As the sun grows lazier, and we enter the thick of autumn, many of us begin to think about food from a different angle. Those local tomatoes are still rolling into the market, and the eggplant is still shouting out “summer”, but our palates are craving cuisine that feels somewhat heartier than what we’ve been enjoying in recent months. Well, this is the perfect opportunity to combine those late-summer elements with a little classic decadence by applying some seasonal fusion in the kitchen. This year, I’m thinkin’ Risotto! (No surprise).
Just when your house or apartment begins to feel a tad chilly, create this rich and delicious seasonal risotto. It will add a few degrees to your home, a little autumn color to your table, and some comforting flavors & textures to your palate. And don’t forget to see my wine pairing recommendations below. Ahh, savor the autumn goodness!
Eggplant, Tomato & Blue Cheese Risotto (Serves 2)
1 medium-sized eggplant
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
2 oz dry vermouth
3 ½ cups organic chicken stock*
1 quart bi or tri-colored cherry tomatoes, halved.
2 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
4 oz blue cheese**, crumbled or cut into small pieces.
Salt & Pepper
Slice eggplant into 1-inch cubes by slicing widthwise and then length wise (leave the skin on, ideally). Put cubes into a pre-greased roasting or baking pan (dip a paper towel into olive oil coat entire bottom and sides of baking pan). Cover the pan with foil and roast eggplant in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, until tender. Be careful when you remove foil, as the release of steam can give you a burn.
Heat butter & olive oil in a saucepan on medium until hot. Meanwhile, heat chicken stock to a simmer in a separate pot. Add onions to butter & olive oil and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add rice, incorporate thoroughly and cook for a couple of minutes. Add vermouth and let cook off until the rice is almost dry. Add chicken stock one cup at a time and stir quite often. Add the next cup of stock when the first addition is almost absorbed. Add the third cup of stock along with the tomatoes. Add the eggplant to the risotto after the fourth addition of stock is half absorbed. Add parmesan cheese and blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
*Standard risotto recipes call for 4 cups stock to 1 cup Arborio rice. My recipe calls for less stock due to the juice yielded by the tomatoes.
Wine Pairings Made Easy
This is a fun recipe for wine, as you can take your selections in a few directions. My favorite approach is to have a white and a red side-by-side. For whites, consider something full-bodied and creamy, but with ample acidity, like this substantial Alsace Pinot Blanc or Spanish Godello. For reds, try something fleshy as well, but with an earthy, woodsy personality to echo the aromas of autumn, like this rustic Southern Rhone or Tuscan Sangiovese.