BIENVENUTO to the LOMBARDY REGION

September 2020

BIENVENUTO to the Lombardy Region.

Milano, the capital of the Lomardia is landlocked (of Italy’s twenty regions, only four are without a coastline). To the north, like fingers pointing toward the Swiss border, are the beautiful Largo d’ Orta, Largo Maggiore, Largo d’ Como, and much less visited Largo d’ Isco. The landscape is shaped with many rivers, flowing down from the Alps, these waters nourish the nation’s most fertile agricultural plain, the Pianura Padana—Italy’s Rice Basket. From Vercelli in Piemonte, across Lombardy to the Veneto, and down into Emilia-Romagna, this territory is the biggest producer of rice in Europe.

The two recipes featured in this article are from Lidia Bastianich’s book, “ Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy,” in which she shares her reflections of time-honored techniques and recipes for dishes bursting with different regional flavors from this Lomardia Region.

 

                       **** Risotto al la Milanese with Saffron ****                                 

 

6-8 cups hot beef stock (chicken or turkey broth could be substituted)

½ teaspoon loosely packed saffron threads

1 ½ – 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onions

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

2 cups Italian grain rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano

1 cup dry white wine

For Finishing:

3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

½ cup grated cheese (your preference)

*Recommended – a heavy bottomed saucepan

*Heat the stock in a separate pot almost to boil and keep it very hot next to the risotto pan.

* Pour about ½ cup of the stock into a heatproof cup. To toast the saffron (for more flavor). Drop the strands into the bowl with a medal spoon – separate them a bit. Hold the spoon over a low open flame for just a few seconds, until the aroma is released, then spill the threads into the ½ cup stock.

* Put the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and set it over medium heat. Stir in the chopped onions and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes, until the onions are wilted and just starting to color, then-to soften the onions further-ladle in ½ cup hot stock from the pot and let it simmer until completely evaporated. Add the rice all at once, raise the heat, and stir for a couple of minutes, until the grains are roasted (but not browned). Pour in the wine, and cook, stirring continuously, until nearly all of the liquid has been absorbed.

* Ladle is 2 cups of the hot stock and stir steadily as the rice absorbs the liquid and begins to release its starch. When you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir, after 5 minutes or so, quickly ladle in another couple of cups of stock and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring until the stock is again almost completely absorbed.

* NOW pour in the saffron-infused stock along with a cup or so of hot stock from the pot. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed and the saffron color has spread. Check the risotto for doneness: it should be creamy but still Al Dente. Incorporate more stock if necessary.

* When the risotto is fully cooked, turn off the heat, drop in the butter pieces, and stir vigorously until incorporated. Stir in the ½ cup of grated cheese, and spoon into warm pasta bowls. Serve immediately, passing additional grated cheese at the table.

 

**** BAKED RICE FRITTATA (Italian Omelet) ****

 

3 tablespoons soft butter                                  FANTASTICO!!!

¼ cup of fine dry bread crumbs

5 cups milk

1 ½ cups Italian short-grain rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano

2 teaspoons (plus a pinch) kosher salt

8 large eggs, separate1 cup grated cheese (your choice) and 2 cups finely chopped scallions.

  • Heat the oven to 325 degrees
  • Grease the inside of a heavy skillet with 1 tablespoon of soft butter and coat the bottom and sides thoroughly with bread crumbs. Pour out any loose crumbs.
  • Pour 4 cups of the milk into the large saucepan, and heat rapidly, stirring in the rice, 2 teaspoons salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter, until the milk starts to boil. Lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, about 8 minutes, until the rice has loose custard consistency. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the remaining cup of milk, cooling the rice slightly.
  • Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl, just to break them up. Pour or ladle in the hot rice, gradually, whisking well between additions, to avoid scrambling the yolks. Whisk in the grated cheese and chopped scallions.
  • In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt with the electric mixer on medium speed until the whites become foamy, then raise the speed and whip just until they form soft peaks. Fold the whites into the rice batter with a wire whisk, gently turning them over and breaking up any large clumps, until incorporated.
  • Pour the frittata batter into the skillet and smooth the top. Set into the oven and bake for about an hour, until the frittata is nicely browned and a paring knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the skillet on a cooling rack and run the knife blade around the sides to loosen the frittata. Let is set for about 10 minutes before unmolding.
  • When the frittata has cooled slightly, lay a wooden board over the top of the skillet, hold the two together, and flip them over. Rap on the upturned bottom of the pan and give it a good shake release the frittata. Present it on the board as is, or invert again onto a serving platter, browned side on the top. Serve warm or at room temperature, sliced in wedges

 

*** Both of the above Recipes from “Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy”

 

 

**** ITALIAN RICE CAKE ****

Ingredients:

8 cups of skim milk                                                             BONNISIMO !!!

1 cup Risotto rice

Peel from 1 lemon

3 cinnamon sticks

12 large eggs -separated

1 cup sugar

Zest from one lemon

1 tablespoon dark rum

¾ cup of white raisins

Recommended Equipment:

Heavy Teflon pot

Steps:

  • Heat milk, lemon skins, cinnamon sticks to Boil
  • Stir in rice—Then turn down heat- Let simmer for about 40 minutes
  • Spoon rice mixture into a bowl- COOL
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees; Grease a spring form pan and line with parchment paper-spray the paper as well
  • Remove lemon rind and cinnamon sticks from the cooled rice
  • Beat egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and rum with a mixer; Then with a wooden spoon add white raisins to the mixture
  • Whisk egg whites with mixer until peaks are formed: Gently fold the egg whites into the egg custard—Spoon into tin pan
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until when knife is inserted into the cake knife comes out Clean
  • Leave cake in the tin to Cool *** CHILL overnight

 

***Recipe from the late Maddalena Bonavita Vilardo (my Mother, born in the region of Calabria in the Province of Cosenza- Fuscaldo, Italia)

*** I encourage you to share your recipes from your Italian family that have given JOY to your cooking and/ or baking.