It seems strange when you are requested to make risotto in this blistering heat,but, you know what? It makes for great seasonal discoveries.
Risotto is not a recipe, it is a method of cooking rice. It takes patience, but it is an easy fix for last minute friends visits.
It was a traditional dish in Piedmont and all the northern area that cultivated rice at the end of 1700s, the Savoia family (the Italian kings) served it in their regal palazzi, but quickly became popular amond the all the population, of course rich people would use rich ingredients, but poorer people would literallyclean their pantry.
Think about it.
You are a contadino, working for the land's owner, and the main crop is rice. You have a little onion, some butter, cheese and broth, and of course your share of the crop. You can use all you have at hand, all you find, pick, hunt and grow. It an easy fix for everyone, fills a need, fill family bellies with little to nothing.
Today's version is enriched with the great smell of saffron, and fresh zucchini flowers.
Ingredients for 6 people:
300 gr -10 oz- zucchini, diced
400gr – 14oz- Carnaroli or Arborio rice (arborio is a substitute for Carnaroli)
5 or 6 zucchini flowers, shredded (optional)
50 gr -1/2 cup finely diced cured ham
One small onion, finely sliced
freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 litres – 2 pints- hot stock , good court bouillon GSM free, home made by just letting simmer one stalk of celery, one carrot and one onion, no salt, for half an hour.
Saffron –either in pre packaged quantities or in stems, in this case is ¼ tsp(optional)
Half glass white wine
Salt and pepper
Saute the onions in a knot of butter, sauté at a low flame until they are translucent. Add the diced zucchini, rise the flame and sauté until they are still al dente, add the ham and sauté for 5 more minutes.
Add the rice and stir well, stir continuously, sauté until it is translucent, it will take 2/3 minutes. This is essential for a good risotto, it permeates the grain with the fat used, and lets a gradual release of the starches, this will allow the production of a creamy risotto.
Add the wine and let evaporate -completely or it will have a bitter aftertaste, start to add the stock, lower to a medium/low flame, 2 ladles at a time, stir just enough to make sure that the liquid is evenly distributed, and let the rice absorbs the liquid, when the rice starts to stick to the pan, add two more ladles of stock, stir and get the rice off the bottom of the pan, and let it sit until it is absorbed, go on until the rice is almost done (usually carnaroli takes 17 min) add the saffron – if you want to use it-, previously diluted in a ladle of stock and the shredded flowers.
When rice is done add 2 more ladles of stock, one knot of butter and the cheese, stir vigorously for one minute, close with a lid and let sit for one or two minutes before serving.
When plating, put some shredded flowers on top, works both as decoration and for flavor.