Sunday, 31 January 2016

Red, White & Green Dream!

Risoni con Puntarelle, Gorgonzola & Peperoncino 
Risoni with Puntarelle, Gorgonzola & Chili


Puntarelle again this evening- my favorite of of all of the different varieties of Italian chicory! You may not be familiar with them and may not be able to get them where you live, but probably the best alternative, or "similar" thing you could compare them to, would be dandelion greens. 

And although they are usually eaten raw, as a salad, as they do in Rome- I have developed a real love of them cooked and have been having lots of fun- and many a great meal, experimenting with them. 

Like I did this evening, for instance...


I decided to try pairing them with some "sweet", Gorgonzola "dolce"- the slightly less salty version of that favorite of all Italian blue cheeses. This added a creamy richness to compliment the bittersweet greens- and that, combined to the sweetness of onion, the heat of fresh chili and the spice of nutmeg... well- I'm telling' ya! It was a pretty fantastic combination!


This would work wonderfully with any kind of pasta, but this evening I decided to make this dish with 2 cups of risoni- which is what often gets called "orzo" in the USA and elsewhere. I never understood where that came from- as "orzo" is the Italian word for barley- but I digress!

Otherwise, I needed 1 good handful of puntarelle greens and 2 handfuls of the stems for 2 portions of pasta. Along with that, I needed just 1 small onion, about 2" of Gorgonzola, as much chili as you like- or can manage, depending on how hot it is and a little olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds and nutmeg. The Gorgonzola brought plenty of flavor with it, so there was no need for salt- and the chili was that hot- I did't need any pepper either!


And as I said- the combination of these rich-tasting ingredients is what made this dish work... the end result being surprisingly mild, very satisfying... and absolutely perfect for a cold Winter's evening!


The first thing I did was to fry the onion, finely chopped, along with the chili, thinly sliced and the fennel seeds, until the onion become wonderfully sweet and golden brown. I purposely did not add any salt and made sure that the onion fried until it began to caramelize in its own juices. 

I then set this aside and began cooking the pasta.


For 2 cups of pasta, I brought 5 cups of water to the boil, then added it, along with the leaves and stems of the puntarelle which I finely chopped. I reduced the heat to a simmer and let it bubble away for 6-7 minutes, whilst I prepared the stalks or "pods" of the puntarelle.


I cut the pods into quarters- these were not very long/tall puntarelle, but they were quite thick. I fried them in just a tiny bit of olive oil until they began to turn golden brown, then added a splash of water, enough to cover the bottom of the frying pan and continued stirring and cooking until all of the water had evaporated away.


In the meantime, the risen had absorbed almost all of the water it had been boiling in and it was time to add the gorgonzola and half of the chili/onion mix.


Once this was stirred in well and nice and creamy, it needed only 1-2 minutes longer on the stove top before it was ready to serve. The last finishing touch was some freshly grated nutmeg... and once I had done that I immediately fetched myself a nice hot serving dish!


I quickly added the remaining half of the chili and onion mix to the juicy stems- and then plated up my super-delicious and steaming hot supper!


And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is one beautiful plate of hearty Winter food for you to enjoy! I recommend you do!

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