Farmer’s Market Zucchini Flower Risotto

I haven’t posted too many recipes.  The fact is that while I can find my way around a kitchen, my skills are mostly improvised rather than “by the book”.  This doesn’t really lend itself to passing recipes on.  My mother is a dedicated home chef and my years of living in my parents house gave me a decent foundation.  But I cook with concepts in mind and then adjust to taste as I go along.  I am sure all cooks do that to a certain extent.  I guess I am just making excuses in case this doesn’t work out for you all as planned!!!

We have a cute small Farmer’s Market that sets up on Sundays in the warm months right across the street from our apartment in front of a NYCHA housing complex.  There are probably only about eight or nine stalls there, but it is enough to be able to get our hands on some fresh country produce and stuff.  Today I saw an unusual item which I love – zucchini flowers.  These are the flowers from the large plant that produces zucchini, which are edible in and of themselves.  My mom used to take them from my dad’s garden and make fritters with them.

Now, a few years back Roberto and I were vacationing in Italy and stayed at this wonderful small and elegant hotel in Lucca (Tuscany).  The on-premises restaurant served a delicious zucchini flower risotto which I attempted to re-create today.  It turned out pretty good!

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Ingredients:

2 cups of rice (for a creamier more typical risotto, try Arborio)

4 cups of liquid (I used I can [14 oz] of chicken broth and remainder of water)

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 zucchini (medium/average size)

Approximately  12 small zucchini flowers, chopped (fewer if your flowers are large)

About 5 basil leaves, chiffonaded

About 8-9 Saffron threads (you can take some of the required liquid and start to pre-soak these if you like)

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons grated Parmesean cheese, and more to taste at end

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

handful of parsley, chopped for end

Start by taking a heavy large pot (like a Creuset style) and using the olive oil start to brown the onions on about medium heat.  Once the onions take on a golden hue, add the zucchini and the flowers.

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Once those begin to soften, and even better, brown slightly, add the rice so that it will get fried dry for a bit and the grains get coated in the oil.  You can also add the basil at this point.

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Once the rice is in and fried a bit, add the liquid and the saffron threads.  Now it is time to crank the heat a bit so that the liquid can come up to a good boil.  The usual rice instructions apply.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, let it roll for about a minute, stir and then lower to simmer.  Remember that if you have a lid on the pot before it is boiling, you may end up with a mess on your hands, so I would leave it uncovered until the simmering step starts.  Let the pot simmer unmolested for about 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes, your rice will likely be perfectly cooked.  Now is time to season the rice.  Here is where the creative license comes in.  I put about 1 tablespoon of salt into my pot and gently folded it through.  I tasted and it was still kind of bland so I added in 2 tablespoons of the grated Parmesan.  That is where I stopped but it probably could have taken even a bit more.

I plated the rice and added more Parmesan and the chopped parley to the dish.  It has a mild and gentle flavor and can be further manipulated to give the end result that is desired by adding more salt, more cheese, perhaps pepper, etc.

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It is light and fresh.  We ate it accompanied by some pan fried pieces of skirt steak with Montreal steak seasoning and it was a delicious summer meal.  Let me know how it turns out if you give it a try and if you think I can improve mine…