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Risotto with Fresh Corn and Basil Oil

Californians are so enamored of risotto that they have taken it in new directions, adding ingredients that would make most Italians shudder. But even Italians, who rarely eat sweet corn, would appreciate this variation. Offer it as a starter before a shrimp or salmon main course, or serve it in smaller portions as a side dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 ears of yellow corn, husks and silks
      removed
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green
      portions, rinsed well
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 4 Tbs. store-bought basil olive oil

Directions:

Holding each ear of corn by its pointed end and steadying its stalk end on a cutting board, cut down along the ear with a sharp knife to strip off the kernels, turning the ear with each cut. Alternatively, remove the kernels with a kernel cutter. You will need 1 1/2 cups corn kernels. Set aside.

In a sauté pan or risotto pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and stir to coat with the butter. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until wilted and soft, about 5 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure they are not burning.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the stock and water. Adjust the heat to keep the liquid hot but not simmering.

Increase the heat under the leeks to medium, add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is hot throughout, about 3 minutes. Begin adding the hot liquid 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding more liquid only when the previous addition has been absorbed. After 10 minutes, stir in the corn. It should take about 20 minutes for the rice to absorb all the liquid and become al dente (tender but firm to the bite). The risotto should be creamy, neither soupy nor stiff. If you need more liquid, use boiling water. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chives and 2 Tbs. of the basil oil. Divide the risotto among warmed bowls. Top with the remaining 2 Tbs. basil oil, dividing evenly. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking Series, California, by Janet Fletcher (Time-Life Books, 2000).