purple rice (blueberry mushroom risotto)

sales pitch

Okay, so you had to be convinced about strawberry risotto. But you tried it. [Right?!] And you liked it. [Right?!] So once you open up the door to one fruit, it's no big deal to let another one sneak in. [Right?] Meanwhile we are reminded that the king vegetable of Italian cuisine, the tomato, is technically a fruit! [Out of the closet, you fraud!] So here's another delicious exotic risotto to impress your dinner guests with, namely, blueberry mushroom risotto [risotto con funghi e mirtilli!] from a fashion magazine.

history

We're experiencing a cultural explosion here on the Main Line (western Philly suburbs) these days. Two new book superstores in our town alone, with a super alternative video store, and a great new Tuscan Italian restaurant with brick oven pizzette. A new high tech supermarket down the Pike (Lancaster) at the exit of our new superhighway, the Blue Route (destination IKEA!). A new wholesome food supermarket a bit farther west (followed by another branch in the east). A new Mediterranean Lebanese restaurant not far in the other direction. Etc. etc.

So we were book browsing in the west end super bookstore with some international astro guests. dr bob was in the math book section for a change (from the cookbook section of course). ms ani was magazine browsing fashion magazines. Which are occasionally covering some fashionable food. This one was courtesy of some expatriate Italians living in Australia who had tried it in Venice. Their recipe called for a third of a "punnet" of blueberries, which our Scotch-Canadian female astro guest said was either a basket or rare unit only used for berries in British English, of unknown quantity. Our Cambridge Italian-English Dictionary says it's a little basket of fruit (retranslated from Italian). We just guessed.

the test

So we finally had a night free to cook and stopped at the supermarket on the way home for the only ingredient left to acquire: fresh mushrooms. This had been a big fruit summer for us with a near constant supply of cheap kiwis (which later became year round), and not so cheap strawberries and blueberries to keep our banana and overpriced breakfast cereal company every morning—so the blueberries were already on hand. But this was to be our first crack at the new supply of arborio rice personally imported from Rome several months earlier. Two 1 kilo boxes in a plastic bag purchased at a small fraction of the local outrageous price for the stuff. But with one small catch. The kitchen shelf time for our imported rice has always been longer than the life cycle of the dreaded starch bugs which had invaded us earlier in the year. Getting into everything starchy in our cabinets. This rice had its own contingent to add to the ranks. Except dr bob, after instructions from the ms, sifted and shook the rice a bit at a time over the sink like the old gold rush prospectors searching for gold, picking out the more agile specimens when necessary, while ms ani did most of the testing of the purple rice recipe.

ingredients

our list the original quantities

base
1 c arborio rice 500g (about 2 c)
2 T olive oil, roughly 3 T
1 medium onion, finely chopped 1
addins
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced finely 400 g (about 1 lb)
salt and pepper to taste (say 1/2 t and 1/4 t)
1 c blueberries (maybe 3/4 c) 1/3 punnet?
3/4 c dry white wine (125ml) 250 ml
1 veggie broth cube/paste for about 4 c broth 7-8 simmering cups broth
finishers
1/3 c freshly grated parmesan 2-3 T
1 T butter 1 T

our instructions

  1. The astute reader will see that we downsized this recipe by a half. The unastute reader will just keep on reading.
  2. By now you're old hands at this risotto stuff so a short version suffices. [Check out another risotto recipe if you're not.] Start boiling about 4 cups of water in a teapot.
  3. Sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, then over high heat do the mushrooms until they "give up their liquid" (?), accompanied by a lot of stirring activity. [We suppose they must sweat heavily under duress, leading to a liquid accumulation in the pan.]
  4. Add the salt and pepper and chopped up veggie cube/paste and continue stirring until the given up liquid evaporates.
  5. Then stir in the blueberries and rice and stir around about 1 minute, then pour in the wine and evaporate it. [A couple minutes.]
  6. Then add the boiling water a cup or half cup at a time, depending on your patience (half cup is better) for about 3 1/2 cups.
  7. Do the al dente taste test at around 20 minutes of the boiling water phase.
  8. If passed (the test), remove from the heat, add the butter and cheese and stir it all up.
  9. Serve immediately with freshly ground pepper and parmesan cheese at the table.

notes

  1. Risotto Rosa con Funghi, Australia Vogue Aug/Sep 93, p.141.
  2. purple trivia. The first record dr bob bought himself as a teenager was Jimi Hendrix, Smash Hits, with the cut Purple Haze. A live rendition of which he just missed at Woodstock, the Event. But which he caught in Woodstock, the movie. And dr bob saw Purple Rain, the movie, when it first came out and Prince was still just Prince. And he first discovered purple potatoes at a Philly food fair (Book and the Cook). Now available at our super whole foods supermarket. [See purple potato salad.] Maybe yours too. What does this have to do with this recipe? Absolutely nothing.
  3. 2006 Update. 13 years later Australia Vogue is lost in the dust bin of history by now, as are Toscana Cucina Rustica (now Bianca) and Marbles (now Citron) in Bryn Mawr, but the TLA Video store is still going strong, and many other new and worthy restaurants have opened. The stach bugs are a dim memory now that arborio rice is everywhere. And blueberry mushroom risotto is still a "down under" hit on search engines (also new since 1993), although it credits European origins, while apparently Philadelphia's Italian food guru Marc Vetri has discovered the sauce for pasta applications, as recounted offhandedly by Philly Inquirer food writer Rich Nichols on March 23, 2006. However, Google has arrived in the intervening years to help us with the definition of the punnet as an almost unit:
    punnet
    a small square or sometimes rectangular container for fruit or vegetables, such as strawberries or bean sprouts. When used as a unit of measure, a punnet is generally the same thing as a dry pint in the U.S. or an Imperial pint in Britain; see pint [1] above. However, grocers use punnets of several sizes to package berries, fresh mushrooms, etc.
     
  4. 2009 Update. Australian Vogue now is alive on the internet but the food business is rough. Bianca and Citron are both gone, the high tech supermarket in St Davids which was a local family chain—has long since sold out to Safeway, not a happy fate for us, but finally digital photos arrive for this recipe with a revisit this year. Meanwhile a famous Italian only reference cookbook, The Silver Spoon, is finally translated into English and published in 2005, and it has a very simple blueberry (without mushrooms) recipe on p.329, which a Google search turned up at the Recipe Zaar. We bought the book but never had the time to browse through it. Nothing like electronic searches compared to old fashioned leafing through cookbooks. The search on the keywords "blueberry mushroom risotto" leads to many hits, but putting quotes around them to accept only that word order makes our recipe the number one hit. This has to be our number one risotto recipe too. Don't take our word for it. Give it a try and you'll be convinced.
  5. Illustrations available.
purpris.htm: 1-feb-2009 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]