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Joni from Florida sent in an email and asked if I have ever heard of using bay leaves to keep bugs away from kitchen cabinets. She found a website that talked about it here: http://naturehacks.com/5-herbs-that-keep-bugs-away/. I vaguely remember something about bay leaves and flour to keep bugs away, but I’ve never tried it myself. If you’ve tried it I’d love to hear if it works for you!
Risotto is a rice dish from northern Italy that’s characterized by its creamy, luxurious consistency. Interestingly risotto gets that consistency without the use of cream, cheese, or butter (though those ingredients are often added to many risotto recipes). I love risotto and when I first discovered the traditional form my wife and I were at an Italian restaurant and I ordered osso bucco served over risotto milanese. The dish instantly became a favorite and whenever I see it on a menu (which is rarely) I have to order it. The contrast of a richly braised veal shank and creamy, parmesan laced risotto is almost too perfect. It’s a dish I often mimic with a wine–braised chuck roast and risotto; pure bliss.
The great thing about risotto is that there are as many variations as your creativity allows. While the basic preparations will be similar, you can tweak most of the building blocks and flavorings to suit your mood. Risotto can be vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, full of meat, loaded with cheese, married with seafood, a starter, a main dish or side, etc. Risotto sounds like it would be quite difficult to make, but it isn’t. It just requires a little attention.
Basic Risotto Preparation
Most risotto is made of the following base components:
Oil/fat – Most typically olive oil or butter
Aromatics – Onions or shallots, finely chopped (I like mine to be about the size of the rice grains).
Rice – This is where it can get a little tricky, because risotto is not prepared with your typical long grain white rice. I have read blogs on the internet that swear you can use regular old white rice, but you’ll have better (and more traditional) results if you use an arborio or carnaroli rice. Arborio is probably the most widely available in US supermarkets.
Wine – I use white wine, like a pinot gris or sauvignon blanc.
Broth or stock – Vegetable, chicken, beef, or even seafood stock would work. Your dish is going to get a ton of flavor from the broth/stock, so make sure you are using the best you can get.
Start by heating the broth in a sauce pan until its simmering. Keep it at a low simmer for the duration of the cooking process.
Take a heavy bottom saute pan over medium heat and start by sauteeing the onion. Add the rice and stir, making sure the grains get nicely coated with oil. This is going to help the consistency of the final dish. Add white wine and stir frequently until the wine is absorbed by the rice. Start adding the simmering broth by ladle, and stirring and cooking until the broth is mostly absorbed before adding more. Repeat this process, stirring the rice until the rice is cooked completely, but still slightly firm to the bite (you don’t want mushy risotto). Remove from the heat and finish as you wish (I usually add butter and some sort of cheese at this point).
Some Risotto Ideas
Here are some ideas for variations on risotto dishes. Some of these I’ve made, the others I just thought up. Again, you can really do anything you want!
Three cheese risotto with parmesan, gruyere, and fontina cheeses
Risotto Milanese (with saffron and parmesan)
Risotto with pea puree
Seared scallops and roasted red pepper risotto
Risotto with yellow curry
Red-wine braised beef over sharp white cheddar risotto
Roasted butternut squash risotto
Chicken risotto with rosemary
Wild mushroom risotto
Risotto with asparagus tips
Risotto with honey roasted parsnip puree
Here is the cookbook I mentioned that had that great risotto recipe for kids. If you have young children this is a great all-around cookbook. Many of the recipes are great for grown-ups too!
Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes
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