I spent a little over a year of my life in Rome, Italy, so Italian cuisine is close to my heart and always brings a mixture of comfort and nostalgia. Nine months of my time in Rome were spent at the Emmanuel School of Mission, a Catholic program run by the Emmanuel Community. The twenty students of the school lived in a building called the ‘Domus’ and we ate lunch and dinner together almost every day. Our meals were prepared by a huge-hearted woman named Rosa who took each student under her wing as her adopted son or daughter. Rosa was a genius at preparing daily meals (for 25-30 people!) that were delicious, nutritious, and always included pasta, a protein, veggies and fruit. She believed that if one’s diet is full of fruits, veggies and ‘real food’ then there is no need for vitamins or additional supplements and that sickness will be rare. Rosa prepared many dishes that I loved but one of my favorites was a pumpkin risotto that I often think of fondly. The risotto recipe that we prepared is a homage to Rosa’s ideology and is summer comfort food at it’s finest.
The base of rich and creamy risotto is enhanced by the addition of shrimp, asparagus and mushrooms. The parsley and citrusy lemon zest brighten the dish while the addition of a dash of red pepper flakes gives just the right amount of heat.
This simple dish will leave you longing for Italy…whether you’ve ever lived there or not!
I failed. I was supposed to create a logo for this homemade white wine but have simply not gotten around to it. I blame vacation, work, the Bachelorette and the Olympics for this wine’s lack of a logo and name. What this wine lacks in identity, however, it makes up for in flavor. This wine was truly a success of our nascent wine-making careers…it is a perfect level of dryness while offering fruit flavors of citrus and sour apple. The citrus notes of the wine heightened the lemony flavor in the pasta and the light and dry body of the wine cut through the rich texture of the risotto. Of course, I’m not biased at all!
As a Belgian style Witbier, Woody Creek was a great pairing with our Risotto! The orange peel, coriander spices, and naturally floral yeast were a great compliment to the citrus flavors and asparagus of the risotto but light enough to cut through the thick body of the dish. At a 4.8% alcohol content and light body it is also a great session beer on a hot summer day. Overall, this is a very solid brew that I would recommend to anyone looking for a witbier and it is a local brewery too boot!
(Makes 4 (main course) or 6 to 8 (side dish) servings)
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4-5 medium white button mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Chopped green onion, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking, then drain. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.
Cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute or two..
Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.
Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 20-25 minutes. (There will be leftover broth mixture.)
Stir in shrimp and mushrooms and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in asparagus, zest, parmesan, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. (Thin risotto with some of remaining broth if necessary.) Garnish with chopped green onion and serve immediately!