Tonic-clonic Sicilian croquettes.

A way to embrace those lonely risotto leftovers from the previous day—before you take the fateful, even shameful, step of simply discarding them. The name arancini derives from the shape and color of this street and café food, which is reminiscent of the small oranges found on Sicily. These deservedly glorified fried stuffed rice croquettes are an almost cult-like, centuries old Sicilian delight with distinctly North African roots, as oranges were brought to the island during Arab tenure there.

Once again, the struggles of conquest and occupation and the interlacing of disparate cultures leads to blissful cuisine. Food is so often the last haven for besieged peoples. Fusion is far from a recent culinary phenonmenon.

Dip these little comforts in aïoli once they cool some. (See Aïoli, Aïoli, Aïoli, January 25, 2009). Or tidy them over a nest of baby mixed greens and drizzle a simple balsamic vinaigrette over them (See In Praise of Balsamic, March 19, 2009). Do not feel limited to this recipe, as arancini can be made with most any risotto.

ARANCINI (RISOTTO BALLS)

3-4 C wild mushroom risotto, cooled (See Risotto, January 27, 2009)
1-2 C Taleggio cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 large eggs
2 C all purpose flour
2 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 T fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 T parmigiano-reggiano
2 C fine fresh bread crumbs

Equal parts extra virgin olive and grapeseed oils, for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Aioli, for dipping or
Balsamic vinaigrette, for drizzling

Pour combined olive and grapeseed oils to a 3 1/2″ depth. Bring the temperature of the oil to 350 degrees F, using a frying thermometer. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet with paper towels to later drain and season the fried arancini.

To make an arancino, take about two tablespoons of risotto in one hand, make a hole with a finger and stuff it with 1-2 Taleggio cubes. Close the hole and then form and roll the risotto into almost 2″ diameter balls. Set aside on a pan covered in parchment paper.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk well. Place the flour in a separate mixing bowl and combine with the parmigiano-reggiano, rosemary, sage and salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Place the bread crumbs in a third mixing bowl.

Roll the arancini first in the flour mixture, then dip into the eggs until well coated and then finally roll lightly into the bread crumbs.

Working in batches cook in the heated oil until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and season to taste.

To review:  1) roll arancini into 2″ balls 2) make a hole and stuff with 1 or so 1/2″taleggio cubes 3) whisk local, fresh eggs 4) roll in seasoned flour 5) dip into whisked eggs 6) coat lightly with bread crumbs 7) cook in heated, mixed oils — 350 F — for 3-4 minutes 8) drain cooked arancini on paper towels and 9) once cooled enough, relish with eyes rolled back.

Pourboire:  serve arancini on a plate which has copious dollops of basil pesto for dipping.

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A Return to Paninis

May 28, 2009

A touch of closure. This post is meant to partially deliver on an earlier promise from A Word About Paninis & Sandwiches that “recipes will follow on a subsequent entry.” Because many sandwiches, including paninis, are built in a rather similar fashion, these recipes are grouped in a communal manner. So, the common ingredients and basics are described first, followed by individual suggested fillings. But, the possibilities are nearly endless.

PANINIS

Ingredients:

Rustic bread, such as Ciabetta or baguette, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Imaginative “fillings” (see below)

Basics:

Brush the outside of the each piece of bread with olive oil. Fill with whatever combination or permutation soothes your soul—or simply build with your usual suspects. Again, when constructing paninis keep the quantities within reason. With paninis, you are not creating thick, fat sandwichs.

Heat the panini grill and press sandwiches until golden brown.

If you do not possess a panini grill, heat a ridged grill pan and place another surface, such as a small cutting board or another pan on top of the panini as they cook. Place a weight on the board or pan to press down the panini, causing those signature ridges and thinning the sandwiches overall. Turn and repeat. The panini should be cooked to golden brown with pronounced grill marks and the insides pressed narrowly with slightly oozing luscious cheese.

Fillings:

Thinly sliced, roasted pancetta, arugula and mozzarella
Coppa, pesto, and provolone
Sauteed mushrooms, arugula, caramelized red onions and fontina
Soppressata, basil pesto, and mozzarella
Tapenade, arugula and fontina
Portabello, goat cheese, spinach, and truffle oil
Serrano, arugula, caramelized red onions and manchego
Coppa, sundried tomatoes and taleggio
Proscuitto, spinach and gruyere
Finocchiona, pesto, fontina and truffle oil
Proscuitto, tomato pesto and camembert
Soppressata, tapenade and asiago
Serrano, watercress, and brie
Proscuitto, fig jam and fontina
Proscuitto, roasted peppers, caramelized onions and gruyere
Serrano, sundried tomatoes, spinach and mozzarella
Fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella

Buon appetito!