Tag Archives: risotto

When celebrations are in order: an epochal ruling and a tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

The saying goes that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not completely agree. I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion as long as it is respectful and mindful of the fact that other people’s opinion may be different and – still – totally worthy to be expressed and listened to. Of course, the following opinion is on a subject that has been controversial for more that half century and it is mine (and Stefano’s) only. Feel free to agree or disagree and express your opinion in the comment section, but please do it respectfully.

This post is dedicated to those five revolutionary and extraordinary judges sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court that last week didn’t simply made same-sex marriage legal, they upheld its constitutionality. Their ruling which is now the law of the land is an epic point of no return and, at the same time, a dream-come-true for millions of people.

From now on no State will be able not to recognize to two people of the same sex their right to get married. It may seem natural and maybe even obvious to heterosexuals, but the Supreme Court’s ruling constitutes the dawn of a new era where homosexuals and heterosexuals have exactly the same right to marriage.

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

But that ruling is also the final coronation of a dream that has moved the heart of millions of people for several decades. People who have suffered and fought only to be granted the right to be considered equal to others.

For different reasons, today is considered the birthday of the United States. We think it is so special that the Supreme Court’s decision came out only a week before Independence Day.

A day of celebration of freedom in a country that has shown to be capable of listening to the voice of gay couples that have fought so long and so hard for their basic rights. A day of celebration of freedom in a country whose President has greeted this judicial decision by declaring that “love is love” and “this ruling is a victory for America”. A day of celebration of freedom in a country that has built its traditions and grandiosity on the basic yet fundamental concept that “all men are created equal” with certain unalienable rights such as “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness”.

I know that the Catholic raising of those who write this post should prevent us from feeling joyful for this epochal change, but we believe that respect for any human being and their basic civil rights is more important than any religious belief. We live supporting the simple concept that we are all created equal, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation and that’s the main teaching according to which we are raising Her Majesty.

Today we applaud those five courageous judges and this great country that we are proud to have been calling our home for the last ten years, hoping that other countries (including – shamefully – the one we were born and raised in) will follow suit.

Now, since today is a day of celebration and there cannot be a proper celebration without good food, let’s talk about it.

I served this delicious risotto for the first time three weeks ago to a couple that Stefano and I barely knew, despite their being the parents of Her Majesty’s best friend. I was a little bit nervous because the “She” of this couple is vegetarian and tries to avoid to eat gluten as much as she can, although on that special occasion she was willing to make a “gluten exception” because she thought that my cooking was worth it! ūüėŹ

Since I didn’t want her exception to be too big, I decided to make a risotto. ūüėĚ
I was lucky enough to put my greedy hands on some super juicy and super good-smelling tomatoes and I knew that I had to make a gorgeous sauce out of them.
The sauce pairs beautifully with the rice and the melted provolone, while parmigiano makes the risotto creamy and even more flavorful.

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
20 oz, fresh tomatoes
1/2 Cup, chopped red onion
5/6 leaves, fresh basil
2/3 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
Salt

Ingredients for the risotto:
1/4 cup, chopped white onions
1 Tbsp, butter
7 oz, Arborio rice
1/3 Cup, dry white wine
4 Cups, vegetable stock
2 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 Cup, shredded Provolone cheese
1 Tsp, dry oregano (optional)
salt

Directions for the tomato sauce:
Wash the tomatoes under running water. Remove the stem ends, cut them in halves and cut each half in 4 quarters.

In a medium non-stick pot, put the tomatoes, the onions, the basil leaves and some salt (to taste) and cook on a low heat for a couple of hours, stirring often, or until you obtain a sort of tomato mixture (the water from the tomatoes must almost completely evaporate).

Run the tomato mixture into a foodmill, place the tomato sauce back on the low heat and simmer for about 10/15 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the olive oil on the sauce.

Directions for the risotto:
In a medium-size non-stick pot, put the butter and the chopped onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add two ladles of stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. When the stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock.

About 10 minutes after the first addition of stock, add the tomato sauce.

Keep cooking, constantly stirring, and add the rest of the stock little by little until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente. This will take about 18/20 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. Taste the rice to check if it is necessary to add some salt.

Remove the pot from the heat, add three quarters of the Provolone cheese and the Parmigiano cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted and you obtain a creamy risotto.

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Provolone cheese and, if you like so, some oregano.

