Monday, November 23, 2009

Carnaroli Risotto with Fennel and Asparagus, Jerk Tempeh

Tonight, I made my "Conference Call Risotto", as I have described before. I had some asparagus that I wanted to use up, and recently also purchased fennel, which I've only purchased maybe once before. I found a risotto with fennel and asparagus recipe online, and decided to take its ideas for the fennel and asparagus, and fuse them with my risotto recipe.

I cut off a bit of the rough ends of about a half dozen asparagus spears then blanched; I slowly put the asparagus into boiling water so as not to disturb the boil, then quickly took the spears out once they were just cooked (al dente) and showing a darker green color. I plunged the spears into an ice water bath to arrest the cooking and, once the spears lost their heat, drained the water and kept the asparagus ready to be cut just before I needed it.

As the recipe that I found suggested, I took the bulb of one fennel root and cut it into 1/2" matchsticks, and cut half of a (sweet) onion into a 1/4" or so cube. I sauteed both the onion and fennel together over medium heat until the onion cleared, in the stock pan in which I would make the risotto.

For the risotto rice base, I used some Carnaroli rice, a high-starch, short, plump variety grown in the Piedmont area of Italy (we visited a few years ago Milano, which is in this region). Instead of creating the stock as I usually do with a bouillon cube in water, I cooked the asparagus in water with a bouillon cube and used that asparagus-bouillon water.

Once the onion was ready, I proceeded with my risotto recipe, using less wine than usual (I actually used port - and used about 1/3 cup instead of 1/2 cup). About 5 minutes before the risotto was done, I cut the asparagus spears into 3/4" or so lengths and tossed them in. At the end, I went with the optional Earth Balance margarine as well as Eat in the Raw's vegan Parma!, salt, and freshly ground pepper.

I served the risotto with sauteed tempeh rolled in a bit of mild jerk seasoning. It was a good dinner! Neither my wife nor I (nor, perhaps, our 1-year and 1-day old daughter, who also sampled!) noted the fennel flavor.

Yesterday my daughter turned one year old! We had a nice party for her in the afternoon, then went to Sitar Indian Cuisine, where I had put together a family-style tasting menu of South Indian food for dinner. We ended up with way too much food, some of which will be showing up in upcoming day leftovers! We started with pakoras (vegetable dumplings), idlis (lentil-rice cakes) with spicy sambar soup and coconut chutney, and salad, then main dishes kept coming - dosas (one of my favorite foods - crepes filled with a potato mixture), uttapams (a flattened pancake/pizza, similar in composition to a dosa, but thick and not filled; Sitar makes the best uttapams I've ever had!), vegetable biryani (mixed vegetables in rice), and okra!


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