Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Excuses, risotto, and a blog recommendation.

Sorry it’s been so long between posts, I went through a bout of stomach problems in February that made the idea of eating abhorrent and had me rushing to the bathroom in between efforts to keep down some kind of liquid – the thought of actually cooking food and documenting the process was out of the question.

In any case, in February me and R. decided to try Foods From Around The World. Whatever theoretical joy I delighted in during the plans of these fourteen meals from around the globe was quickly squelched by a combination of sour stomach and the reality check of fine dining – dishes, prep time, ingredients. We ended up creating mounds and mounds of dirty pots, pans, and skillets, spent $400 dollars on overpriced specialty items like grapeseed oil (which does NOT make the recipe, contrary to popular belief), and slaved for hours over a hot stove only to find our results less than thrilling in comparison to our favorite standbys like black beans and homemade tortillas with avocado and tomato.

Here’s the semi-failed experiment in summary:

Our disasters: Uyghur polo (ugh, whoever decided raisins and cumin together was a good thing? And the crunchy rice!), a sickly-sweet pea soup that looked like something straight out of The Exorcist (did not help that I was already vomiting profusely on Turkish Food night), and a sesame chik’n mock meat recipe that was edible, but nevertheless lacked that essential Chinese restaurant je ne sais quoi.

Our triumphs: Silky eggplant parmesan with roasted red pepper risotto and chevre, a Cuban picadillo that we ate on for three days, and the best lasagna of my life. It is probably no coincidence that R. was responsible for all of these grand slams except the risotto, which was sort of so-so and lukewarm after missing that critical right-off-the-stove period.

(Is it any secret at this point that we favor umami flavors?)

We only made it through 4 of the 14 countries, with major revisions to the menus – Turkey, China, the Caribbean, and Italy. However, I am hoping to get back into some kind of a regular posting schedule, one that does not revolve around so much delivery pizza and so many jalapeno kettle chips.

Coming Recipes:
Eggplant Parmesan
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
Five Treasure Fried Rice
The Best Lasagna of My Life™

But until then, try this Roasted Red Pepper Risotto from The Pioneer Woman Cooks – we’ve made it twice since I found the recipe, which is high praise in this highly experimental household. I’ll make the following recommendations for this recipe, based on my vast (twice) experience:

Suggestion A: Go ahead and spring for the chevre (goat cheese). It seems as expensive as some devious black market item when you first see the sticker, but it’s worth it.

Suggestion B: When Ree says serve this immediately, she ain’t kidding. Let it go room temperature and it turns into a goopy (yet still luxurious-tasting) mess. It’s still highly edible at this point, but does not compare to the melty nirvana that is piping hot risotto straight from the pot.

Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cook Time: 30 Minutes Difficulty: Intermediate Servings: 8

8 cups Chicken Broth, Low-Sodium
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ whole Medium Onion, Diced
2 whole Red Bell Peppers, Diced
1-¾ cup Arborio Rice
¾ cups Dry White Wine
Salt To Taste
5 ounces, fluid Goat Cheese
½ cups Grated Parmesan
½ teaspoons Turmeric (optional)

Preparation Instructions

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pan. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add red peppers and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add uncooked rice and stir for a minute or two, allowing it to be coated with the other ingredients.

Pour in wine and cook for a minute or two.

Now, start adding broth a cup to a cup and a half at a time, stirring gently and allowing each addition to absorb into the rice. Repeat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until rice is al dente. (You might not need to use all the broth.)
At the end, stir in a little more liquid and turn off heat. Stir in turmeric if desired.

Add cheeses and stir. Serve immediately!

Go check out Ree Drummond's cooking blog The Pioneer Woman Cooks immediately as well! Some of the dishes are a little meat and dairy-heavy for me personally (being a vegetarian and trying harder to lean vegan every day) but the recipes I *have* used from Ree I visit again and again. My favorite is definitely her Crash Hot Potatoes - seriously, these might make you cry a little. They're kind of ridiculous.

Original recipe found here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/06/crash-hot-potatoes/