Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I'm strong to the finich cause I eats me spinach!

Bring your family and friends to the table with this lovely spinach risotto that would make Popeye proud.  Yes, I know another recipe from Jamie Oliver, but trust me -- you will be so glad I've given it the spotlight it deserves.  Hey, look at these guys- Popeye, he's winking at you, he knows you want a bowl of this creamy goodness and well -- Jamie with his sly smile knows he has hit a home run with this dish. 
My husband and I have Italian mothers who are great cooks.  As a result we both learned how to cook many of the traditional dishes, and I guess you could say we're a little on the cocky side when it comes to cooking and evaluating this cuisine.  I have my dishes that I do well, as does my husband.  For instance, I can make a mean gnocchi while my husband excels at risotto.  I had never had risotto until I met my husband and wondered how my mother could have overlooked this wonderful dish during my childhood.  After a few years of enjoying my husband's risotto, I got it into my head that I could do it too.  But this was his dish and so he has always put me off when I asked him to show me how to make it.  Well not a problem, I thought. That’s what cookbooks are for, right? 
I decided to try the one from Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters.  It is a children's book so I figured if a child could make it, I could too.  It's a basic straightforward recipe and a great one to start with if you have never made the dish.   But there are many other cookbooks with great instructions for making this dish.  You could also try- Lidia's Italian Table by Lidia Bastianich (page 153) or Make It Italian by Nancy Verde Barr (page 196).
I've been making this dish for a while now, and I think it tastes as good as my husband's. But I could never get him to admit this until I made Jamie Oliver's version from, Cook With Jamie, My Guide to Making You a Better Cook.  I will never forget the day and time he agreed that my risotto is as good as his. So I plan to make this version repeatedly so my husband knows he is living with a risotto master. 
Spinach and Goat's Cheese Risotto
Start by first making the spinach part of the recipe and then hold it off to the side while you make the risotto.  Then add the chopped spinach after you finish cooking the risotto.  
 Spinach part of recipe
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
nutmeg, for grating
5 oz of spinach, washed and dried (You can use more if like, I tend to use 10 oz since the spinach cooks way down, just saute with a little more oil.)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 handful of grated parmesan cheese
1/2 lemon
4 oz of soft goat's cheese crumbled

1) In a saucepan heat 1 tablespoon of butter,  2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic and a good grating of nutmeg. When the butter is melted add the spinach.
2) Cook for 5 minutes, moving it around in the pan until it's wilted down. 
3) Finely chop or whiz the spinach in a food processor and season with salt and pepper.  Now start the "basic risotto recipe" found below.

Basic Risotto Recipe
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion peeled and finely chopped
optional 2 sticks of celery trimmed and finely chopped
2 cups of Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1 cup vermouth or dry white wine

1) Bring to simmer the stock in a saucepan.
2) In a large pot add olive oil, butter, onion, and if using celery and cook gently for about 15 minutes until onion is soft, but without letting it develop color.
 3) Add rice, it will sizzle.  Turn up the heat and stir until the rice is well coated with the oil, butter & onion.
 4) Pour in the vermouth or wine. Keep stirring all the time until it has evaporated.
 5) Add the stock to the rice.   Only one ladle at a time, stirring frequently and waiting until it has been fully absorbed before adding more stock.  The heat should be at a low simmer so the rice doesn't cook too quickly.  Continue adding ladlefuls of stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite.  If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.   This process will take about 15 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the rice, it should hold its shape, but be soft, creamy and oozy.
6)  Stir in your chopped spinach into the rice.  Then stir in 2 tablespoons butter and the Parmesan cheese.  Squeeze in the juice from 1/2 of the lemon.  Check the seasoning and add some salt and pepper if needed.  
Put a lid on the pan and let the risotto rest for a minute, before folding in the goat's cheese.  For a nice presentation- add a sprinkle of lemon zest and goat's cheese to the top of each serving.
7) And now as Jamie says, "tuck in" and enjoy!

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