Monday, April 1, 2013

Sunday Dinners: Arborio Rice, Chickpeas, Fresh Tomato and Rosemary + Amazing Olive Oil = Magic!

It’s not just how you start, but also how you finish….

As in many cases in life, the creation of a dish depends on the final touches you give to it.  A drizzle of pure, raw olive oil can give a complex finish that brings your whole creation together.

This weekend I had the privilege  of using an Italian “extravergine” organic olive,  the freshest I’ve ever tried. When I first smelled it, it was so intensely wonderful, I couldn’t put words to my description…and then, while tasting it with just a bit of fresh bread, I realized that this profound flavor can enhance many dishes, and of course wanted to play with it. Oh,  Poggio Grimodi Extra Virgin Olive Oil —which I’ve learned is a labor of love for the Italy-based Todaro family—will, I promise, change your life! (And—I also promise to send you details as far as how you can get it!)

The first dish I made, totally inspired by the olive oil, was one with Arborio rice, topped with chickpeas, fresh tomatoes, and fresh rosemary (and I’m sharing the recipe with you here!).  I served it along with roasted peppers and onions, as well as fresh grilled Italian sausages (assorted parsley and parmesan and sweet) and a green leafy salad topped with a light citrus vinaigrette. 

It was so well received, I made a second dish for Easter brunch. This one—the second one—is a variation of a salad I wrote about in the fall, after sampling it  at the home of my former roommate Marga, in Barcelona, Spain (I will share that one on Wednesday!).

I’m still playing…

Arborio Rice, Chickpeas, Fresh Tomato and Rosemary  

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

1 small red onion
olive oil (your favorite)
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups (plus!) excellent quality chicken broth
About 1/2  pound of cooked chickpeas  (or 2 cans of chickpeas, drained) 
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, or about 2 cups of smaller, diced sweet cherry tomatoes
Leaves from 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
EXCELLENT-quality olive oil 

In a medium saucepan, add a bit of oil and sauté the red onion until it softens, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and continue cooking until it's well coated. Add one cup of the broth, and cook, stirring constantly, until it's absorbed. Continue with the second cup of broth, and add more as needed, still stirring, until cooked (about 25 minutes). 

Meanwhile, heat the chickpeas in a separate pot. Once they're warm, add the fresh tomatoes, and stir, just until well blended and warm-ish. Add the fresh rosemary and season with salt and pepper. 

Once the rice is cook, pour it onto a serving plate. Top with the cooked chickpea mixture. 
And here's where the real magic starts: DRIZZLE some of the excellent-quality olive oil on top. It's just to enhance the fabulous flavors you've already combined. Serve immediately. 

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