This time of year, many of us are searching for new and exciting ways to use the abundant overflow of tomatoes and squash. This recipe, with its French Provincial twist on an Italian classic, wins prizes for both flavor and originality.
This is simple food at its very best: the Provencale tomato sauce is barely cooked before combining with olives and basil to produce its earthy, direct, and totally delicious flavors. The dish is also quite beautiful, which makes it a lovely offering for guests. Mediterranean cuisine at its best!
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water, kept at a slow simmer on stove (up to 1/2 cup additional may be needed)
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh Tomato Sauce
3 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup minced onion
25 imported black olives, pitted
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, add onions and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rice, and saute while stirring, 2 minutes. Add wine and salt and cook, stirring, until wine is nearly evaporated.
2. Add 1/2 cup of simmering water. Allow rice to cook, stirring often, until water has been absorbed. Add water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often and waiting for each addition of water to be absorbed before adding the next one. After 10 minutes, stir in the grated squash.
3. The risotto will be done in 18 to 20 minutes: creamy but not wet, tender but still al dente. Remove risotto from heat and stir in cheese and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and chill at least 1/2 hour.
4. Make the sauce: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the tomatoes. Add onion once the tomatoes are hot. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Take pan off heat, stir in olives, basil, salt and pepper.
5. Make the cakes: Heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat in a heavy skillet. Form the chilled risotto into 4 cakes, about 1 1/2 inches thick. When the oil is very hot, place cakes in skillet. Turn the heat down a bit and sear cakes on one side for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown, then flip and sear on the other side for 3 minutes.
6. Divide the sauce among 4 plates. Place a risotto cake on each plate, garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and basil, either whole leaves, or slivers.
Inspired by Vegetarian Planet, by Didi Emmons (Harvard Common Press, 1997).