Heirloom tomato risotto

Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8
Heirloom tomato risotto
(Los Angeles Times)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of each tomato and place the tomatoes in the water. Cook 30 seconds, remove and rinse under cold water. Peel the tomatoes with a tip of a knife. Core the tomatoes and cut them in large wedges or 1 1/2-inch chunks, preserving their juice.


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and some salt and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring only once or twice.


In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion with a dash of salt until it begins to turn golden, 5 to 6 minutes. In another saucepan, heat the vegetable broth to just below a simmer and keep it hot.


Add the rice to the onion and stir it gently for 2 or 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir immediately as it is absorbed.


Add a soup ladle of hot broth to the rice and stir with a wooden spoon (so you don’t ruin your pan), keeping the mixture just at a simmer. When the broth is nearly absorbed, add another ladleful and keep stirring. Continue this way, adding the broth a bit at a time and stirring almost constantly. After about 15 minutes, add the cooked tomatoes with their juice and stir until the juice is nearly absorbed, then continue adding broth as before until the rice is al dente. This whole process will take about 25 minutes, and at the end you will have a creamy sauce around rice grains that are tender but firm and studded with brightly colored pieces of tomato.


Remove from the heat, stir in the basil and the Parmesan cheese, taste, adjust the salt and add pepper if desired. Add a last ladle of broth, give a final stir and spoon the risotto into bowls. Pass the additional Parmesan cheese at the table.

The secret of this risotto is to find the right tomatoes--a combination of several interesting varieties--and not to overcook them. I love the purple Cherokees grown by my neighbor Peter, which are sweet and acidic, and the big golden tomatoes that are the color of peaches and just as mild. I always add one or two bright red tomatoes, and combining them all makes the risotto so beautiful.

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