Saturday, 17 March 2012

Do Bears Cook in the Woods?

Risotto al Radicchio di Treviso & Pesto di Erba Orsina e Pistacchio
Risotto with Radicchio di Treviso and Pistachio and Ramp Pesto

Ah- the aforementioned ramps finally get their starring role in this dish! These wonderful, aromatic, garlic-like leaves are amongst the first to sprout in the Springtime and notoriously, their fragrance wakes the bears from their hibernation! That is why they are known as "erba ursina" in Italy and "Bärlauch" in Germany, which translate in both cases, as "Bear grass".

In any case- they are not the only ones that know how delicious these large, soft leaves are! So I decided to use them to make a pesto to go with my radicchio risotto today. Along with a little parsley, some pistachio's and a little Sambuca and lime, they went to make a great alternative to the regular Genovese- Take a look and see how I did it...

The risotto itself was a simple affair. I started off with a classic"sofritto" of celery, carrot and onion, which I diced very finely and sautéed in a little clarified butter for 5 minutes. In meantime I brought some vegetable broth up to the boil- and no I didn't make it fresh, from scratch- that would kind-of defeat the point of wanting to make a fast meal!

So after 5 minutes, once the vegetables of the soffritto were nice and translucent, I added the rice and let it get nicely coated in the butter. I deglazed the saucepan with a good shot of white wine and stirred it well. Then, one ladle at a time, I added broth, stirred it in, added broth, until the rice was nice and creamy- around 20 minutes. At this point, I added a good handful of chopped radicchio, a couple of tablespoons of ricotta cheese and some grated nutmeg.

For the pesto, being as I was only making one little portion, I dispensed with the thought of using a food processor and did it "old school" in a mortar and pestle. I chopped the ramp-leaves up as finely as I could and then added some olive oil and shot of Sambuca. Next step was to add salt, pepper, and a hint of honey to compensate for the bitterness of the radicchio. I then added some finely chopped pistachio's to add a bit of nutty flavor and pounded it all together in the mortar and pestle... Easy!

I found this to be a great alternative pesto and a good accompaniment to the risotto-  and I am sure you will enjoy it too!