23 April 2012

Risotto with Artichokes, Apples and Flower Sprinkles and the Village of Ceri


I love sprinkles of color on white.  Especially yellow.  Yellow dictates a positive outlook in life.  Sunshine, light, happiness.  It has been my favorite color ever since I was a child, which my Mom would always say proudly that I got from her.  Is color preference hereditary?  I wonder. 


When spring arrives, the early flowering bulbs of our neighbor start to explode with beautiful yellow freesias.  They are so beautiful that, when I look out the window, I see them lined up on the big planters around their house.   Flowers are meant to be looked at and that's exactly what I just did. 


I was ecstatic when, one day, after I received a package for them from the mailman while they were out, our neighbor gave me a beautiful bunch of freesias to thank me.  A person cannot not appreciate such beauty.  It takes away the frowns crowding in the faces.  That day had been stressful and just the sight of the flowers canceled whatever it was that was deepening the lines in my face.  


I like admiring the flowers when they are left attached to the plants.  They stay beautiful longer than when they are cut and placed in vases.  For that I always remind my husband to give me a pot of flowering plant instead of cut flowers.  I feel better that way.  


My son, however, has a habit of picking wild flowers for me ever since he was little.  No one taught him and no one obliged him which make his gestures genuinely beautiful.   I usually have a glass of water in the kitchen for his small wildflower finds.

I still remember the time when we arrived at this house.  It was about eleven years ago and one of the things I vividly recall is the emptiness and unattractiveness of the surrounds.  There were no plants at all, just ugly weeds.


Without any gardening experiences nor knowledge, both my husband and I embarked on a clean-up and beautifying project.  We were determined to make the immense communal garden that we shared with the neighbors a place to enjoy.  No one minded it except us when we arrived.  Little did we know that it will take years before we enjoyed the fruits of our labor.  I filled up all four sides of the house with potted flowers and herbs while my husband dug the garden to plant some trees.

Let me introduce you to a lesser known Lazial town that's just a few kilometers from Rome.  It's a tiny village which had been inhabited since the 7th century by different populations.  The Etruscans had lived there, then the ancient Romans.  I am speaking about the ancient village of Ceri, a fortified plateau of tuff with its genuine people who are one of the nicest lot I have ever met.  Twice I've been there, the people gave the place a friendly atmosphere.    Not to mention the local food, which, typical of the countryside, is worth a trip.   In a little shop of local gastronomical products, we even found a basket of fresh eggs for drinking.  Something that I only heard about from my husband's older relatives and saw in old movies but I never really encountered until that day.


Our choice of restaurant for that day was the agriturismo (farm holiday) called La Valle di Ceri.  It's a well-kept place with a big lawn.  On a sunny day we were there, the place was a little heaven for the kids.  The food was delicious from appetizer to dessert. 


The main attraction of the village is the Church of the Madonna which stands on an ancient site where the Etruscans and ancient Romans venerated the cult of the goddess Vesta.   The 12th century frescoes were discovered only in the 1980s.  


Now, let's speak about the risotto.  It has a surprising sweetness and tartness coming from the apples which gives the palate a pleasant flavor to linger on.  The combination is something that needs to be tried.  I found the lttle bottle of flower sprinkles at the spice rack of the biological supermarket I frequent.   If you want to know, it's just a mixture of different kinds of edible flowers mixed with salt.  I would be experimenting in making them on my own when I finish my stock.  


This recipe was inspired by Gustosamente's Risotto con Carciofi e Mela Verde Mantecato al Pesto (in Italian).  I didn't add the pesto of the original recipe but the risotto remains delicious without it. 

Enjoy the colors of spring!


Risotto with Artichokes, Apples and Flower Sprinkles

Ingredients:
Serves 2

  • 160 g. Vialone Nano rice (or Carnaroli or Arborio)
  • 2 artichoke hearts, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • 1/4 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmigiano reggiano
  • about 500 ml. hot vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves
  • flower sprinkles 
  • parsley, chopped finely
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • knob of butter

  1. Toast the rice in a saucepan without putting anything.  Move them continuously to avoid burning, about 5 minutes.
  2. In another saucepan, warm up some oil and saute' the onion.  
  3. Add the cloves and the artichokes.  Let them all roast for a few minutes, about 3 minutes, then add the toasted rice.  
  4. Ladle some hot broth, about 1/3 of the 500 ml.  Keep on ladling little at a time during the cooking.  
  5. Towards the middle of cooking, add the apples.  
  6. Season with salt & pepper.
  7. When cooked, add parmigiano reggiano and butter.  
  8. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with mixed flowers & parsley.

25 comments:

  1. We were out to dinner last night with friends and the subject of our next trip came up in conversation. My husband and I are still mulling over the next destination but frankly, I think a return to Italy is long overdue (it's been a couple of years). I have never been to Ceri but I can see that it is a town I'd enjoy visiting.

    Yellow is one of my top three favorite colors (green being #1) and I have been obsessed with it lately. Those freesias are gorgeous and would brighten any room. Love the pictures and of course that beautiful risotto.

