Monday, March 14, 2011

Risotto with pinto beans and savoy cabbage

Risotto is a typical dish of the Italian cuisine, it is prevalent throughout the country although it is most eated in the north. However it would seem that Neapolitans people were the first Italians to eat rice. Not that they have discovered it, the Aragons (Spanish people) brought the rice to Naples in the fourteenth century and Neapolitans people began to eat rice as a "unique" dish, though, it was never as unique as the pasta. Then the rice arrived in Northern Italy, where it was already known as a medicine and was used as a basis for desserts, and there it was highly appreciated. This was, also, due to the fact that there was plenty of water which was essential for the proper growth of rice. So it was that the rice, and the art of making risotto, emerged in northern Italy, mainly in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont.
Last of all, even if eating rice, even less to prepare risotto, is not a Neapolitans people habit and considering that rice is used as the basis of a good risotto, we could say that Neapolitans have contributed to the invention of risotto.
But then, we'll have to say that the prerogative of risotto is that all ingredients should be cooked along with the rice (the so-called risotto cooking), so all rice dishes in which the seasoning is added when cooked, as for the pasta, must not be defined a risotto.
In Italy there are several versions of risotto and today I propose you the one with beans and savoy cabbage.

Ingredients for 4 persons:

Rice 360 g (13 oz)
Sausage 160 g (5.7 oz)
Pinto beans 160 g, canned (5.7 oz)
Onion 1
Savoy cabbage leaves 9 large
a clove of garlic
White wine 1/4 cup
Water (or broth) 700 ml (3 cups)
Butter 20 g (1 oz)
Grated Grana (or Parmesan) cheese 4 tablespoons
Olive oil 3 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Wash the savoy cabbage leaves, cut 5 of them into strips and keep the others aside. Rinse, under running water, the beans and let them season in a pan with olive oil and the garlic (picture 1) and keep them aside. Bring to the boil 700 ml of water and add salt to it. (I use salted water to have a lighter risotto, if you want to prepare it traditionally, you can use meat broth or a stock-cube).
Chop the onion and sauté with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (picture 2), add the skinned and chopped sausages, and let it brown (picture 3). Add the rice and let it toast for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with white wine and let evaporate over high flame, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Add two dippers of boiling water, lower the flame and then add the cabbage cutted into strips(picture 4). Continue cooking by stirring and pouring more water as the rice absorbs the previous one (picture 5). When half cooked add the beans, after having eliminated the clove of garlic (picture 6).
Remove the risotto from the heat, add the butter, the parmesan cheese and mix. Let stand for a few minutes, sprinkle with pepper and serve on the remaining cabbage leaves.
Bon appetite!

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