We wish you all a glorious 4th of July weekend! ūüôā

Francesca Xx

P.S. “She” didn’t say a word about the risotto during the dinner but I must have done something right that night because a few days later – to celebrate an exciting event that is happening right now in my life – she left a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the bench in front of our house. ūüôā

Unexpected acts of kindness do not happen to me very often and I think they should be treasured, rewarded and immortalized somehow. That’s why I asked Stefano to make those flowers last forever. Curious enough – or maybe not – the colors of the flowers are those of the Star Spangled Banner – the American flag! ūüėć

Red, Blue and White flowers

Red, Blue and White flowers

 

A haunting memory: apple and speck risotto

Apple and speck risotto2 Servings

Have you ever happened to go to a restaurant or a dinner party and eat something that “shocked” your taste buds so much (in a positive way, I mean)¬†that the memory of that dish has been haunting you ever since? That’s exactly what happened to me a few Christmases ago.

We were spending our holiday vacation in Courmayeur, a gorgeous ski resort located in Val d’Aosta, a mountainous region¬†in northern Italy, at the foot of the¬†Mont Blanc. One evening, famished after an entire day of skiing, we were enjoying dinner at one of the lovely restaurants in town. After carefully reading the menu, my father announced that he was going to order the apple and speck risotto. Just the idea sounded really promising and intriguing. We were not disappointed. The contrast between the tastiness¬†of the speck (a type of¬†dry-cured, smoked ham)¬†and the sweetness of the apple was a match made in heaven!!!

I’ll never forget that risotto. The “version” that we tasted was made with Granny Smith apples,¬†but the original recipe, that originates from¬†Trentino Alto-Adige, another region in northern Italy, actually¬†calls for Golden Delicious¬†apples that are extensively¬†grown in that¬†region.

I have been meaning to make this risotto for quite some¬†time and, eventually, I felt “inspired” to give it a try. Hauted by the memory,¬†I decided to use some Granny Smith apples (which, by the way, are my favorite kind of apples) but feel free to use the kind of apples you like the most.

I’m really happy of how this risotto turned out. We¬†all¬†loved¬†it so much that¬†it has now¬†found a regular place on our table. Here is the recipe –¬†hopefully, you will love it too!

Apple and speck risotto

Ingredients:

1 cup, peeled Granny Smith apple cubes
2 slices of speck, 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup, chopped onions
1 and 1/2 Tbsp, butter
7 oz, Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/2 cup, dry white wine
4/5 cups, beef stock
2 and 1/2 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
salt
pepper

Directions:

Cut up the speck into bits.

In a small pot, put the apple cubes, pour 1/4 cup of wine, add a ladle of beef stock and cook, on a very low heat, for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium-size non-stick pot, put 1 Tbsp of butter and the chopped onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the rest of the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add the speck bits and two ladles of beef stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. When the beef stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock.

About 10 minutes after the first addition of stock, add the apple cubes along with their cooking liquid.

Keep cooking, constantly stirring, and add the rest of the stock little by little until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente. This will take about 18 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. Taste the rice to check if it is necessary to add some salt, bearing in mind that the speck is pretty salty in and of itself.

Remove the pot from the heat, add 1/2 Tbsp of butter and stir until the butter is completely melted. Then, add 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and stir until you obtain a creamy risotto.

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the parmigiano cheese and some pepper.

And while you enjoy your risotto… Stefano and I wish you all a very happy Halloween! ūüôā

Saffron "Milanese" Risotto – Recommended Wine Pairing (and a bit of trivia re Tocai)

Blason, Friuli Isonzo Friulano "Casa in Bruma" DOCSo, yeah, I’m still in catch-up mode with my wine pairing recommendations… Sorry if it took me a while, but here we go: these are my suggestions¬†in terms of what to pair with Francesca’s wonderful Saffron Milanese Risotto (which, incidentally, is one of my¬†favorite risotto’s!)

To complement this luscious dish, you should pick a wine with good acidity, fairly intense aromas and flavor, noticeable minerality and decent structure, as in a medium-bodied wine.

Based on the above, I am going to recommend a Friulano wine, from the Italian Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Before we go to the actual recommendations, however, let’s just say a few words about this wine, including a bit of trivia ūüôā

Friulano is the relatively new name for the grape variety that used to be known as Tocai. The change in name was due to the outcome of a dispute before the European Court of Justice that in 2005 prohibited Italian winemakers, starting March 2007,¬†from using the word Tocai to identify their wines or grape varieties, on the grounds that the use of the word “Tocai” by the Italians could be confusing with the very famous (and delicious!) Hungarian sweet botrytized wineTokaji“, which is a word that started being used to identify such wine before anyone else used any similar term, including Tocai in the Friuli and Veneto regions of Italy. Incidentally, note that in Hungary “Tokaji” is only the name of the wine, not that of the prevalent grape variety it is made of, which instead is called Furmint.

