Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Risotto Bianco and Autumn Whites

One of the obvious reasons that autumn is so beautiful is because of all of the color. But throughout this month I have also noticed a lot of incredible contrasting whites and blacks. I feel like it is the perfect time to capture at least one of the shades that tends to go unnoticed with all of the glory of the bright yellows and reds lighting up so many trees.

I realized this would also be the perfect time to try out a risotto recipe that I have had bookmarked for quite some time. Back in September I decided to make preserved lemons, but hadn't really any idea what to use them in when they were finished preserving.

Then I found this risotto recipe in a beautiful issue of Canal House Cooking.

Way back in August, I was so lucky to be able to attend a workshop hosted by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton of the Canal House (http://www.thecanalhouse.com/) They are such well known and accomplished figures of the cooking, food writing and photography world that I felt very privileged to be able to meet them and receive their tips and learn some of their techniques.

The workshop was very inspiring as are their lovely cookbooks. The issue in which the risotto recipe is featured is entitled La Dolce Vita. It outlines Hirsheimer and Hamilton's adventures and experiences with food while living in a farmhouse in Tuscany. It also offers images that give a feel for the Italian culinary culture that they discovered and far too many recipes that I want to try to recreate!

This recipe is very simple yet the flavor and texture of the risotto is wonderful. All of the recipes in La Dolce Vita seem to take foods in their most pure form and transform them into delicious dishes. I love recipes that really celebrate fresh ingredients in unique ways.

I am always amazed that risotto can seem so creamy and rich without any cream or milk. In this particular recipe I really enjoy the contrast of the bright flavor and fragrance of the preserved lemon and the slightly nutty rice. It is a great comfort dish yet it seems kind of elegant.

I don't know about you, but it is so hard for me to not be completely in love with autumn right now. As I am writing this post, I am sitting outside listening to the little birds flitting through the grape vines. A group of sand hill cranes, with their surreal beauty, just glided overhead, and the sun is filtering through the changing leaves, creating the perfect golden glow. What could be better than this?

Preserved Lemon

5 lemons
kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns

1. Soak the lemons in water for 2 to 3 days, changing water daily. Quarter them lengthwise, without cutting through the bases. Place 2 teaspoons of salt in the bottom of a preserving jar. Pack each lemon slice with more salt and place in the jar. Press them to release their juices. Distribute the spices between the lemon slices. Cover with extra lemon juice. Seal and let sit for at least 20 days. Shake the jar daily to distribute salt and juice. To use, rinse the lemons and discard pulp.

Recipe very slightly adapted from dazzling delightful delicious

Risotto Bianco with Preserved Lemon
makes about 4 servings

4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon rind
1 cup arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
salt and pepper

1. Fill a medium pot with about 5 cups of water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and keep the water hot.
2. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy deep saute pan over medium- high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir the preserved lemon rind into the onion then add the rice, stirring until everything is coated with butter.
3. Add  1/2  cup of the simmering water, stirring constantly, to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Push any rice that crawls up the sides back down into the liquid. When the rice has absorbed all of the water, add another 1/2 cup of water. Continue this process until you have added most of the water, about 20 minutes.
4. Taste the rice, it is ready when it is tender with a firm center. The fully cooked risotto should be moist but not soupy. Add the parmigiano and remaining 1 tablespoons of butter, and stir until it has melted into the rice.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Recipe from Canal House Cooking: La Dolce Vita  (volume No. 7) by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton


  1. I didn't realize risotto was gluten free :) good to know! I thought it was pasta for some reason.

  2. I love the idea of focusing on the unexpected of white this colorful time of year (and the eyes in those birch trees? -- awesome!). There are so many recipes that I want to try from that issue of Canal House -- like the Monte Bianco, speaking of white. Beautiful as always.

    1. Thanks again for the thoughtful words! I also have been really wanting to make the Monte Bianco. I think it would be great to try in December. When I was in Whole Foods recently, I saw some fresh chestnuts!