Attention all seasonal cranberry enthusiasts: This recipe is for you. Thinking outside the box of cranberry sauce, juice or baked goods can be a little tricky when it comes to "Fall's Favorite Berry*" (*according to me). Their proprietary tartness is what makes cranberries special, offering a unique flavor profile for pairing. To provide some balance to the acidity, it's important to incorporate some extra sweetness and a salty bite. Rich and creamy risotto provides the perfect canvas for combining all of these elements.

Cippolines, aka Italian Pearl onions, are known for their sweetness and miniature size. Since they are small onions that need to be individually peeled and prepped, the quickest way to do so is by boiling them whole for a couple of minutes and cooling them off in an ice bath. Then, trim off the hairy ends and squeeze the little onions out of their skin. You can then cut them down to whatever size you like.

The reason this recipe is so perfect for risotto is because you can actually save the now flavorful water in which you've boiled the onions and use it for stock! Add the peeled onion layers back into the water, along with a cup of cranberries, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain and continue on your merry risotto making way.

This recipe is a great vegetarian option. For the meat eaters out there, brown up a little sweet Italian sausage for a flavorful addition.

Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer, chef instructor and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville.


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Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.

Roasted Tart Cranberry and Cippoline Risotto

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh cranberries, about 4 c.

1 lb. cippoline onions

1 medium orange, for juice

2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. dried sage

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c. Arborio rice

1/4 c. dry white wine

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, as needed

Olive oil, as needed

Grated or shaved parmesan cheese, as desired

Freshly torn basil, for garnish

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, simmered until reduced by half (optional)

Directions

1. Prepare the cippolines and stock: Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Drop the cippoline onions into the boiling water whole for 3 minutes. Remove the onions from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, and transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water. Keep the pot of onion water on the stove, over low heat. Trim the hairy ends off the onions, and squeeze the cippolines out of their skin and first layer. Cut the onions in half and set aside, and place the peels and skins back into the pot of water along with 1 cup of cranberries. Allow the pot to a simmer for 15 minutes. Strain or remove the cranberries and onion pieces, and keep the liquid warming on the stove over low heat. This will be the stock for the risotto.

2. Roast the cranberries and onions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the juice of 1 whole orange (about 3 Tbs.), 2 tbsp. sugar, and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the cranberries and prepared cippoline onions, and toss to coat. Pour the mixture onto a large baking sheet, and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Scoop the roasted cranberries and onions off the pan and into a bowl, and set aside.

3. Start the risotto: While the cranberries and onions are cooking, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic to the pan, and cook until fragrant just for a minute or so. Add the dry arborio rice to the sizzling garlic, and stir to coat. Stir in 1/4 cups dry white wine, and a pinch of salt and pepper. When the wine has been fully absorbed, it's time to start adding the stock.

4. Add 1 cup of stock and 1 tsp. of sugar to the rice, just so that the rice is covered by liquid. Give the pan a good stir, and then allow the stock to cook and reduce, while gently swirling the pan on the burner to prevent rice from sticking. Continue to thoroughly stir and swirl the whole pan of rice about every minute or so. When the liquid has reduced, and little holes (like in wet sand) appear, add another cup of stock and repeat process: add liquid, stir, swirl, allow to reduce. Continue until rice is tender and creamy, about 25 minutes and 6 cups of stock in all.

5. To finish, stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese into the cooked risotto. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

6. Serve risotto piled with a heaping spoonful of the roasted cranberries and cippoline onions, freshly torn basil and additional cheese as desired. Optional: Drizzle a bit of reduced balsamic vinegar syrup over top.

Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer, chef instructor and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.