My pantry is like a revolving door. On a frequent basis, things go in and things come out. This constant stocking and re-stocking have little to do with bulk commodities (flour, sugar, olive oil, rice, dried pasta, etc.) that follow a similar pattern but are based only on what’s on sale. The “real” pantry – going in — is based on what’s in season. Coming out is another story. It’s important to know what’s in the pantry (like the refrigerator) so that you use it before it expires. Nothing irks me more than finding a jar of something wonderful like tomato chutney that dates from years (!) ago when the expected shelf life was around 12 months. Out it goes, wasted. Obviously, managing the pantry takes some discipline.
Because 2009 was a bountiful and happy canning year, I recently needed to take stock, free up space, empty some jars, and be ready for 2010. So I made an inventory and discovered a few jars of tomato liquid, a by-product of canning tomatoes, which were just over a year old and needed to be consumed.
During the summer and early fall, I typically can tomatoes in several ways, some of which yield a juicy by-product that is either cooked or raw. We drink the raw juice within days, although it could be frozen. The cooked juice is skimmed from tomatoes that are reducing to a thick sauce, and I typically can that in jars. I call it “tomato broth.” It’s a thin liquid, but well flavored based on the sauce ingredients.
Recently, I’ve taken to using the tomato broth as the basis for risotto, either simple tomato risotto or an over-the-top seafood risotto which is augmented by juices from the separately prepared seafood, in this case shrimp broth made quickly from the shells and mussel broth from a standard cooking method. The lovely texture and flavor of just-harvested tomatoes make this special. While regularly canned whole tomatoes, buzzed in the blender, work just fine, I appreciate the doubly cooked skim for its subtle yet deep richness of flavor. And I love the fact that this is something others might have discarded but that I salvaged to bring the bounty of the harvest to our wintry table.
Tomato Seafood Risotto
½ lb shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells rinsed and reserved
1lb fresh mussels, cleaned
½ lb small scallops
1 large onion, diced, divided in two parts
3 stalks celery, diced, divided in two parts
½ cup white wine, divided into two parts
2 cups Arborio rice
1 ½ qt tomato broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the seafood and liquids for the risotto. Saute the shrimp shells in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until they turn pink and become crispy but not browned. Add water and a little parsley and cook for a few minutes until brothy. Strain, discarding the shells and reserving the liquid. Saute half of the onion and celery in a deep pot with a little olive oil for about two minutes, turn heat to high and add cleaned mussels plus ¼ cup of white wine. Cover and cook until mussels open, discarding any that don’t. Strain liquid and reserve. Shell half the mussels and keep them plus the unshelled half warm. Warm the tomato broth and combine it with the reserved shrimp and mussel broth, setting aside ½ cup for poaching the seafood.
Saute the remaining onion and celery in olive oil until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat in the oil, about 1 minute. Add ¼ cup white wine and stir to absorb. Turn the heat to low and gradually add the broth ¼ cup at a time, stirring to combine until the rice is cooked al dente, which takes 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, poach the scallops and shrimp in the reserved broth and add to the reserved mussels. Any remaining broth should go into the rice.
When the risotto is cooked, gently add the reserved seafood and additional chopped parsley, season as needed and serve right away in shallow bowls.
Makes about 6 servings.
The simpler version of the above, without the seafood, is made by sautéing onions in a little olive oil, adding rice to coat with oil, then adding a splash of white wine (optional) and small amounts of the tomato liquid incrementally until the rice is cooked.