I’ve noticed a trend lately of risotto like dishes that skip the traditional main ingredient of Arborio rice. In restaurants I’ve seen creamy orzo cooked down with greens. The blogs and Pinterest fill with barley or quinoa options. In my eyes risotto is a creamy rice dish, slowly simmered with broth and/or wine, onions and other veggies. But really, why does it have to be rice? I’m sure there’s history to the meal, and many of my Italian friends might be jumping through their computer screen, ready to strangle me. How dare I even for a moment consider altering the perfectly classic dish? How could I possibly make it better? I never claimed better, just different. Food is meant to evolve, to be played with. So today, I’m playing with risotto.
Only a few days ago we were dealing with a spring heat wave with temperatures in the 80s. Yet today, we’re back to rainy and soggy, as I consider breaking out my winter coat for (hopefully) the last time this season. That’s the thing about spring: it’s fickle. Just like any relationship, it can entice you with warm, welcoming moments, like a spontaneous picnic date or romantic evening stroll. It can also turn on you in a heartbeat, leaving you cold and miserable, like when you first move in together and realize that his video game collection has somehow secured more closet space than your entire wardrobe.
I love garlic bread. Well, I love anything garlic, so I guess that’s no surprise. Roasted garlic, garlic pesto, garlic ice cream (well, haven’t tried that one yet). But seriously, who doesn’t like garlic bread (carb dodgers do not apply). Split a loaf of French bread sandwich style and serve it open face. Warm gooey bread, spread with garlic, spices and a little cheese for extra measure. Or cut parallel slits almost all the way through the loaf, fill the pockets, bake and rip off slices as you go. How could you possible go wrong?
I know what you’re thinking. Your read the title and automatically interpret one word–FATTENING. Well you’re wrong. There isn’t an ounce of cream in the stuff. Cheese, yes, but not an overwhelming amount. Mostly healthy veggies, milk and a dash of Parmesan. I made this recipe as part of my “let’s make Brussels Sprouts a feature food” project. Over the last few years I’ve come to love the bright green crunchy morsels and am sick of them cast off as a side dish. Grilled hanger steak WITH Brussels sprouts. Striped bass GARNISHED with shaved Brussels Sprouts. Brussels sprouts are forever the sidekick. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. RoCCA was one of the first restaurants I saw that featured an appetizer that was purely Brussels sprouts. I was intrigued and inspired. If they can do it, why can’t I? I resolved myself to creating a dish that would finally put Brussels Sprouts in the spotlight.
This past week has been unseasonably cold in Brooklyn. Once upon a time, I remember winters where there would be snow on the ground from December to March and hats, scarves and gloves where essential, not just fashionable. Years ago, weeks like this would be a bit chilly but close to the norm. But these days, with the thermometer hovering around 40°F all winter, a morning in the teens (with a real feel of -1°F) is pretty damn cold. It’s the first time that I noticed my window’s aren’t as insulated as they should be and that draft from under the AC units makes the room really freaking cold. I’ve forced myself to go outside when necessary, even drag myself the chilly 6 blocks to the gym, but really all I want to do is stay inside, bundled in blankets, eating soup and stews.