Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Spring Strawberry Risotto

Despite all the rain (or because of all the rain, what do I know?), this year is great for strawberries; the Union Square market is swoony with the seductive scent of ripe, red berries. Sadly, those berries don't look nearly so good after the quart you impulsively bought has gone a bit sloppy--or even moldy--in the fridge. No one can drink that many strawberry margaritas.
Strawberry risotto is not, as far as I can tell, a recent invention. There is nothing fussy or fusiony about it. Nor, oddly enough, is there anything fruity. The taste is a bit vegetal, with a lingering memory of strawberry insinuating itself into the sauce. Light yet hearty, it is a perfect dinner for cool spring nights. I served the risotto with veal meatballs and a watercress-arugula salad, but it can certainly stand alone as a lighter vegetarian meal.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 shallots, chopped
1 cup strawberries, pressed down a bit
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 dry white wine, heated
3 or so cups chicken or vegetable stock, heated
Parmesan, grated
salt, black pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2 or 3 quart pot. Add the shallots. When they start to soften, throw in the strawberries. As they soften, squish 'em around. A potato masher is useful here. When the berries give off their liquid, add the rice, stirring until rice is nicely white and opaque. Lower heat to medium low. Pour in the white wine, stirring. When it is more or less absorbed, add some stock, 1/3 to 1/2 cup will do. Stir. (Note: You do not have to stir constantly; every couple of minutes will do. Go pet the cat, read a few pages , pour yourself a glass of wine, go back to the kitchen, stir, repeat.)
When the stock is absorbed, add more. Keep doing this until the rice reaches the texture you prefer; traditionally, there should be some "bite" in the middle. The degree of bite is up to you; I like it just a bit past discernible. The rice should be creamy, saucy, but not at all sloppy.
Add a handful of parm, salt if necessary, and a good grinding of black pepper. Serve with the rest of the wine, which I hope you remembered to put back in the fridge.

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I'm a ninth-generation Brooklyn native living in Manhattan.