June 21, 2006
Starting a blog about cooking has motivated me to rediscover cook books bought with enthusiasm and left to gather dust. One of these is Anna del Conte’s The Classic Food of Northern Italy. Its a serious, scholarly book that places authentic recipes firmly in their regional context – even down to a specific village or valley. Its a useful antidote to our ‘pizza, pasta and pesto’ (mis)understanding of Italian cuisine.
I was looking for recipes for courgettes, but stumbled upon an idea for using the outer leaves of a cos lettuce as flavouring for a risotto. This was timely, as last night I put some rapidly fading lettuce leaves in cold water in the fridge to try and restore some crispness.
I made the risotto in the usual way, slowly cooking onions and garlic in butter until soft, then adding the rice. The recipe suggested cooking the rice in the butter over a high heat – a process called ‘toasting’ in Italian. This seemed to help the rice cook more quickly and evenly than usual.
After toasing the rice for a couple of minutes I added the shredded outer leaves of the lettuce, stirring constantly. As usual, you add simmering stock (vegetable or chicken), a ladleful at a time until the rice is tender. Finish with a spoonful of butter and a generous grating of parmesan. Leave to sit a minute or two, then serve. Of course, season well.
If cooking cos lettuce seems wasteful or wierd to you, fair enough. You don’t know what you’re missing.
Now, as my old mum used to say before every meal, ‘Lettuce pray’.