24 Calamata olives (about 5 ounces), halved and pitted
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
How to Make It
Heat the oil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, honey and basil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate and simmer, stirring, until the tomatoes break apart and the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Strain the sauce, pressing down on the solids and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Toss the garlic with 1 tablespoon of the oil, wrap in foil and roast for about 45 minutes, or until tender; let cool. Slip the garlic from its skins and mash with the anchovies, parsley, basil and oregano.
In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable stock over moderate heat; keep warm. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup oil in a heavy, nonreactive, medium saucepan. Add the fennel and cook over low heat, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and bay leaves and stir to coat with the oil; try not to break up the bay leaves. Stir in the wine and simmer until absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Add one-quarter of the warm stock to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining stock in 3 batches; cook, stirring constantly until the stock is absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it is just cooked through and lightly bound with creamy liquid, about 25 minutes total cooking time. Stir in the garlic-anchovy paste with the last batch of stock. When the risotto is done, add the butter and Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 inch of peanut oil in a medium skillet. Coat the olives with the buttermilk and dredge in the flour. Fry the olives over high heat until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; drain and keep warm.
Rewarm the tomato sauce and pour it into 4 shallow bowls. Mound the risotto in the center, garnish with the fried olives and serve at once.
The tomato sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days; rewarm before serving.
A Barolo from Piedmont has enough character to handle the garlicky, salty and cheesy flavors in this rich risotto.
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