Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 42-Croatia - Crni Rižot-Black Risotto with Squid, Lobster and Micro Greens - Up Next, Cuba

There's nothing better than a summer meal that uses just picked ingredients from my garden paired with fresh seafood. Since lobster and squid were both on sale at my local grocery store, I decided to make a meal representative of  Croatian Mediterranean cooking, which is influenced by Greek, Italian and French cuisine. It was a wonderful, simple, meal we all enjoyed immensely. 

Croatian cuisine is heterogeneous, and is therefore known as "the cuisine of regions". Its modern roots date back to Proto-Slavic and ancient periods and the differences in the selection of foodstuffs and forms of cooking are most notable between those on the mainland and those in coastal regions. Mainland cuisine is more characterized by the earlier Proto-Slavic and the more recent contacts with the more famous gastronomic orders of today - Hungarian, Viennese and Turkish - while the coastal region bears the influences of the Greek, Roman and Illyrian, as well as of the later Mediterranean cuisine - Italian and French.

Croatia(Zagreb)(EU):Once part of the Roman, Ottoman and Austrian Habsburg empires, Croatia finally declared its independence from the former Communist state of Yugoslavia in 1991.

Ethnic fighting in the western Balkans (in the 1990s) brought havoc to Croatia; historic cities and towns like (Dubrovnik and Zadar) were devastated; and even temporarily abandoned. Slowly, as the country rebuilds, tourism has begun to pick up and proud Croatian's are returning to their lives before war.

Croatia is a beautiful land, with a jagged coastline (the Dalmatian), one dotted with dozens of islands. Inland, the lower mountains and hills of the Dinaric Alps slice through the country.

Uncleaned squid

Cleaned, ink removed and reserved

Cut up into rings

Heat seafood stock and keep at a low simmer

Sauté onions and garlic, then add tomatoes, parsley and squid

The recipe didn't call for it....but...butter makes EVERYTHING better

Add risotto

Reserved squid ink - the deepest shade of black imaginable! shell lobsters

Add squid ink when risotto is just about done

My own micro greens and cherry tomatoes: packet of seeds cost me $1.00 & we'll have them all summer


The meal: black risotto with squid, lobster and micro green salad
Crni Rižot

Black risotto is a very popular and delicious dish served along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. This is a highly prized and unusual dish coloured and flavoured with squid or cuttle fish ink. If you are looking for a recipe to impress seafood-loving guests, this is definitely one to try. Risotto Negro is a specialty of the Veneto region, made with cuttlefish cooked with their ink-sacs. Dalmatia was part of the old Venician state.

Serves 4

2 1/2 pounds cuttlefish or squid/calamari (fresh is best)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 small tomato, peeled and diced
fish stock
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 tablespoon olive oil (for rice)
lemon slices for garnish
parsley for garnish

How to make Crni Rizoto (Black Risotto)

Wash the cuttlefish under running water. Pat dry. Remove the dark outer skin and
cartilage from the cuttlefish. Next, very carefully, take out the ink sac and reserve for later use. Cut the cuttlefish into small pieces.

Heat a large, deep skillet with the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic.
When soft, add the cuttlefish and parsley. Salt and add the pepper and tomatoes. Stir to mix and then add some water or fish stock to the skillet and sauté until the cuttlefish becomes partially tender. At the same time, bring water or fish broth, that you will be using to cook the rice to a simmering boil in a separate saucepan.

Rinse the rice, and then add it to the skillet along with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir to coat the rice in oil and skillet juices and sauté for about 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the simmering water or fish broth 1/2-cup at a time, stir until the rice absorbs the liquid and wipes the sides of the pot as you stir. When the rice dries out, add another 1/2 cup of the simmering liquid (reduce the additions of liquid to 1/4 cup after 20 minutes) and continue to stir-cook. Remember to stir well and always loosen the rice from the bottom of the pot so that it doesn't stick. Never drown the rice in the liquid, since risotto is not boiled rice. It will take the risotto about 25 to 30 minutes to cook if you are using arborio rice. The rice when done will be tender but al dente, or firm to the bite.

Close to the end of the cooking time and before removing the rice from heat, add the contents of the ink sac to the risotto. Stir to mix well. Remove from heat and place on serving platter. Garnish by surrounding with sliced lemons and sprinkling additional parsley if so desired.

Final Assessment: I loved this risotto! I make it a lot, but have never used fresh squid and ink. The lobsters, stand alone, I can't take credit for anything except buying them and popping them into a pot of boiling water. As for the greens, they were sweet, savory and spicy - a very nice way to offset the richness of the risotto and lobster. A+


Young Werther said...

Surprisingly, I've never tried ink... I'm a bit squeamish!

Anonymous said...

for a crni rižot to be truly black, you should use more squid ink

sadie said...

Hey Anonymous...thank you so much for the feedback - nothing means more to me than people taking the time to read and respond to my posts. I truly appreciate the advice...It took a lot of squid to get even that much ink!! I'll have to try again :)

Anonymous said...

this is how crni rižoto should look like->

you definitely should use much more squid ink.

Regards from Croatia!

sadie said...

Thank you, Anonymous! That photograph is spectacular!! I will make this again and do as you suggest. Too bad we live so far away, otherwise you could give me a real-life tutorial!!

Anonymous said...

:) you are welcome!

I have to tell you I love your blog! Love! Love! Love!

sadie said...

Really, the thanks goes out to readers like you who are kind enough to take the time to read what I write, and patient enough to teach me the authentic way to cook from their countries of origin. I'm glad you're along for the journey!