Fun things to do over Memorial Day weekend in Holland:
1. Walk through the neighborhood counting rose-bushes...
2. Have an impromptu dinner party with the FranKats...
3. Make pumpkin-parsley risotto...
4. Sample a flight of Valpolicella (starting with the 2008 Ripasso)...
5. Thoroughly enjoy the aforementioned risotto...
6. Stake out the kitchen to see who sneaks in to lick the pot...
7. Take cool pics of your friends making coffee...
8. Enjoy said coffee in the silliest cup you can find...
9. Watch good triumph over evil...
10. Hug your friends a lot and count your blessings.
Things not to do:
1. Paint your house the wrong color...
With regard to the latter, if you choose to ignore this sage advice and do it anyway, it helps to have an extremely good sense of humor and considerate friends who bring you apple flaps.
As for the rest, these things have my highest recommendation, with honors.
Risotto con Zucca (Pumpkin Risotto)
adapted from Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes by Anna Del Conte
3 tablespoons (50g) butter or 1/2 cup olive oil
1-4 shallots (or 1 onion), chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small bunch Italian (flat) parsley, chopped
1-1/2 cups pumpkin, cubed (500g/1lb)
2 cups risotto rice (300g)
1 cup vino bianco (white wine)
5-6 cups (1.5L) vegetable broth
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan, to serve
In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable broth.
In a separate, heavy-bottomed saucepan, start by making your soffritto. This is the base for every good risotto. [Note to the Italian boys, there is an actual translation for soffritto - it means "underfried".] Heat the butter or olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots (or onion) and the sea salt - this will help onion soften the onion without browning to keep the flavor delicate. Add the sugar and cook for 3-5 mins. Add the garlic and half the parsley and cook another 3-4 mins, stirring frequently.
Next, add the pumpkin and cook until fork-tender. This could take anywhere form 5-20 minutes, depending on the pumpkin. If it starts to stick, add a few spoons of stock to keep everything loose.
When you can cut through the pumpkin with the side of your wooden spoon, add the rice and saute for 1-2 minutes until the rice is well coated and slightly toasted.
When the rice is slightly translucent or spotted turn up the heat to high and stir for about 30 seconds to keep it from burning before adding the white wine - it should make that great sizzling sound and begin to evaporate immediately.
Then turn the heat back to medium and continue cooking (and stirring) until the wine has evaporated. Add enough stock to cover the rice completely and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid is absorbed.
Add one cup at a time of the remaining stock, and keep stirring until it is absorbed again. It is this act of constant stirring that gives risotto its creamy texture. It is also one of the things that makes risotto such a great group activity, as it permits plenty of time to drink and gossip. Master this and you, too, can be a bona-fide Risotto Queen.
Repeat until the rice is al dente, tender but still very chewy. The consistency should be slightly liquid, somewhere between solid and soupy. Then season with a bit of pepper and check the salt.
Mix in half the parmesan and let sit for one minute (not much longer) to blend.
Spoon it into shallow bowls, sprinkle with remaining parsley and grated parmesan and enjoy immediately.
Note: If this isn't decadent enough for you, the original recipe calls for 150ml (about 1/8 pint) of heavy cream and a knob of butter to be mixed in with the parmesan just before serving. It was perfectly lovely (and light) without these, but feel free to indulge if you've done something extra good to deserve it.