Last week, I hit up a local farmer’s market here in Jersey City. Well, OK. I didn’t exactly go on purpose… My original plan was to get tacos nearby and go home. OK, fine, my original original plan was to go to the gym, but who’s judging?
Anyways, I got out of the train station after leaving work, and emerged to find there was a bustling farmer’s market going on right around the plaza where the station lets you out. And yeah, there turned out to be a taco truck there (I indulged, obviously, going through some serious #tacolife right now). But there were so many other yummy things, I had to look around while waiting for my tacos to be made for me. In the 5 minutes I had to scout around, I picked up an eggplant and a nice handful of locally grown Jersey plum tomatoes.
It took me a little while to figure out what to do with the tomatoes (I ended up just frying the eggplant in a bout of weekend hunger) but I finally settled on making a twist on the classic caprese salad, this time in a creamy, decadent risotto. I roasted the tomatoes to get as much flavor from them as possible, used fresh mozzarella, and beautiful fresh basil. I have to say this came out even better than I expected- I never have used fresh mozzarella in risotto before, and it added a nice creamy and melty texture to the whole dish that made it really something special.
I think that’s the magic of a caprese salad any way you make it- it always ends up being a dish that is more than the sum of its parts. Using the best ingredients you can find will definitely improve the quality of the dish, and I’ll be surprised if you can keep yourself from having seconds!
- 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise with cores and seeds removed
- 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- kosher salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1 shallot, chopped finely
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine
- 3½-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, warmed over low heat
- ½ cup fresh mozzarella
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- fresh basil for garnish
- Make the roasted tomatoes and garlic: Preheat oven to 450° F. Arrange halved, cored tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over each tomato. Rub the garlic cloves in olive oil and place on the pan with the tomatoes. Roast for 30 minutes, rotating the pan once in between. When tomatoes have shrunk and are cooked through, remove them and the garlic cloves from the oven and allow to cool while you make the rest of the risotto.
- Make the risotto: In a large pan, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, shallot, and thyme, and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until the shallots start to become translucent. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add the rice, and stir to coat in the oil. Season with salt, and allow the rice to “toast” for 2 minutes- this is adding a lot of flavor directly into the rice itself. Add the wine, and stir to loosen up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook until wine is almost fully absorbed. Add ½ cup of the warmed broth and stir again. Continue to add broth, ½ cup at a time, once the previous addition is almost fully absorbed. Make sure you are stirring every few minutes or so as well.
- While the rice is cooking, carefully chop up your roasted tomatoes into ¼ inch pieces, and peel the roasted garlic and chop that up too.
- Once you feel the rice is cooked to the desired consistency (not crunchy, but somewhat creamy with a bite), add the roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic and stir. Add your mozzarella and parmesan, and stir again. The mozzarella will start to get stringy, but just keep stirring until everything is incorporated and it’s a lovely mess.
- Garnish with fresh basil, stir once more, and serve!