This is the time of year that becomes difficult to cook. You muster your strength to again survive the harsh cold of winter (this one being especially challenging), knowing that spring is just a few short weeks away. But wait. March 20 doesn’t instantly bring a new season of fresh produce. Plants are still seedlings, barely yet being transported from greenhouse to ground. It’ll be another month at least before we see the first stalks of asparagus make their way to the Greenmarkets and still longer for those first stalks of rhubarb and ripe strawberries.
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.
So I make risotto. A lot. Once I figured how easy it was to make (assuming you pay attention to your pot) I was in love. Count the chopping on ingredients and all it’s probably a 45 minute meal, but one well worth it. I love that you can pretty much make as much or as little as you want–I opt for more because it’s great as left overs. Some recipes use cream and lots of butter, but (forgetting about the mass of white rice) I think mine’s pretty healthy. One of my favorite things is in addition to the normal onion and garlic, you can really chock it full of veggies. Almost all of my risotto recipes end with some greens being stirred in at the last minute. Spinach is one of my favorites, but I also love kale, chard, mustard greens, and in this case Bok Choy.
I am done cooking for the year! Sad and nice at the same time. We’ll be traveling to visit more family for the rest of the year and heading out for New Year’s Eve. So after making pizza this evening, I am not expected to cook ANYTHING until New Year’s Day. And yes, that even includes preparing a bowl of oatmeal.
While I love cooking, it is fun to get a break. This year I’ve cooked a lot and tried to blog about most experiments and even some failures. I had a lot of extra time during the summer, and as a result my pantry is overflowing. Who knows what I’ll achieve next year. I have started thinking about a sort of “bucket list” as to what food goals I’d like to achieve in 2013, but until then, let’s have one last 2012 recipe hurrah with you, the readers’ favorite recipes of the year and a few additions of my own.
I had the best intentions of cooking fish last night. I had to run some errands in the city and would be right by Whole Foods so would be able to pick some up. But like always the day got away from me and afternoon became evening and I knew my plans were foiled. I had some beautiful leeks in the fridge and instantly thought of risotto. But with not much else in the kitchen, I needed some inspiration. I googled “leek risotto” and came across Bon Appetit’s amazing recipe for Bacon and Leek Risotto with Poached Egg. I was immediately in love.