July 19, 2006

Cooking Italian

About 8 weeks ago I embarked on a summer adventure. I began taking a local Italian cooking class with the continuing education program in one of our local colleges. Since I began I have made homemade pasta, purchased a pasta roller to continue to experiment at home, learned a variety of sauces from northern Italy and southern Italy, baked bread, pizza, focaccia bread and a harder dipping variety and sampled a plethora of cheeses. The best, by far though, was tonight. We made risotto!!! I have always been afraid of cooking the stuff but not any longer. Risotto is rice cooked slowly in a stock (beef, chicken, vegetable etc...) and stirred constantly until thick, creamy and soft (as in not al dente). We did the basic recipe and then tried some variations.

Here is the basic recipe

1 Tbsp. minced onion
1 Tbsp. butter
3.5 oz short grain white rice
about 2 cups stock (beef, chicken, vegetable - your choice)

Boil the stock and set it aside. Saute the onion in butter over medium low heat until translucent. Add the rice and mix thoroughly with the butter. Cook, stirring until a toasted aroma rises. Add one third of the stock to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed the stock. Repeat, adding the remaining stock in 2 more portions, allowing each to be absorbed before adding the next. Cook the risotto until the rice is tender but with a pleasing texture and most of the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste.

Variations

* Substitute 1/4 liquid with wine
* Use different stocks for different flavors
* Add any combination of fresh or frozen vegetables
* Add pre-cooked meats (grilled sliced beef, chicken, fish, tuna, salmon, etc...)
* Add fresh herbs at the end or dried at the beginning to the stock
* Add fresh sauteed or grilled diced vegetables
* Add a touch of cream or butter to make it smoother

Here is the one Jenn gave me to do for the class.

In place of the 2-3 cups of stock mix
1 cup coconut milk (in a can)
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water

follow the recipe only add this instead of the basic stock as you cook then chunk in a palm of curry powder. You can add salt and pepper to taste but I chose not to. You can also add chicken shredded, raisins, nuts and serve with a flat bread.

I WILL be making this one again and again!!!

It was FABULOUS!!!!!

Next week is our last week together and we are celebrating with pizza made in class and Tiramisu. It is gonna be good...

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