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Northern Italians like their risotto green.

THE SATISFYING foundation for this spring main dish, typical of what home cooks serve in northern Italy, is creamy risotto. The rice balances the delicate taste of asparagus against the contrasting, slightly bitter flavor of a less well known green, rapini.

Italian cooks prize rapini (also called broccoli rabe) for its intriguing bite. But unless you've looked specifically for the green, you may not have noticed it, even if it's in your market. Rapini looks like skinny, leafy broccoli, with tiny green flower buds at the tips of its multiple stalks, and is easily confused with widely available Chinese broccoli. Because Chinese broccoli has similar flavor and cooks at the same rate, you can use either green in this dish.

It takes very little effort or time to create a menu around risotto to serve for either lunch or a light supper. Here is one easily managed plan.

Offer amaretti (the petite version of the crunchy, purchased Italian almond macaroons) with strong coffee and, if you like, bowls of fresh strawberries.


Italian Greens Risotto Green Salad Dry Sauvignon Blanc or Orvieto Amaretti Espresso

Although the main dish is designed to combine tepid whole vegetables and hot risotto, you can easily present it with both elements hot. Put risotto and vegetables on a microwave-safe platter; heat on full power (100 percent) until vegetables are just hot, 2 to 3 minutes.

Italian Greens Risotto

3/4 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off 3/4 pound rapini (broccoli rabe) or Chinese broccoli (gai laan), tough stem ends trimmed off and yellowed leaves discarded 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 large (about 1/2-lb.) onion, finely chopped 1 cup short- to medium-grain white rice such as pearl or arborio 3 cups regular-strength chicken broth 1/2 cup dry white wine l cup (1/4 lb.) shredded parmesan cheese

Rinse and drain asparagus and rapini (cut in half lengthwise stems that are thicker than 3/8 in.). Chop or thinly slice half the asparagus and rapini.

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, combine sliced asparagus, chopped rapini, and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir until vegetables are just tender to bite, about 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1/2 cup water and whole asparagus and rapini to pan. Cover; cook, turning vegetables often with a wide spatula, until just tender to bite, about 4 minutes. Lift from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, combine remaining oil and onion; stir often until onion is faintly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add rice and stir until it is opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in broth and wine and bring to a boil. Boil rice gently, uncovered; stir often until tender to bite, 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat and stir often to develop creaminess, about 5 minutes. Stir in chopped vegetables and 1/2 cup cheese. Spoon onto a warm platter. Add whole vegetables; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Per serving: 296 cal. (40 percent from fat); 13 g protein; 13 g fat (4 g sat.); 33 g carbo.; 359 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.
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Title Annotation:recipe
Author:Bateson, Betsy Reynolds
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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