Gruyere Stuffed Arancini with Spicy Tomato & Basil

a6“What are the odds of me leaving to go to the city to help our friend move, while you stay here and deal with the tasting room?” I asked Bruno a few days before a busy August weekend. After an unexpected all clear and green light, I quickly made firm plans with Natalie – our good friend in great need of a moving partner for the weekend. Two long days and sore backs later, I popped open a  bottle of our sparkling pinot noir. We toasted work well done on her balcony while watching the Toronto skyline and sunset. 

Magical. 

“Let me take you out for dinner” she said. “Where do you want to go?”. 

I told her to choose a place I hadn’t been before. As you all know, I love food and I love eating. So, needless to say, I was very excited when we walked through the door of Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, known coloclially as: The Nose. Such a marvellous place! Italian all the way. Small plates, perfect for sharing, which I found difficult – much too delicious to share. One of the dishes was arancini. Stuffed, deep fried rice balls, served with an oh so tangy yet sweet tomato sauce. Finger licking good.

In September my parents came over for a three week visit. A few days in Toronto is always a must on their list. “Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before” they said one evening when discussing what to do for dinner. I instantly knew where to go. Back at The Nose we ordered one of most things on the menu – the arancini being one of them. Watching my parents share these rice balls was a joy. Talk about kids in a candy store. I recently decided to make them myself. I started with the tomato sauce. The key to good tomato sauce is time. Let it simmer and simmer. And simmer. 

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Tomato Sauce:

3 cups plain tomato sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 tbsp finely chopped basil

1/4 cup maple syrup.

1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 cup onions, finely chopped 

2- 3 tbsp sambal oelek

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

 

Risotto:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp oregano

2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Salt 

Pepper

 

2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

150g Gruyere cheese 

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil

Add all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally. I let the sauce slowly simmer until the Arancinis are fried and ready to be served.

Prepare the rice by adding all the ingredients for the risotto in another pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer over low heat, covered, until al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more chicken broth if needed. It needs to be sticky, not too wet when done in order to roll the balls properly. When cooked, set aside to let cool. 

Cut the cheese into 15 equal size squares. 

Add the beaten eggs to the rice. Mix well. 

Grab a small handful of rice and place it in the palm of your hand. Take a piece of cheese and place in the middle of the rice. Enclose the cheese in the rice, creating a ball. The ball should be 1 1/2″-2″ diameter. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the cheese then carefully roll the balls in the breadcrumbs until well covered.

In a large pot, add oil about 2″ deep. Heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 350F. Fry the balls, a few at a time, until golden brown. This will take about 4-5 min. Place on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve hot with the tomato sauce. Makes roughly 15 Arancinis. a1a4a3

Olive Tapenade Twists

t5Love them or hate them. Opinions regarding olives seem to be quite strong. It’s not often I meet someone who is neutral. Olives do have a very distinct smell and flavour and I have to admit I haven’t always been a big fan. I used to belong to the category that managed to find and remove any hint of olive on both pizzas or in salads or whatever other dish being consumed. Left on the plate at the end of the meal was a sad pile of rejects. Not quite sure when my palate changed, but it did at some point. I’m happy about that today. 

For those of you who love the above mentioned salty mediterranean fruits, these twists might be right up your alley. This olive tapenade can be used on its own as well. Just serve it with a pile of your favourite crackers. The twists are a little bit more work, but in return, olive lover’s eyes will twinkle a little bit brighter.

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Tapanade:

1 1/2 cup mixed, pitted olives

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves

4 green onions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tapenade and pulse until preferred consistency. I like some texture but it’s up to you how smooth you want it.

Tapenade Twists:

1 package puff pastry dough, thawed

1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F. Dust your counter with flour, and roll out the puff pastry dough until about 1/8 thick. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of the tapenade on top of the dough, making sure you cover it all the way to the edge. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut strips about 1” wide. Starting from the middle of the strip, twist in opposite directions until fully twisted, and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat the egg in a glass and lightly brush the twists before putting them in the oven. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

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