Thursday, January 28, 2010

Diario dell Cucina~Risotto alla Zucca

One of the lasting memories I have from my visit to my brother and his family who live in lovely Tuscan village overlooking Florence, is the food. That inspirational memory is due in large part to the culinary proficiency of my sister-in-law, Shandra. I was in awe of what she could whip up in her typically small European kitchen--if I remember correctly you can't open the dishwasher and the refrigerator at the same time--or something like that!

Shandra says that cooking traditional Italian food has for her been a window into the culture and she once shared a story with me which illustrated the the care and concern Italians show for the quality of their food: she was summoned to the primary school which her boys attended for a very important parents' meeting. The topic under discussion and even debate: the quality of the pasta the children were receiving for school lunch.

I've requested recipes from my sister-in-law in the past so I was very pleased when she began posting her kitchen notes on Facebook, and then her recipes at Diario della Cucina. Last week, thanks to Shandra's risotto tutorial, I made my first risotto, Risotto alla Zucca (Pumpkin). I had long wanted to try making risotto, but had heard that it was a fussy dish, easily ruined. Shandra's About Risotto post primed the pump and and when she posted her Pumpkin Risotto recipe, I went shopping.

With the cost of imported foods in Jordan, risotto will not become everyday fare, but it was a delicious treat. Per Shandra's instructions, I made sure to release all my stress before begining so that it wouldn't be absorbed by the risotto. (I think it's like pie crusts sensing hesitancy and fear.) I even made Artist Son stop practicing his drums ("The risotto absorbs the stress? What??) and turned on some YoYo Ma for stirring to.

Risotto alla Zucca
(served in a bowl I purchased with the help of my sis-in-law in a Florentine market)

Making the risotto was not difficult and the results were delicious. My children had never before eaten risotto but they all liked it, especially my Carbo Kid (Active Son) and Tayta; "This is better than mac and cheese!" I made my brodo, or chicken stock, to be used in making the risotto, early in the day and then I roasted the already boiled chicken in the oven to serve with the risotto, first topping it with an impromptu tomato-leftover-handful-of-fresh-basil-clove-of-garlic sauce I made in the blender. I also drizzled the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled it with a little sea salt.

nota bene: quantites for butter and parmesan cheese: 3 T butter and 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (though I used Grand Padano as it is more readily available to me).

Next up: Tuscan Beans and Ribollita


Jodi said...

"Better than macaroni and cheese" - high praise, indeed! Loved the post - was both funny and informative. Looking forward to checking out your sister's blog. And thanks Melissa for bringing some refreshment back in to my kitchen.

Laura A said...

Thanks for posting your sister-in-law's blog. It looks yummy and it will helps us get into the spirit of la cucina italiana, as we are strongly considering a trip to Tuscany this summer--music camp, what else?

There are great risottos for every season, and everyone in our family seems to like them too! I bet you could make this one with butternut squash, too (since that's what we have around here at the moment).

Shandra said...

Just getting caught up on your blog and of course loved this post! What a complement, better than mac and cheese!! Makes me miss you guys.