four years

{4.22.06 around 7:30 pm.} We've said I do, my dad gave a toast that made us all laugh and cry, and we've even managed to nibble at our salad of dark, leafy greens, avocado and a citrus dressing. That's us with my very Italian Uncle Nick, at our wedding reception four years ago. Where are we now? Somewhere just north of downtown Napa, winding our way through the vineyards. In my absence, I leave you with risotto, a dish I think is quite romantic, perfect for a day like this.

The rice is suspended in a rich sauce, and its flavors don't shout to the rooftops. They're a bit quieter. Rosemary infuses the broth, lemon zest is flecked into the pan at the last moment, and the cheese, well, there is no better canvas. And if it weren't delicious enough, risotto is the kind of dish you can serve in wedding china, on a weeknight, just because it looks pretty.


6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 rosemary branch, stems removed and minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup sweet vermouth or white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
Zest from one lemon, about 1 teaspoon
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons cold butter, sliced into 2 or 3 pieces


In a four-quart stockpot, heat the chicken stock to a low boil and keep at a simmer. In a heavy saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the shallots. Cook for 2 minutes, until slightly softened.

Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for two minutes, until the edges are translucent. Add the vermouth and stir until the liquid reduces almost completely. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of the rosemary, some salt and pepper.

For the next 20-25 minutes, add stock a ladle at a time, stirring consistently to coax out the starch in the rice. When all the liquid is absorbed, the rice will be tender, but still firm, and the suspended in a creamy sauce. Test for seasonings, and add more rosemary if needed.

Off the heat, quickly add 1/2 cup of the cheese, lemon zest and cold butter. With a wooden spoon, stir rapidly to get air into the rice and help melt the butter. When the butter is nearly melted, put a lid on the pot and let sit for two minutes.

To serve, add one or two ladles of rice into shallow bowls. Garnish with extra lemon zest, rosemary, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.