Rice

Risotto with Red Wine from Vis

Our stay on the island of VIS (in Dalmatia, Croatia) started with a bottle of red wine from the Plavac grape variety, typical of this island, that the owner of the apartment brought as a welcome gift.

A light in Lucio’s eyes twinkled, because we had agreed to abstain from any form of alcohol during your stay. Of course, you could not say no to this gesture, so he tasted it and I decided to find a way to use it in a recipe so he would not drink too much. (I realize that this reasoning may sound ridiculous for a single bottle of wine, but sometimes I am a bit of a fundamentalist.

Since Lucio likes risotto so much, I thought I’d use it and try a red wine risotto. The result was positive and so he forgave me for having used his bottle. This wine is full-bodied, aromatic wine, with an alcohol content of around 15°. You can use a Barolo wine, or a Sardinian wine, or another with similar characteristics.

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Tomato Risotto

I tried this rice many years ago while camping with my classmate Carla. I was struck by the simplicity of its execution and its deliciousness. Carla said, “This is a typical dish suitable for camping and for those who do not want to cook like me!” I make it often in the summer and every time I taste it I remember that first bite.


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Risotto of Flowers

Rice is an excellent accompaniment to all kinds of vegetables and helps you prepare, for a very low cost, a complete single dish that nourishes and provides great satisfaction to the palate. In my family, risotto was always on the weekly menu in all seasons. Rice provides an infinite number of variations, as many as are vegetables and the imagination of the cook. This risotto pairs together the ingredients that I found today in my garden, but that can be found throughout the summer at the grocery store. Zucchini flowers, borage flowers, and the stamens of crocus flowers (saffron) are the characteristic elements of this dish.

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Risotto with Hazelnuts and Fennel

Fennel is a valuable asset for our health especially in winter when the variety of vegetables decreases. The risotto that I propose was invented when I had a craving for rice and little time to make it. I thought I’d add toasted hazelnuts that with their caloric intake can transform a risotto with vegetables into a main dish. This preparation amazed my family who found it unusual but very delicious.


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Rice and Potato Soup

This soup is a classic dish of peasant cooking from Friuli. We have different opinions about its goodness in my family. I personally find it delicious, from the very first spoonful it makes me feel warm and I feel safe at home. Every time that I announce that I’m making this soup my husband snorts, but then after he’s eaten it he promptly says “this was good,” my son hates it, and Colleen who loves soups and stews always finds it delicious.

If you have not already tasted this soup, you should give it a try.

It can be a complete meal for a dinner when the evenings are cool and can be the base for numerous variations with various ingredients such as onions, beets, spinach and other vegetables according to personal taste.


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Volcano

When my son was small he didn’t show any interest in food. All his thoughts and energies were devoted to games. Therefore I always tried to invent new solutions to stimulate a little curiosity in food. I believe that only curiosity gives some children reasons to approach food especially when the stimulus of hunger is not present. I used a lot of the stories and presented the dishes as if a little bird told the tale. When my cousin Stefania asked me to work on some stories to match the recipes I found it easy to draw from the archive of the stories my memory holds from that period of time. This dish contains everything needed for a complete meal.


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Spring Risotto with Wild Hop Shoots

Yesterday morning I woke up very early to take a walk in the fields behind my house. While walking along the bank of the river that runs through the countryside, I found the first hop shoots. Although I had to go to work, I lingered for a little while and collected these tasty herbs to make a risotto. My family uses “urtisons”, as they are called in local dialect, and this tradition of collecting them happens every spring.

We mainly are familiar with hops because they are an ingredient used to make beer (the bitterness balances the sweet malt and its juice has antibacterial properties suitable for encouraging conservation). Few people know that these shoots grow plants that are known to climb 7-8 yards providing unusual pom-pom like buds.

The risotto that I have created mixes in beet greens to make things a bit sweeter. If you like the taste and aroma of hop shoots you can use them alone.

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Pumpkin Risotto with Basil

In Italian cuisine you often find pumpkin combined with sage and rosemary. During a holiday some years ago, I tasted some pumpkin gnocchi served with butter and basil. I really enjoyed the pairing, and as usual, when I returned home I began to experiment.

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