4 medium zucchini or 6 small ones
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped yellow onion
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
5 cups homemade meat broth OR 1 cup canned chicken broth mixed w. 4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
1- 1/2 cups raw Italian arborio rice
Freshly ground pepper, about 4 twists of the mill
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Carefully wash or scrape the zucchini clean and slice into disks 1/2in. thick. Set aside.
2. In a medium sized skillet (9-inch) saute the onion w. 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. When the onion becomes translucent, add the chopped garlic, and as soon as it colors lightly, add the sliced zucchini and turn the heat down to medium low. Add a tiny pinch of salt after 10 to 12 minutes. The zucchini are done when they turn a rich golden color, usually 30 min. (you can prepare them a day ahead of time, several hours or a few days, if you refrigerate them tightly covered in plastic wrap.)
3. Bring the broth or the canned broth and water to a slow, steady simmer. Transfer the zucchini to a heavy-bottomed casserole, leaving behind in the pan as much of the cooking fat as possible. Add 2 tablespoons butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the casserole and turn the heat to high. When the fat and zucchini begin to bubble, add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Saute lightly for about 1 minute, then add a ladleful, 1/2 cup, of the simmering broth. Proceed as basic risotto technique: add 1/2 cup simmering broth and stir while cooking, until the rice absorbs the liquid and wipes the sides of the pot as you stir. When the rice dries out, add another 1/2 cup of simmering broth and continue to stir-cook You must be steadfast and tireless in your stirring, always loosening the rice from the entire bottom surface of the pot; otherwise it will stick. Add liquid as the rice dries out, but don’t “drown” the rice. Remember, risotto is not boiled rice.
4. Correct heat is very important in making risotto. It should be very lively, but if the liquid evaporates too rapidly the rice cannot cook evenly. It will be soft outside and chalky inside. If the heat is too slow, the rice becomes gluey, which is even worse. Regulate the heat so that, if you are using Italian rice, it will cook in about 30 mins time. The risotto is done when the rice is tender but al dente, firm to the bite. You must be able to judge when the rice is close to doneness, so that as it finished cooking you won’t swamp it with excess liquid. Until you acquire experience w. risotto, it is safer, after 20 mins cooking to reduce the dose of broth to 1/4 cup at a time, at frequent intervals. When cooked, the rice should be creamily bound together, neither dry or runny.
5. When the rice is done, tender but al dente, taste for salt. (if the broth was salty, you might not need any. Bear in mind too that the Parmesan cheese you will add is salty.) Turn off the heat, add a few twists of pepper, the tablespoon of butter, the chopped parsley, and the grated Parmesan and mix thoroughly. Spoon onto a hot platter and serve immediately with a bowl of freshly grated cheese on the side.