Saffron Chickpea Risotto

The History Kitchen
Wed, 3 Sep 2014 16:36:21 +0000
Saffron Chickpea Risotto – Golden creamy saffron-infused vegetarian risotto recipe.<br /><br />Risotto is Northern Italy’s answer to pasta. The dish is made with short-grain, glutinous rice that grows in the Po Valley. This type of rice is unique in that it is able to absorb a great amount of flavor from everything it is cooked with, while also remaining firm in texture. It is traditionally served as a first course, but can also accompany heavier meat courses like ossobuco (if you’re not keeping kosher) or it can stand alone as an entree. The dish may have originated in Venice, a city that has historically been a crossroads for explorers and merchants for centuries. The type of rice used to make risotto was likely brought to Italy from the Far East during the 11th century. A letter from the 1400s, in which the Duke of Ferrara was promised 12 sacks of rice for planting, proves that rice was growing in the Po Valley by that time.<br /><br />According to legend, risotto was created in 1574. During the 200-year construction of Milan’s Duomo cathedral, workers from all over Europe lived together in temporary housing. Among the workers was Valerius of Flanders, who was in charge of creating the stained glass. A student of his became known for adding saffron to his pigments to increase the vibrancy of their color. As the story goes, Valerius continuously taunted him by saying “If you go on like that, you’ll end up throwing saffron into your food.” The student responded by playing a trick on Valerius during his daughter’s wedding. After bribing the head cook, he snuck into the kitchen and added a hefty pinch of saffron to the rice. He then presented the golden rice to the wedding guests. The dish was a hit and has since been known as risotto alla milanese (Milan-style risotto) or risotto giallo (yellow risotto).<br /><br />Food history legends are often wives tales, as this one probably is, but it’s a colorful and charming story that perfectly suits this dish. While risotto alla milanese normally contains bone marrow and beef stock, I have created a vegetarian version here using vegetable stock and vegetarian Parmesan cheese. I added chickpeas to make the dish a complete protein (combined with the rice), making this a delectable stand-alone meatless entree. It is entirely addictive. With Rosh Hashanah approaching and saffron one of many traditional holiday foods for Sephardic Jews, this would make a lovely addition to a vegetarian holiday menu. Mangia!<br /><br />Research Sources<br /><br />Wasserman, Norma and Barrett, Judith (1989). Risotto: More than 100 Recipes for the Classic Rice Dish of Northern Italy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US. Print.<br /><br />Piras, Claudia, editor (2010). Culinaria Italy. H.F. Ullmann, Tandem Verlag GmbH, Potsdam, Germany. Print.
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