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Tomato Saffron Risotto, because summer’s finally here.

May 26th, 2015

IMG_0903We had dinner with the Travelers recently. The Travelers are a couple who live on a spectacular estate of many acres that perches magnificently on Long Island Sound. There are English gardens, tennis courts, rolling lawns, and a view that might possibly be the best in town. Driving up the very long, curved driveway, you suddenly catch sight of a manor house that is breathtaking and beautiful.

You might expect to be greeted by, at the very least, Carson, but there are no butlers, no housekeepers, no staff at all, just the Travelers, who, when they are not traveling, are almost always in old shorts, T-shirts and bare feet, who sweep you into their palatial kitchen and proceed to cook you the most delicious food you have ever eaten.

The other night Mrs Traveler (who I almost never get to see because, well, she’s always travelling, but who remains one of my most favorite people in the whole world), stood at the stove stirring and stirring what ended up as the most delicious risotto, served with a big salad – the perfect casual supper. Neighbors joined us, turning the evening into a hilarious night, filled with ridiculous stories and so much laughter, I almost fell off my chair.

I found myself with risotto on my mind all the next day. I knew I had arborio rice, but didn’t have any of the things I tend to think of for risotto: asparagus, wild mushrooms, but I did have lots and lots of tomatoes. I was cooking for vegetarians, so decided to blanch the tomatoes to remove the skin, then throw the skin back in to create a tomato water instead of stock. I had a jar of saffron, which would turn the rice a lovely bright shade of yellow. I had a great big basil plant I had just bought. I had small cherry tomatoes that I decided to roast and add back in at the end to give the dish some color.

The result was both delicious and pretty. And the essence of summer.

 Tomato Saffron Risotto (Serves 4-6)


  • 4 large tomatoes
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes
  • 7 cups water
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch sugar
  • large pinch saffron
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, julienned
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Pre-heat oven to 350.

Coat cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in oven for around 35 minutes, until cooked down and golden brown in places. Remove.

Fill pan with water and saffron, bring to boil. Make a cross in the bottom of the large tomatoes, place in pan for 20 seconds, then remove and immediately place in bowl of iced water, setting aside pan of water. Remove skins and inner seeds. Dice the remaining tomato, and add tomato skins back to water.

Add olive oil to skillet and heat. Add onions, stir to soften, and after two minutes, add garlic and diced tomatoes. Keep stirring until golden, around five minutes. Add rice and sugar, stir until the rice is coated and starting to lose translucency (another 3 minutes or so).

Remove tomato skins from tomato saffron water, bring to boil. Keep stirring rice, add wine, and stir until wine has been absorbed, then start adding the tomato water, ladleful at a time, until each ladle has been absorbed. Keep going, stirring all the while, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is soft and creamy (around 20-25 minutes. Taste and add seasoning.

Stir in basil and parmesan, remove and serve immediately, garnishing with the roasted cherry tomatoes.

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