Couple of Pairs – Risotto con Vino Rosso, Rosmarino e Cipolla Caramellata

As it was Valentine’s Day just about a week ago, maybe it is appropriate to talk about pairs in this post. I’m not actually sure if Italians really celebrate Valentine’s Day or whether it is one of those American things that was imported to all Europeans by romantic Hollywood movies and clever marketing people. Commercial, imported, Italian or not – I don’t really care though. As a more or less hopeless romantic, I welcome every opportunity in life to celebrate love and loved ones anyway!

Although Italians have the stereotypical reputation of being quite romantic, the Italian kitchen is traditionally less welcoming for pairing. You have your antipasto, primo and secondo all to be enjoyed as separate dishes. The only exception to this rule are contorni i.e. the side dishes. However, for proper Italian kitchen, pasta and risotto never qualify as contorni.

So maybe we shouldn’t tell this to any Italians, but when combining this risotto with our secondo of deer, we considered ourselves quite successful match-makers! In a risotto, a typical pair with the rice is white wine but also red wine can work fantastically well as in today’s recipe. As a result, the colour of this risotto also corresponds nicely with a loving mood.

Finally a third type of coupling worth mentioning is adding a nice little twist to a relatively simple dish such as this: the caramelized onions definitely take it to the next level of culinary love ❤

Risotto with Red Wine, Rosemary and Caramelized Onion

Serves 4

320 g Carnaroli rice (80 g per person)

1 onion (red or yellow)

15 g butter

2 small glasses of red wine

2 l of meat stock

2-3 tbsp parmesan

1 sprig of rosemary

salt, pepper

For the caramelized onion

½ middle-sized onion

1 knob of butter

1 tbsp cane sugar

1 small glass of red wine (the same as for the risotto obviously)

 

Peel and cut the onion into thin slices. In a pan, melt the butter (on a low heat) and the onion. Stir and cover the pan with a lid. Let the onion cook for several minutes until it is soft and transparent.

Add the rice and increase the heat. Toast the rice for a few minutes and stir continuously. Pour the wine into the pan and let it evaporate.

Lower the heat and add the rosemary and a few scoops of the meat stock, stir and cover the pan again with a lid. Repeat the steps of adding the stock and mixing the risotto until the rice is cooked. This takes about 18 minutes.

In the mean time, prepare the caramelized onion. Slice the onion thinly. Take another pan and melt some butter in it. Keep the heat low, add the onion, cover the pan with a lid and again let the onion cook for several minutes until soft. Add the wine and let it boil gently (thus reducing the amount of liquid). After a few minutes when the amount of wine has been reduced to about a half, add the cane sugar and mix well. Continue cooking for some additional minutes while ensuring that the onion doesn’t get too dry (you can add some wine in case it does).

Once the rice of the risotto is cooked (it should be a little bit  al dente) remove the sprig of rosemary, add one more scoop of the meat stock, the parmesan and a little bit more butter (to your taste). Stir well. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid and let it rest very shortly. Serve the risotto with the caramelized onion sprinkled on top.

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Cucina Spaintastica – Risotto al Limone e Gamberetti

It’s been quite a busy autumn.

But quite good too in many ways.

And I definitely haven’t forgotten about cooking and Italy.

Even when travelling to Spain this October, I scrolled my archives and Mr. Google for all sorts of Italian recipes. I thought cooking in Spain would be a fantastic opportunity to obtain all sorts of fresh ingredients that are difficult to find for Cucina Fintastica in Helsinki.

I was partially right. We were very intrigued by the wide range of fish and seafood. Maybe even a bit too much. We often ended up scratching our heads at our flat trying to figure out what we had actually bought and – assuming it was edible – how to prepare it. On the other hand, some ingredients were notably absent from the supermarkets. E.g. it was nearly impossible to find fresh chilli peppers and the assortment of herbs was very limited. I suppose that the absence of herbs is somewhat understandable when you think about the hot and dry terrain of Spain compared to many areas of Italy. I never did realise though that the Spaniards love their peppers red and sweet but not hot – unlike e.g. the Mexicans and Italians.

This Italian seafood risotto didn’t fortunately suffer from either of these supermarket limitations but instead flourished with the availability of fabulous fresh prawns. And you can certainly never go wrong with the culinary pairing of lemon and seafood!

Lemon and Prawn Risotto

Serves 4

juice of 1 lemon

zest of ½ lemon

1 onion

400 g shelled prawns

1 litre vegetable stock

350 g risotto rice (e.g. carnaroli)

40 g butter

½ glass white wine

salt, pepper, chives to your taste

Cook the prawns in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes and drain them. Peel and chop the onion. In a pan, melt 20 g butter and add the chopped onion. Gently fry it for some minutes until soft. Add the rice and toast it for a few minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and let it evaporate and be absorbed by the rice. Add the lemon juice. Start pouring the vegetable stock to the pan – one ladle at a time and (almost) continuously stirring the rice on a medium heat until the stock has been absorbed by the rice. Repeat until the rice is almost cooked. Add the lemon zest and the cooked prawns (a few minutes before the rice is completely cooked). Continue cooking with the vegetable stock until the rice is ready. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with chopped chives.

The Swiss Twist – Risotto all’Arancia

A food blog on Italian dishes in a Finnish kitchen would not have been feasible twenty years ago. Not only had the internet barely been invented and the most interesting log of the time was carried by a weird lady on Twin Peaks but also it would have been next to impossible to find half of the ingredients of the recipes in the Finnish supermarkets. Yet although in today’s Helsinki you can buy everything from carnaroli rice to organic Italian clementines, there are still some ingredients that require considerable effort to obtain or at least some creativity to substitute.

This recipe is from another Italian magazine – the Italian Elle. Their web pages contain quite an impressive range of delicious-looking dishes! The list of the ingredients for this risotto is quite short but yet long enough for my impatient (Italian) temper to miss one of them when shopping: the Taleggio cheese. I’m not sure if I have ever even tried this cheese in my life, and it certainly wasn’t available in my corner store where I dashed in the middle of cooking the risotto (don’t worry – I didn’t leave the stove unattended!). For substitute, I got some Swiss Gruyère and it worked quite nicely. The full flavour of the salty cheese is nicely balanced with the acidity and sweetness of the oranges. Based on my Google research, it seems that Gruyère wasn’t too far off from the Taleggio thingy either!

All in all, whilst I certainly appreciate the availability of Italian and other international food in Helsinki these days, I think it is also nice that not everything is imported. That way we still have room for some culinaristic (substitute) adventures at home, and some different flavours to look forward to when travelling!

Orange Risotto

Serves 4

2 organic oranges

1 leek finely chopped

olive oil

white wine

vegetable broth

100 g Taleggio cheese

parmesan cheese

Rinse the oranges and grate their zest. In a (non-stick) pan, gently fry the leek and the orange zest in some olive oil. Add the rice and roast the mixture for a few minutes. Pour in some wine and stir until the liquid has evaporated. Start gradually adding the broth and continue stirring to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. At the mid point of the cooking, add the juice of the oranges into the risotto, and a few minutes before the end of the cooking, the Taleggio (/ Gruyère/ whatever cheese you can find in your supermarket) diced. Season with salt, pepper and parmesan to your taste.