Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where have all the flowers gone?

Garden Fresh Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto, Chard, and Zucchini Blossoms
Summer gardens are just starting to yield amazing produce in these parts, and ingredients I wouldn't usually get my hands on are becoming available. Take zucchini blossoms, for example. They aren't the type of thing I can usually just pick up at the grocery store as easily as onions or apples. Lucky for me, my gardening-obsessed colleague had an abundance of these lovely and rather delicate orange blossoms. In addition to the zucchini blossoms, he sent me home with a bag brimming with crisp green chard, a juicy green bell pepper, and fragrant basil leaves. I originally intended to throw all this lovely produce into a pasta dish, but when I found my gluten-sensitive friend, Arin, would be joining me for dinner, I decided on a creamy, flavorful risotto dish instead. This is an elegant, but pretty simple meal that makes the most of this season's best produce. Enjoy!

- 1 lb. Arborio rice
- 7 oz. prosciutto, torn into small pieces
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 large bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 large handful fresh chard, stems removed and leaves torn into small pieces
- 8-10 fresh zucchini blossoms, stamens removed, and roughly chopped
- 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- i small handful Italian parsley, chopped
- 6 c. warmed chicken broth
- 2 c. dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp. cooking sherry
- 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. shredded Manchego cheese
- salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large, heavy stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add torn pieces of prosciutto and cook until it begins to crisp and turn brown. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Turn heat down and add zucchini blossoms and chard leaves. Cook for 1-2 minutes until they turn soft and fragrant.

Remove from heat and reserve with cooked prosciutto. Add shallot and bell pepper to pan (if it is dry all a tablespoon of olive oil). Stir over medium heat until the shallot and pepper begins to soften and turn very fragrant. De-glaze pan with cooking sherry and scrape browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add rice to the pan with 1 c. of warmed chicken broth and white wine. Stir over medium until the liquid soaks into the rice and begins to evaporate. Slowly add the remaining broth about a half cup at a time, stirring frequently to help the liquid absorb. (If the rice is still tough after adding all the broth, add a little water to keep moist.) Turn heat to low, add cream and shredded cheese and stir to combine. Turn off heat and add chopped herbs, prosciutto, zucchini blossoms, and chopped chard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Eat up! Yum.

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