Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tomato Risotto with Spinach and Saffron

It's autumn. The breeze has turned crisp, the squirrels have begun the careful process of remodeling our lawn into an artful (from their perspective) and not-so-artful (from our perspective) treasure trove of random holes and buried nuts, and our fall quarter officially starts today. It is time, one might conclude, to transition from summertime tomatoes and cool salads to roasted root vegetables and warm autumnal soups.

Except that yesterday, it was 95 degrees in Sacramento, and it seemed like it would be deeply irresponsible to turn on the oven for an hour. Next week, maybe. For now, I'm still stuck on tomatoes.

14 oz chicken and/or veggie broth
2 pinches saffron threads
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, one pressed and one slivered
Olive oil
1 rounded cup Arborio rice
White wine
3 cups Aztec or baby spinach (or sub baby arugula)
2 cups or so cubed ripe tomatoes
1/2-3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
A few chives, for garnish

Combine the broth and saffron in a small pot. Cover, bring to a boil, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring, until it begins to smell sweet, then add the pressed garlic. Continue cooking for another minute or so.

Add the rice, and stir to coat the grains. Saute, stirring, for about 2 more minutes, then add a ladleful of wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, then begin adding the saffron-infused broth by the ladleful, stirring until each one is absorbed before adding the next. It usually takes about 20 minutes for a two-person risotto to cook (that time can increase quite a bit if you double the recipe), but it depends on how high your heat is and how often you stir.

When you have about three ladlefuls of broth left and rice is almost done but still just slightly crunchy on the inside, add about a third of the tomatoes to the risotto and stir to combine. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and the slivered garlic, and saute for a minute until it softens. Add the greens and a pinch of salt and stir a few times, then add the rest of the tomatoes. Saute for a minute or two until they are just warmed through, then turn off the heat.

When the rice is tender and you have about one ladleful of broth left, add about half of the sauteed tomato mixture to the risotto, stir gently to combine, and turn off the heat. Add a little more broth if necessary to get a creamy texture, stir in the cheese, and adjust salt to taste.

Spoon into bowls, top with the rest of the sauteed tomato and greens, and sprinkle with chives before serving.

Serves 2-3.

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