of oil; heat it up without making it smoke and drop in the rest of zucchini dice (if in season, it would be great adding the zucchini flowers finely chopped). Fry them nicely till they sizzle and get really crunchy. Meanwhile the risotto is ready so turn off the heat. Add (optional but great) some grated parmesan and wait till it melts with the rice. Take a piece of cold butter from the refrigerator and work it quickly in the risotto (this operation is called ‘Mantecare’). Serve the risotto in single dishes and, with the flat palm of your hand, beat underneath the plates to distribute and spread the rice evenly (never serve it all together into a bowl because rice will continue cooking turning into a sticky compound). Put the fried zucchini on top and in the center of each portion and sprinkle some leaves of fresh thyme or oregano if you have it handy. That’s it, sounds complicated but after a while everything will become automatic without thinking much about it. All you got to do is enhancing the 3rd ingredient flavor by using it in the initial sizzle, adding it to the broth, putting some of it along the cooking and finally make it show as a décor on top of the dish so your guest will know at a glance what your risotto is made with. It is not necessary doing things exactly like I said, this is not pastry making that needs perfect doses; just follow the concept, that is what counts at the end. I sometimes do things differently from time to time, but the method and the final goal stay the same.