As I observed a couple of weeks ago when we talked about the wonderful mushroom soup I enjoyed in Slovenia, one of the best things about travel is coming home and trying to replicate the delicious dishes I enjoyed on the road.
I found one such dish during a visit to Northeastern Italy last autumn. A meatless risotto loaded with radicchio and onions, served at lunch at a little place called Ca dei Angeli near Villa Morin in Friuli Grave, it has earned a place on my short list of dinners good enough to make repeatedly. The bitter radicchio lettuce leaves just a trace of texture but loads of flavor as it melts into a wonderful bittersweet ingredient that permeates the creamy rice. (Note, by the way, that I'm using the dark-purplish-red radicchio here. I haven't quite figured this out, but sometimes in Friuli the same name seems to be used interchangeably for a more delicate green lettuce.)
Actually a traditional Veneto dish rather than Friulian (Villa Morin was the summer palace of a rich Venetian family), this was simple to re-invent and easy to make, provided you've mastered the risotto-making process as outlined in our first FoodLetter,
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
For the vegetable broth:
1 stalk celery
1/2 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
15-20 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 to 8 cups water
For the risotto:
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 120 grams) Arborio rice
1 large clove garlic
Dried red-pepper flakes
1 medium red onion
1 small head radicchio
1 1/2 ounces butter, olive oil or a combination
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or Friuli Montasio if you can find it)
1. First, make a quick vegetable broth. (You can use canned, or substitute water or even chicken broth if you don't care whether the dish is truly meatless, but this quick homemade broth is easy and delicious.) Peel the carrot and put it into a large saucepan or stockpot with the water. Add the celery, the onion (it's good to leave the skin on to add additional color to the broth), the garlic cloves (peeled and smashed), the peppercorns and the salt. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 30 minutes, and scoop out and discard the vegetables.
2. Mince the garlic and cut the red onion into thin rings. Shred the radicchio.
3. Heat the olive oil and/or butter in another large saucepan, then cook the minced garlic, sliced red onion and a discreet shake of dried red-pepper flakes in it until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not brown. Add the Arborio rice and stir until it's well coated and starting to toast; then make risotto in the usual way, stirring in liquid, a ladle at a time, stirring until most of it is absorbed, then adding a little more, continuing for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice is nearly done. For the last 5 minutes, stir in the radicchio and continue cooking until it wilts. Remove from heat, stir in the grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste and serve.
This is a remarkably "meaty" and filling vegetarian dish, the kind of meatless dish that nonetheless goes very well with robust red wines. We've particularly enjoyed it with Zenato 1998 Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa, a hearty wine with delicious forward dried-fruit flavors and slight bitterness that made an amazing match with the sweet and slightly bitter risotto. A similar bitter quality in the wine's finish really sang with the radicchio when we tried it again recently with the Boccadigabbia 1999 Rosso Piceno, a Chianti-style wine featured in yesterday's 30 Second Wine Advisor.Let us hear from you!
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Thursday, April 18, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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