Bright risotto brings in fall flavors
Risotto really is seriously simple to prepare, as long as you carve out some time to cook it. It’s actually relaxing to slow down and stir the ingredients. You can also make this a few hours ahead and finish it just before serving.
I like to serve this dish in the fall and use vegetables like zucchini and yellow or orange peppers.
This is a wonderful first course or light entree. When making a risotto, select superfino Arborio rice (which has plump, oval grains) that is high in amylopectin, a component of starch. It lends creaminess to the finished risotto, which is accentuated by the slow addition of liquid and constant stirring. Another unique feature of Arborio rice is the firm central core it retains when cooked, giving it a distinctive “al dente” texture.
Don’t wash the rice, because you’ll be washing away the starch that gives risotto its creamy character. I like to use a heavy pot with a handle so you can mix the risotto with one hand while holding the pot with the other. Make sure to keep the rice at a very low boil so that it cooks evenly and retains a creamy yet firm quality.
Indian Summer Risotto
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pound yellow and green zucchini squash into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Basil leaves and parsley leaves, for garnish
Extra Parmesan for passing
In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until softened and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the squash and saute for 3 to 5 minutes or until the squash is lightly browned and well coated. Add the pepper and saute another 3 minutes or until slightly softened. Cover and cook about 3 more minutes or until the peppers begin to wilt, stirring once or twice. Remove the top and increase the heat and remove all the excess liquid, about a minute more. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan bring the broth and wine to a simmer on medium high heat. (Or place in a large glass measuring cup and microwave for 2 minutes.)
In a heavy large saucepan heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the rice and stir well making sure that all the grains are well coated, about 2 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the hot broth and stir, using a wooden spoon, until all of the stock is absorbed. Continue adding the broth, 3/4 cup at a time, making sure that the rice has absorbed the previous stock, and always stirring to avoid burning or sticking. (It takes about 3 to 5 minutes between each addition.) The rice should have a very creamy consistency as you continue to add the stock.
Reserve the last 3/4 cup of broth and add it with the vegetable mixture, cooking on low heat for another 2 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. You many need to use a fork to mix the vegetables with the rice. Turn off the heat and add the chopped parsley, basil and Parmesan cheese and stir well to evenly combine with the rice. Spoon into shallow serving bowls and garnish with basil and parsley. Pass remaining Parmesan separately. Serves 6.
Advance Preparation: May be made through Step 4 up to four hours ahead. Cover and leave at room temperature. When ready to serve, go to Step 5 and then serve immediately.
Per serving: 319 calories; 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 34 percent calories from fat); 45 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 6 mg cholesterol; 702 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber.