heirloom tomato risotto and pizza bianca

October 8th, 2008 · 32 Comments

i made this a few weeks ago and now the heirloom tomatoes in nashville are all but gone. perhaps some of you way up north are still harvesting the tail end of your crops, but it’s OVA here in the south. and it is indeed sad. but this is how the world works and i have been able to buck up and let it go because i am – mostly – a mature adult. and really, if ever a tomato was going to get a good send-off, this dish right here would be a preferred way to go.

on a brighter note, ‘the fresh market‘ a national chain of specialized grocery stores, catering to yuppies and the like who can now shop while being soothed to the tunes of bach, mozart and chopin and in flattering light, carries a surprisingly decent version of the heirloom all year round. so ok, get this – they’re grown in canada. and yes, they are pricier and not exactly replicas of what gets pulled from the ground on an dewy august morning – but they taste really good and if you’re willing to pay, it puts an end to all the whining about "winter tomatoes". (i’m quite sure i just heard the sound of all the die-hard locavores collectively groan.)

i saw this on chefectomy and knew i had to try it. the recipe is listed below, but it is all his. i take no credit whatsoever except to say that i did a damn fine rendition and when we sat down to dinner we were absolutely and collectively awed.

heirloom tomato risotto
adapted from

5 – 7 heirloom tomatoes (depending on size)
fresh thyme sprigs (i used 8)
2 T plus 1/4 C olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 C dry white wine
1 C arborio rice
4 C vegetable stock or broth
1/4 C cream
6 T freshly grated parmegiano with more for serving
2 T fresh basil, julienned

place tomatoes on a baking sheet and toss with 2 T olive oil.  sprinkle with salt and pepper. cover with thyme sprigs. roast at 325 for 35 minutes or until the skins begin to wrinkle.

in a saucepan, warm the broth. heat another saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining 1/4 C of olive oil and then add the onions, cooking them until translucent 3-4 minutes.

add the arborio rice stirring to coat each grain with the oil – 2 minutes. add the wine and cook until evaporated – 1 minute.

add enough stock to rice until just covered. stir occasionally. rice should cook but not boil. continue to add stock every few minutes as it cooks off. maintain enough stock to cover rice until the liquid cooks down slightly – then add more. continue to stir occasionally. you do not want the rice to stick to the pan. the rice is ready in 16-18 minutes and should be a creamy consistency. if cooked properly the rice grains will have a very suitable hardness when you bite it.

turn off the heat and stir in the cream and parmesan cheese. add salt to taste. chop the roasted heirloom tomatoes and add to the rice. to serve ladle the rice into a warmed bowl and top with fresh basil and the parmegiano.

as a perfect accompaniment to the risotto, i made jim lahey’s (of the revolutionary no-knead bread) pizza bianca. it’s a perfect recipe except i felt it needed less water, as is reflected in the recipe below which was found on marthastewart.com. martha’s people called for 1 3/4 cups water, but this is most certainly not the case proving once again that martha is in fact quite fallible.

i think many people equate pizza bianca to a ricotta cheese based pizza, even adding mozzarella on top of that. but this is pizza bianca in its purest form and quite frankly it needs nothing else because despite its nakedness, this pizza was literally devoured before my eyes – like in a ravenous way that was almost a bit disconcerting.

jim lahey’s pizza bianca
adapted from
martha stewart.com

makes 2 zen shaped pizzas – let the pizzas be what they were meant to be, not forcing them into any preconceived shapes…

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary

combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly add 1 1/4 cups cold water. mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine, increase speed to medium-high, and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size. split the dough into halves, and form each into a log. place each log on a generously floured surface, and allow it to rest until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.

put dough on a lightly floured baker’s peel. dimple dough by pressing it down with your fingertips. work the dough outward toward the edges of the peel until you reach your desired size and thickness, about 1/4 inch. drizzle with remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with extra salt (i suggest a good flaky salt here).

place a baking stone, sometimes known as a pizza stone, in the oven. set oven to broil, about 520 degrees. slide pizza onto baking stone with the baker’s peel. bake until the bubbles range from golden to deep brown in color, 10 to 12 minutes.

again, the perfect italian dinner, if not perhaps a bit on the carb heavy side. but that’s easily rectified – just have bacon and eggs the next morning – preferably on top of any leftover pizza bianca.

but this will be unlikely…

Tags: pizza · risotto · tomatoes

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