Ronco del Gelso, Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte Friulano "Toc Bas" DOCAs a result of the aforesaid European Court of Justice decision (and despite, let me note, Italian Tocai being a dry white wine and therefore completely different from Hungaian Tokaji, which is a sweet wine), Italian authorities and Tocai producers from the two affected regions (Friuli and Veneto) needed to come up with a different name to call their own grapes and the wine made out of them.

In one of the best examples of Italian bureaucracy at its finest, a decision was made to call the same grape variety¬†in two different ways: “Friulano” in the region of Friuli and “Tai” in the region of Veneto. As if being required to drop the Tocai designation altogether had not brought enough confusion in the market… ūüôĀ

Regarding Friulano (or Tocai) as a grape variety, DNA profiling has shown that it is identical to Sauvignonasse, an old white-berried grape variety that originated in the Gironde region of France and that (despite what the name would make you think) is not related to Sauvignon. Sauvignonasse vines were brought to the North-Eastern Italian region of Friuli in the XIX century where it was given the name Tokai, which later on muted into Tocai, in the first quarter of the XX century (information on the grape varieties, cit. Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, HarperCollins 2012).

Vigne di Zam√≤, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano "Vigne Cinquant'anni" DOCLet’s now focus on a few recommendations of quality Friulano wines that you may consider pairing with a saffron Milanese risotto (all of the options below are varietal wines, made of 100% Friulano grapes):

  • Blason, Friuli Isonzo Friulano “Casa in Bruma” DOC, with aromas of peach, almond and minerals
  • Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano DOC, with a bouquet of citrus, almond, herbs¬†and minerals
  • La Tunella, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano DOC, with aromas of white flowers, pear, almond and mineral hints
  • Le Vigne di Zam√≤, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano “Vigne Cinquant’anni” DOC, with a wonderful¬†bouquet of apple, citrus, tropical fruit and minerals
  • Ronco del Gelso, Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte Friulano “Toc Bas” DOC, with aromas of white flowers, peach, apricot, almond, hazelnut¬†and mineral hints.

As usual, if you get to try out any of these wines, let us all know how you liked it by dropping a comment below!

Cheers!

Saffron "Milanese" Risotto

Francesca's Safron Risotto

2 Servings

Every time I make risotto for my American friends they look at me¬†like I’m serving them some kind of magical concoction. ¬†ūüôā ¬†It is instead a very simple dish to make and these are the reasons why I decided to publish this recipe:

1. Once you master the making process of this risotto (which I personally consider to be the basic one) you will be able to make any risotto. You can unleash your imagination in terms of ingredients and be as creative as you can.

2. I’m very fond of this risotto. My mother used to make it for us¬†when I was a child (although it belongs to the Milan cuisine¬†tradition). During the time that I spent working and living in Milan,¬†I think I ate tons of saffron risotto in restaurants and households.¬†Nowadays, famous master chefs are reinventing this wonderful¬†dish by adding ingredients or changing the process, making you believe¬†that they are revealing you the secret of the Holy Grail (and, of¬†course, asking you an outrageous amount of money for such revelation!)¬†This is something that I personally condemn. What’s wrong about continuing to cook a dish the traditional way, when the original recipe has been perfect for centuries? Thank goodness, there are still old¬†trattorie in Milan that go way back and still serve you the real¬†thing, letting your palate experience¬†something unique.

3. There is a legend about the creation of this dish that is so lovely and¬†amusing that I think it is worth sharing. It was 1574 and the Duomo in¬†Milan was being built. A group of Belgian glass makers, under the¬†direction of their master, Valerio of Fianders, were working on the¬†stain-glass windows representing episodes of the life of St.¬†Elena.¬†One of Valerio’s apprentices was known for his ability to make¬†wonderful colors. His secret? He used to add some saffron to the color¬†mixture creating amazing chromatic effects.¬†On September 8, 1574 the wedding of the daughter of master Valerio was being celebrated. This apprentice (some say as a joke, some say as a¬†gift to the bride) came up with the idea of adding some saffron to the¬†risotto that was going to be served during the nuptial meal. The¬†result? The yellow risotto was a hit among the guests and this classic¬†of the Milan cuisine was created.

Now, I could keep going telling you about the history of rice, how and¬†when rice arrived in Italy and how it was cultivated, but I think I’ll¬†stop here because this post is getting longer than a chapter in a Tolstoy book ūüėČ

Let me just tell you a couple of things before we get down to the recipe.

First, the kind of rice. The best kind of rice to make risotto is¬†carnaroli rice (which along with arborio rice and vialone nano rice¬†are the most common rice varieties that are used in making risotto). The best¬†brand of carnaroli rice is called Acquerello. Easy to find? Not at¬†all! Not even in Milan. I had to go to the “jewellers” (that’s what I¬†call the very expensive grocery stores in Milan like Peck at Via¬†Spadari) to buy the famous Acquerello round metallic box. Bottom¬†line? I usually use the less expensive and easier to find arborio rice.

