Farmers Market Inspirations (from july 6, 2010)

Basil Risotto with Romanesco Cauliflower 

Few things are more inspiring than a trip to the farmers market during the summer months.  Last week was a particularly productive week in the kitchen.  (My husband was a very happy man with all the creations that found their way out of the kitchen!)  
One of our favorites was this simple but delicious (short grain brown rice) risotto.
There are many a purists who would deny that a short grain brown rice could ever be called “risotto”, but I invite said purists to a taste.  We might witness a sudden conversion in beliefs!

You’ll need:

6 cups vegetable stock (or water) 
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 cups short grain brown rice, rinsed (and if you think ahead, soaked overnight would be great!)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 head romanesco cauliflower, cut into small florets  
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chiffonade*
Sea salt and pepper to taste 

To make:

1. Bring vegetable stock to a boil and then lower to a bare simmer just to keep it hot.
2. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and add shallots and garlic. When fragrant and translucent, add rinsed rice and stir together to coat rice in oil.  Dry toast the rice until a nutty fragrance develops.
3. Add white wine and stir until thoroughly absorbed.
4. Add a ladle-full of stock (about 1/2 to 1 cup)  at a time to the rice and stir consistently until the stock is absorbed before adding more.  After the 4th cup or so, check for doneness and begin to season with salt.  (It will take a little longer and a little more love to develop a nice sticky (starchy) risotto:)
5. In the meantime, par-saute** the romanesco cauliflower florets in the remaining olive oil.  Season with salt.  It should take about 3-4 minutes.  Set aside.
6. When the rice is ready (al-dente), remove from heat and fold in the cauliflower and the cheese. Finally gently fold in the basil and sprinkle in some freshly ground pepper.
7. Garnish with small basil leaves and serve immediately. 
*chiffonade – a cutting technique that gives you long, thin strips of herbs and other greens. (Lay 6-7 basil leaves of the same size on top of each other and roll lengthwise.  Cut in thin strips and let them unfurl.)
**par-saute – similar to parboiling but sauteeing in some olive oil for added flavor.  You want the cauliflower to retain freshness and crunchiness.