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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Kitchen Mailbox: Risotto recipe sure to be a favorite

Thursday, August 03, 2000

Covered Risotto with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Escarole and Hot Sausage -- it's a mouthful, but one delicious mouthful after another.

This dish contains intensely flavored foods -- tangy sun-dried tomatoes, slightly bitter escarole and hot sausage -- that are combined with creamy risotto to make an outstanding dish. (This will be one of our end-of-the-year favorites.) If you don't like hot sausage, try sweet or mild Italian sausage.

Sun-dried tomatoes are, as the name indicates, dried in the sun (or by artificial means). They're packaged one of two ways -- in oil or dry. This recipe calls for oil packed. Sun-dried tomatoes are dark red and chewy.

A few little facts about escarole: It's one of three varieties of endive. It has slightly curved, pale green leaves and, as we mentioned, it has a slight bitter taste. Escarole wrapped tightly can be stored in the refrigerator for as long as three days. This recipe calls for 1 cup of escarole, so you will probably have some left over, but don't throw it away -- escarole can be used in salads, soups and casseroles.

Our second recipe, Green Beans and Garlic, took all of 20 minutes to prepare. Don't overcook the beans -- fresh green beans are at their best if cooked until just slightly crunchy. We served Green Beans and Garlic with grilled pork loin and savored every bite.

"Lynn Steffan of Gibsonia is going to love this recipe," says Bill Cardone of McCandless about his Covered Risotto with Sausage, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Escarole.

Covered Risotto With Sausage, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Escarole

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound hot sausage, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed, heated to a simmer
1 cup coarsely chopped escarole
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon round pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Fresh basil, shredded for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thoroughly oil a 2-quart baking dish, stirring, over medium heat, until browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage and place in a small bowl. Add sun-dried tomatoes to sausage and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy saucepan, add onion and cook, stirring, over medium heat until onion begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add 5 cups hot stock and cook over high heat until mixture begins to boil, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in sausage mixture, escarole, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and nutmeg. Tightly cover with foil and bake until rice is cooked through and absorbs most of the liquid, 30 to 40 minutes; risotto should be creamy.

Serve in heated soup plates with more cheese and a sprinkling of basil. Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as first course.

Note: This dish took about 32 minutes to bake. It was creamy but not soupy, and we didn't use soup bowls.

Ruth Lewis of Rostraver requested a recipe for green beans made with chopped tomatoes, garlic and butter. Kitchen Mailbox hopes Sharon Russell's recipe for Green Beans and Garlic is exactly what Ruth requested. Sharon found this recipe in the Buffalo News and says, "It's a delicious and easy way to dress up green beans for a special meal." We agree.

Green Beans and Garlic

3/4 pound of green beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons of fresh chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Trim, wash and blanch green beans in 3 cups boiling water seasoned with salt for 3-5 minutes. Refresh in cold water. Set aside. Heat butter on medium high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and minced garlic; stir fry for 90 seconds. Add beans to skillet and toss with garlic and tomatoes. Heat through until beans are hot but still crunchy. Season with fresh ground black pepper.

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