Second, the original recipe calls for beef marrow. Again, not easy¬†to find… even in Italy. I used to order it from my butcher in¬†advance. So if you happen to put your lucky hands on some beef marrow,¬†just remember that you have to cut it off into small pieces and cook¬†it along with the shallot before adding the rice.

Francesca's Safron RisottoIngredients:

1/2 shallot
1 and 3/4 of 1 Tbsp, butter
5.5 oz of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 and 1/2 cups of beef stock
1 sachet of powdered saffron
2 and 1/2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese
salt

Directions:

Finely mince the shallot. In a medium-size non-stick pot, put 1 Tbsp¬†of butter and the minced shallot and cook, over low heat, until the¬†shallot softens.¬†Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. We say that we¬†“toast” the rice.¬†Pour the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add two ladles of beef stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. Bear in mind that the stock must be very hot, otherwise cold stock will prevent the rice from cooking. When the beef stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of hot stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock. About 9 minutes after the first addition of stock, separately melt the powdered saffron in a little stock and add it to the cooking rice.

Keep cooking, constantly stirring, and add the rest of the stock little by little until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente. This will take 18 to 20 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. When you are about to remove the pot from the heat, taste the rice and salt if necessary.

Remove the pot from the heat, add 3/4 of 1 Tbsp of butter and stir¬†until the butter is completely melted. Then, add 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of¬†Parmigiano cheese and stir until you obtain a creamy risotto – we say¬†that the risotto must make “waves” ūüôā

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Parmigiano cheese.

Just a couple of extra suggestions before I leave you.

You can replace the shallot with onion. The cooking process is exactly the same as described above.

If you are using saffron pistils as opposed to powdered saffron, put the pistils in some hot stock. With the help of a strainer, drain the stock and add it to the rice. Set the pistils aside. When the risotto is ready to be served, add the pistils on top of the plate as a garnishment.

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Shrimp CocktailHere we go! Christmas Eve… for my family, it is even more important than Christmas Day. We have been talking about this night for weeks. We have invited friends, my mom and I have decided the table setting and selected the dishes and Stefano has chosen the bubbly and the still wines for tonight.

My parents brought delicious treats from Rome and Stefano brought traditional sweets from Milan and Genoa.

To make you understand how much work and planning went into the preparations for this magical night and to give you a flavor of an Italian Christmas Eve, we decided we would share with you the pictures of some of the food that will be served. We follow the Catholic tradition, so you won’t see any meat around!

Smoked Salmon CrostiniWe’ll start with a shrimp cocktail, some eggs au gratin, a broccoli quiche, a potato frittata, smoked salmon crostini, blue cheese puffs with fontina sauce and cauliflower au gratin. With these, Stefano is going to serve a Ferghettina, Franciacorta Brut DOCG S.A., a Classic Method Italian spumante aged 24 months on its lees.

We’ll continue with spaghetti with clams and a truffle risotto. Afterwards, we’ll serve branzino fillets with vegetables. The wines that Stefano paired with these main courses are an Argiolas, Vermentino di Sardegna Costamolino DOC 2011 and a Vigneti Massa, Colli Tortonesi Timorasso Derthona DOC 2009 for the truffle risotto.

Black TrufflesFor dessert, we’ll have some fruit (grapes and cherries) and lots and lots of sweets: panettone (a traditional Christmas sweet bread loaf originally from Milan), pandolce (a traditional Christmas cake from Genoa), dried figs, chocolate-coated torrone and chocolate torrone with hazelnuts that my mom bought in Vatican City, marrons glac√©s from Cova (one of the most famous patisseries in Milan), chocolate orangettes, marzipan fruits and chocolates, all hand-made, from Viganotti (one of the oldest and best chocolate stores in Genoa, who make all their chocolate and marzipan masterpieces in the workshop adjoining the store, using only the best, freshest ingredients: if you are ever going to be in Genoa make sure you pay them a visit – you will not regret it). With the dessert, Stefano is going to serve Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG, a Charmat-Martinotti Method spumante, and for the chocolate a Lustau, Pedro Ximenez Sherry San Emilio – Solera Reserva DO.

Collection of Christmas sweetsHopefully, after all this food and wine, we are still going to function! ¬†ūüėČ

Chocolate-coated torrone, chocolate torrone with hazelnuts and marrons glac√©sAll of us at Flora’s Table wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas! May Santa make your dreams come true tonight!!!Milanese panettone with chocolate-dipped orange wedges