i know what you'll say; "courtney, using cheese and seafood together is a major 'no-no' in italian cooking, what are you thinking!?" but the reality is that once you know why the italians don't usually pair seafood and cheese, you can carefully plan meals that use both ingredients without even angering mario batalli.
in fact, speaking of mario, he is the one who explained the reason in such clarity that i not only understood the logic behind it, but instantly knew i needed to challenge the rule. as it turns out, the reasons italians are so strict about this particular culinary rule is that they have never wanted to overwhelm the delicate flavor of seafood with the more robust flavors of cheese. makes sense, i'll give them that.
however, since the majority of the cheese in this dish lives in the luxurious rice on which said delicate seafood rests, i believe i have found a loophole in even the most stringent italian grandmother's rule book. the flavors of the plump shrimp and scallops are fresh and light, the spinach is earthy and slightly spicy on the tongue, and the rice...oh the rice...it's perfectly salted and has a bit of a tangy kick from a double dose of the wine in the early stages of simmering. i'm sure you'll love this dish.
1 onion, finely chopped
1.5 cups of good arborio rice (or other suitable risotto rice)
4 cups of good chicken stock
1 cup white wine (the kind isn't important, but it should be something you would drink as the flavor will intensify)
a chunk or block of good parmagianno reggianno (or 1/2 cup grated parmesan)
2 tablespoons of butter
5 oz. baby spinach, cleaned and the ends picked
1/2 # shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1/2 # scallops, peeled and cleaned
zest of one lemon
fresh nutmeg for grating
red pepper flakes (just a pinch)
in a pot on the back burner, heat all of the chicken stock on low heat just to warm it through.
heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan. add spinach to the pan and sautee lightly until it's gone a deeper green and begun to wilt. remove to a plate and wipe out pan.
heat the same pan over medium heat and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the butter. while it melts chop your onion and then add to the pan. saute the onions until they are glassy and clear, but don't brown them. if they begin to brown remove the pan from the heat and reduce the flame before continuing to cook. once the onions are glassy add in the rice and stir for about a minute until the smell goes all nutty. once that happens add in one cup of white wine and stir until absorbed.
once the wine is absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the stock at a time and stir through the rice and then leave it for a minute or two to absorb. you will know when to add more because the rice will look like it's drying out. you want it to always have a creamy liquid surrounding it, so be sure to keep that up. don't wander away from it, but it's ok to not stir it for a few minutes at a time.
which is good, because at this point you need to prep the seafood. heat a smaller pan over high heat with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. when the oil is hot, swirl it to coat the bottom of the pan. pat the scallops dry and salt and pepper both sides. place them into the searing hot pan, and jiggle them really gently so that they don't stick. once you have them all in, leave them for about a minute and a half, and then flip them. leave this side in for about 30 seconds and then remove them to a plate.
place the shrimp in a small bowl and zest the lemon onto them. you want these to taste fresh, but not like lemonade, so don't go nuts with the zest. also add salt and pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes that you crumble with the tips of your fingers. add just enough olive oil to moisten them slightly and then add them to the same pan that you cooked the scallops in. these will take only moments to cook. once they go pink, flip them, and then remove them almost immediately. there is nothing worse than an overcooked shrimp.
you should be cooking the seafood while adding stock to your risotto, so at this point your rice should be just about done. once you have 1/2 cup of stock remaining, grate about 1/2 cup of the cheese into the rice and stir it through. add the remaining stock, stir it through, and leave the heat on for about 30 seconds. turn the heat off and let the rice sit for about 1 minute and then stir.
assemble these by placing rice on the place, a bed of spinach on top of that, and then a mixture of scallops and shrimp to the very top. you can grate more cheese on the top of the entire dish if you wish. enjoy!
this would be equally good in the winter or summer, though it does have more of a fresh summer leaning. though not exactly healthy, this is delicious and light tasting. it should serve four comfortably.
if preparing this gluten-free be sure to check the label on the chicken stock, i use swanson's or safeway brand which are both gluten-free.