And nothing around these parts speaks more about Autumn than a crisp apple from the farmer’s market. My favorite are Honey Crisps and although I am sad to see the summer fruits disappearing, a juicy tart-sweet apple is definitely right up there as one of my favorite fruits. Many years ago I celebrated this season by treating myself to a cooking class—Apple Dishes from an Italian Kitchen—taught by Nadia Frigeri. Nadia made five courses of apple inspired dishes and ever since then, I have been making her Risotto di Mele. I think it’s Rebecca’s favorite dish that I make—her favorite comfort food. (ED: Hi, this is Rebecca and she's right. It totally is.) It’s as close to heaven as food can come. I have tried many other risotto recipes and none of them come close. Because, really now, how can you improve on heaven? Something about the warm soft rice and apples, flavored with lemon zest and nutmeg, gives a lingering memory of summer coupled with a hint of the holiday season yet to come.
Like most risottos, this recipe calls for Parmesan cheese. I buy mine from farms where the animals are humanely raised, but I recently read that substituting nutritional yeast for Parmesan cheese gives food a similar flavor. (I haven’t tried this yet, so let me know how it turns out if you do!) Nutritional yeast is low in fat, high in protein and B vitamins, and it's not made with any animal products. Or simply omit the cheese…the risotto will still be delicious (add a little more salt to taste if you do this). The original recipe calls for chicken broth, but I substitute with vegetable broth.
Risotto di Mele (Apple Risotto)
3 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 cups Italian Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
1/3 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups vegetable broth
chopped zest of 1 lemon
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Chop apples into small dices.
2. Melt butter in a medium skillet and cook apples and nutmeg, stirring occasionally, on medium for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Heat broth in large pot.
4. Melt olive oil in a large casserole over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and sauté until transparent.
5. Add rice to the pan, and using a wooden spoon, stir for one minute.
6. Season with salt and pepper and add wine and turn stove to medium high.
7. Stir until completely absorbed.
8. Add hot broth, ½ cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until broth is absorbed.
9. When about half of the broth has been used, add apples:
10. Keep cooking, adding broth, ½ cup at a time until the rice is tender, about 10 more minutes. You will use up almost all of the broth.
11. Add lemon zest and Parmesan cheese and serve hot.
Serve with a salad and roasted veggies or quiche for a perfect autumn meal!