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    1. Jean, that's wonderful! I would love to see you! That is if you're passing by Rome. Ceri has two very nice ancient tiny villages. Tiny that half an hour is enough to see the whole pace. A day trip from Rome is nice. Thanks for the nice note!

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  2. Thank you for convincing me to add Ceri to my travel list - I love all the flower pots along the stairs. I've never thought to add apples to risotto, but what a great idea. Those mixed flowers are beautiful!

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    1. Ciao Laura. Ceri is a tiny gem. Half an hour and you have seen everything but worth a visit anyway because it's peculiar and beautiful. The food is good too. I never thought of apples with risotto too until I came upon this recipe. I was curious so I did it. It was good. :-) Thanks Laura!

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  3. Beautiful photos and stories - I always look forward to seeing what your next post will be

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    1. And I always appreciate your nice comments! Thank you!

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  4. Gorgeous pictures! I wish I could keep flowers a live. I can do veggies and herbs, but for some reason flowers never make it with me :(
    This risotto sounds delicious with the apples.

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    1. This is the first time I ever ate risotto with apples and I like it. It gave an interesting twist. Thanks Erin!

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  5. I think we will be friends for a long time!! LOL! I love to travel, to eat, to shop for handicrafts! i am totally jealous of your Italian life and how close to Beauty and Inspiration you are everyday! i still dream of one day having a farm / garden in Italy, but for now, i'll just live vicariously through you! LOL! Beautiful risotto! And like you, flowers make me smile; they light up my life!

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    1. Hi Jen! We share common interests but live thousands of miles away. But with friendship, there's no distance. I'm glad to have met you! It's nice to have a garden but quite difficult to maintain. I keep all my herbs in pots, close to the kitchen. :-) Flowers light up my life too. Thanks for dropping by Jen!

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  6. I agree with Jen - we have much in common! Traveling, experiencing the local food, exploring markets, and taking in the beauty and history of the area is my inspiration. We have yet to travel to Rome, but when we do I'll definitely remember to take a side trip to Ceri. Gorgeous photos and the risotto with brightened with dried flowers and apple looks fantastic!

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    1. Hi Priscilla! It would be nice to spend time together doing all those things. Who knows, maybe Jean's idea might really push through. I would love that! Thanks!

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  7. What lovely photos of your country, I so want to visit Italy someday. My grandma was Swiss-Italian and I would love to see where some ancestors come from. I will enjoy your blog so much. Flowers are a must, wish my husband realized how much I love them, oh well. Your risotto looks beautiful with the sprinkles of colors and I bet it taste lovely too.

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    1. I think husbands are sometimes clueless that their wives love flowers. Haha! Eversince I moved here, I have been in love with everything around me. Seeing where your roots come from is a good reason to explore Italy. Thanks for the nice note!

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  8. What a beautiful post! My aunt is in Milan, and I am just waiting for that moment until I visit country of my dreams. Love the scenery, and your photos are just gorgeous, as well we your children.
    Risotto look amazing!

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    1. I think you will love this country, the same way I fell in love with it. Everything's beautiful in whatever region you are in and the food is spectacular! Thanks Sandra!

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  9. What a lovely post! I have only been to Italy once and only to a small part. My goal is to spend several weeks there. I love this risotto with the addition of apples - how unique and tasty! Pinning now!

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    1. hi Lisa! The apples intrigued me when I came across the recipe. It's delicious and different. I think to see Italy well, you really need weeks to see the real country. I hope you get to spend a longer holiday here. Thanks for dropping by Lisa!

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  10. Weng, you take such beautiful photos. I really wish I have a fraction of your skills to take amazing food and scenery. It seems like I am not doing great job for both - or at least I am feeling that way all the time! Anyway this risotto not only looks delicious but so beautiful!

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    1. Nami, you always think your photos are not great when actually they are marvelous! I love your photos so much! In fact, what made me me go to your site the first time was the picture of your rice balls (forgot the name) that I still consider one of the most beautiful dishes and photos I came across to. This recipe was a good find. Thanks Nami!

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  11. Ahhhh, Bella Italia... What a wonderful post, I have enjoyed the beautiful photos, could look at them for hours! I totally agree with you about flowers, love them but prefer getting a pot of flowering plant instead of cut flowers, if possible :)
    The apple risotto looks so tasty, love the addition of apples, this makes it a perfect spring dish :) And, btw LOVE those plates you served the risotto in- gorgeous colours indeed!

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    1. Hi Tanja! The apples are what got me to try this recipe. It is different and delicious at the same time. Plates are from Zara Home from the past season. I'm glad you like them. Their colors are so attractive. Thanks for dropping by Tanja!

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  12. Thank you for the tour! A return to Italy is very much in order, and I will have to add this city to my list. As for colors, I have also wondered if preferences could be hereditary, too. I remember my mom and all her sisters all loving the color yellow. Coincidence? Hmm.

    The risotto is gorgeous, and the plates too :)

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    1. That's something to ponder on Liren. If color preferences are hereditary. My kids didn't theirs from me. My son is absolutely crazy about red and I used to hate red but like it now. Thanks for passing by Liren!

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  13. What a gorgeous place and beautiful post! And this risotto is just delightful...lovely flavors and textures!

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I would love to read what you think!