This time of year, the cusp of the new growing season, is always a time that I go hog wild over the fresh greens, the first shoots of asparagus, the new crisp radishes that are showing up, bundles of fresh herbs. It's intoxicating to see these fresh Spring greens after all that orange of squash, white taters, and turnips, and the colors of winter vegetables! This week, when I saw bundles of fresh chard, it was too much for me to resist. I snapped up two bunches - one fresh green chard and the other red rainbow chard. The other evening we had wilted greens, wild rice with asparagus bites and roasted game hens and now, today, this small plate lunch of sautéed chard arancini. This is a fussy fun dish to make. What a great way to putter around with my morning!
Arancini, if you don't already know, are moist, cheesy risotto rice balls that have onions, greens, herbs, and a bit of egg mixed in. You get your hands messy when you roll the balls into little golf ball-sized rounds, dip them in flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs, and fry them in hot oil. Have a quick marinara sauce warm and ready and the Arancini are absolutely delicious dipped and munched with a glass of red wine and a small green salad on the side ... a perfect lunch! Wash your hands first, of course!
Sautéed Chard Arancini
a slightly adapted Michael Anthony recipe
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 c. arborio rice
1/4 c. dry white wine
about 4 c. chicken broth, heated
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp. butter
1 c. mozzarella cheese, grated
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 generous handful of Swiss chard leaves, washed well, big stems trimmed from the base of the leaves, sliced to ribbons
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
a generous pinch dried oregano
1/4 c. flour, in a small cereal bowl
1 c. bread crumb, in a small cereal bowl
an egg yolk and a tsp. of water, beaten in a small cereal bowl
about an inch of vegetable oil in a heavy frypan
marinara sauce (see recipe below)
Making the Dish:
1. Make the risotto. Place 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a deep heavy sauce pan with the onion. Sauté over medium- high heat until the onion is glistening. Add the rice and toss to toast and lightly brown the rice kernals. Add the white wine and stir in, letting it absorb. Lower the heat a bit. Then, begin adding the chicken broth - 1/2 c. at a time. Stir frequently to make for a creamy risotto, adding successive 1/2 c. measures of broth until the rice is just al dente. Stir in 1 c. Parmesan, the butter, Kosher salt and black pepper. Turn the risotto onto a large platter and spread it out to cool.
2. Saute the chard. Place 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large fry pan. Heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so. Turn the chard ribbons into the hot pan and toss to coat with oil. Cover and let the chard wilt , stirring every minute or so so it doesn't stick. When it's bright green and wilted, remove from the heat and finely chop right in the pan. Let it cool.
3. Prepare the fry station. Place the bowls of flour, egg yolk, and bread crumbs near the stove. Have a cookie sheet lined with paper towels nearby, too. Heat the oil in a deep heavy fry pan. Oil should be 350 degrees F.
4. While the oil comes up to temperature. place the cooled risotto in a deep mixing bowl. Add the chopped chard, the mozzarella cheese, the beaten eggs, salt and black pepper, dried oregano, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix well. Make golf ball-sized balls of the rice mixture and place on a plate near the fry station.
5. When the oil is at temperature, roll a rice ball in flour, dip in egg, then bread crumbs and place in the oil. Place as many Arancini balls in the hot oil as will comfortably fit the pan. you must have room to turn them so they fry evenly on all sides. The rice balls take about 3 minutes ... until they're golden brown and crisped. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a cookie sheet with paper towels on it for absorbing the oil. Keep warm in a the oven until the rice mixture is used up.
6. Serve with warm marinara sauce. I make the marinara sauce ahead of time and just let it sit on the back burner until I need to re-heat it.
Easy Marinara Sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
6 fresh basil leaves, sliced to thin ribbons
a pinch red pepper flakes
1- 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 pat butter
Place the olive oil, onions, and garlic in a small sauce pan and bring the heat up under it. Stir until the onions and garlic sizzle. Add the tomato sauce, basil, pepper flakes and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Add the butter, cover. Remove from the heat and set aside to let the herb and spice meld with the sauce. Reheat when you wish to serve the sauce.