Risotto-Stuffed Tomatoes

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Recently I was browsing through a little cookbook I’d been gifted, Risotto, published by Williams-Sonoma.

It’s a sweet, unassuming cookbook, only 119 pages, published in 2002. The first chapter covers classic risottos, and following chapters discuss vegetable, meat, seafood, and even dessert risottos. It’s a great cookbook, especially if you’re a risotto virgin.

For me, risotto has never been a big deal. The main reason is that I’ve never been fearful of cooking. It’s not because I’m fearless, it’s because I was naïve!

When I began cooking regularly 40 years ago, I had no idea that certain recipes might be complicated or challenging. I just dove in head first and started learning and cooking.

Not to say that risotto is hard to make, because it isn’t. But yes, you have to give it some attention. And it involves standing at the stove for about an hour.

I know “quick and easy” meals will always be popular, but anyone can make an outstanding and satisfying dish like this mushroom risotto.

In this W-S cookbook I saw a recipe for baked risotto-stuffed tomatoes, and with my ripe garden tomatoes and herbs, I knew that this would be a really nice side dish for some grilled chicken, white fish, or even steak.

And, you can even use leftover risotto for this dish, instead of making risotto first.

Risotto-Stuffed Tomatoes
Slightly Adapted

6 ripe but firm tomatoes, about 8 ounces each
Salt
Risotto, freshly prepared or leftover
1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
Chopped fresh parsley
Chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8″ baking dish.

Cut the top off each tomato. With a small spoon, carefully scoop out the insides, leaving walls thick enough for the tomato to hold its shape.

Reserve the pulp.

Salt the inside of each tomato and turn them upside down on paper towels to drain for 5 minutes.

In a food processor, purée the tomato pulp until smooth. I used the processed pulp as part of my risotto liquid, and seasoned the risotto with dried sweet basil, salt, and white pepper.

The tomato purée added a lovely peachy hue to the risotto.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and garlic; set aside.

Put the tomatoes in the prepared dish and fill the tomatoes with the risotto, patting it down.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the tomatoes are softened, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the foil, and top the tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture.

Turn on the broiler and place the tomatoes 4″ from the heat source. Broil until the tops are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

Serve at once.

I sprinkled chopped parsley and a chiffonade of basil over the top of these stuffed tomatoes.

Cutting open a tomato was a delight, with the risotto’s fragrance emanating from inside.

Just a little salt and some cayenne pepper… or not.

This was perfection. And just to make sure the risotto-stuffed tomato was really good, I had a second one. But they would make a lovely side dish!

Crispy Beet Risotto

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My husband and I were dining with friends in Colorado recently, at a restaurant called Justice Snow’s in Aspen. It was quite bustling and busy, which means that for me, it was loud and everyone had to yell to be heard.

I was very excited about the menu, however, and without hesitation I ordered trout. Our friend ordered the roasted chicken served with crispy beet risotto, english peas, charred turnips, carrots, spiced yogurt, and ver jus.

While enjoying our cocktails, we talked at length about how the beets were prepared “crispy” in the risotto, but all of our profound thoughts were put to rest when he got his meal. The beet risotto was made crispy by frying it like a cake. Fortunately I got to taste it, and I knew then I wanted to make it at home.

It was especially tempting to recreate because I’ve never used beets in a risotto, and I thought I’d used about all vegetables, from carrots to pumpkin to zucchini and tomato. It’s probably because my husband doesn’t eat beets, and he’s the big risotto eater in our family.
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So here’s what I did. If you need a more complete risotto tutorial, check our my mushroom risotto. It’s similar to this one because it uses bits of things as well as special liquid – in this case – beet juice.
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Crispy Beet Risotto

Whole beets from a can, about 5-6 small
Reserved beet juice, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely choppped
1 1/4 cup risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White or red wine, about 1/3 cup
Chicken Broth, about 1 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Drain the whole beets and save the juice.

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Then finely chop the beets into bits and set aside.

Begin the risotto by heating the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes, then add the rice.

Stir well until all of the rice grains are coated with oil. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Adjust the heat so there’s simmmering but no burning. Then gradually add 1/4 cup or so of chicken broth and stir until it’s absorbed, and repeat with the remaining broth.

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At this point, add amount of beet juice that suits you; I used about 1/4 cup.

After a few minutes, add the beet bits.

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Continue to stir gently. Once just about alll of the liquid is absorbed, add the cream and cheese. Stir to combine, then set the risotto to cool slightly.

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The cakes can be made free-form, but I used a 3 1/2″ ring. Smaller cakes would be really pretty for a dinner party, because they could be re-heated.

Heat a little olive oil (or butter) to a flat skillet. Add some risotto to fill the ring and cook over fairly high heat to get the risotto crispy.

Gently turn over the risotto cake and brown/crisp the other side. This was much more difficult than I anticipated. Although I used a small amount of cheese in this risotto, it was probably still too much and created some sticking in the skillet.

I served the risotto cake with a filet of salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts, just for the spectacular colors!

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Just for fun I added a little Mexican crema to the risotto cake, and sprinkled some chopped chives on top.


In spite of my problems cooking the cakes, they cut into bite-sized pieces nicely, and were delicious.
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If you don’t want to bother making the cakes, I can honestly state that this is one of the best risottos I’ve ever made! And it’s not overwhelmingly beety.

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note: In my memory of our friend’s crispy beet risotto, I think the risotto “cake” was white, with bits of beets. What the chef probably did was omit the beet juice, and add the beet bits at the very last minute before crispig the cakes. Personally, I don’t mind the bright magenta color, and the beet juice probably added more flavor. But if you don’t want hot fuschia risotto cakes, do leave out the beet juice and use some more broth instead.

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Risotto with Bacon and Peas

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When I prepare meat, it’s usually for my husband.  I don’t dislike meat, I just prefer avocados, and fish.  I even eat tofu.  On a special occasion I will certainly enjoy a good filet with my guy, but it’s just too heavy for me.

So this lovely spring risotto with peas and a little bacon is a perfect meal for me.  For my husband it’s a side dish!

But however you eat it, it’s  a great risotto.  Make sure you use a really good bacon.
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Risotto with Bacon and Peas

8 ounces bacon, diced
3 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Heavy cream
8 ounces frozen petite peas, thawed
5-6 ounces grated Parmesan

Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet.

When it’s cooked, spoon it out of the bacon grease using a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the hot grease into a pot to make the risotto. Add the shallots and sauté them in the bacon grease until soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice until every grain is coated with the grease. Stir for about a minute.

Then add a big splash of wine and stir the rice until the wine is absorbed. Then proceed with adding a little of the broth at a time, always stirring until it gets absorbed by the rice.

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After adding all of the stock, add a little cream a few times and stir well.

After about 30 minutes, the risotto should be cooked and stop absorbing liquid. At this point stir in the peas, bacon and Parmesan. Stir gently to combine and let heat through.

 

Serve immediately. You can always serve extra Parmesan as well.

I used no seasoning in this risotto to let the flavors shine. But you should taste it for salt and pepper definitely.

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I added a tarragon sprig from my plant that has fortunately returned to my garden this spring.

If you want seasoning, I would recommend nutmeg or white pepper. Or both!
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Now doesn’t this look like a perfect spring meal?! With a little white wine of course!