I’m not a foodie. I mean, I love food. But I don’t consider myself to be a very ambitious cook. But lately I’ve started to be a little less nonchalant in the kitchen: in weekends I tend to try out new, time-consuming recipes. And I’m liking it. One of my favorites has got to be risotto. And there are a few variations that I’ve been trying recently.
Risotto – I made my first risotto last year-ish, and was absolutely intimidated by it. You know when you watch cooking contest shows? Contestants tend to be butchered by the judges for f-ing up the risotto. And so many of them apparently f up the risotto. So that kind of always made me believe I – major klutz – would never in a million years pull it off. But it’s not really as complicated as you’d think. The key to a good risotto is using the right amount of moisture very, very patiently.
I usually use 300 grams of risotto (10.58 oz) which requires 1 liter of liquid (33.81 fl oz – please please please consult with your own conversion app). And by liquid, that’s usually vegetable bouillon / stock (and sometimes there’s wine involved, too). Sometimes you don’t need all the bouillon, sometimes you need to add more liquids to the risotto, but that’s the guideline.
Basically, you put all of the rice in one pan, and add bouillon bit by bit. Not too much. The risotto rice will act as little sponges, sucking up the bouillon. You have to stir regularly and check if all the bouillon is sucked up – careful not to burn the risotto, so simmer! – before you add the next portion. And so on and so on, until the rice is done.
Here’s a helpful Jamie Oliver recipe for 400grams of a basic risotto. I will be trying his basic method out at some point, myself, haha.
Eggplant / Feta:
Fresh garlic, grated
2 onions (I use red ones because I love ‘em), chopped finely
2 eggplants (aubergine), diced
Fresh basil leaves, tear them
1 l. vegetable bouillon
lemon juice, add to flavor – and if you like a few lemon peel gratings
Pine nuts, 150grams is what I usually get
150 grams of Feta cheese, also diced
300 grams of arborio / risotto rice. (Round, short shape.)
I use a bigger pan because the eggplant takes up a lot of space at first. First the olive oil & garlic with the onions. Sauté them. Don’t burn the garlic.
Then I up the heat, add the eggplant and sauté until it’s shrunken a bit and until it’s darker in color. I pepper it a little bit here. After that I usually plunk in a bit more olive oil, and then I toss in all of the risotto, heat still up. Scoop it up and down a bit until it’s all covered in olive oil. And I forgot to add that you’re supposed to heat the risotto like this for a few minutes (to ensure the risotto’s nice and sticky!) before you lower the heat, and gently begin to pour in the first portion of bouillon.
I am not a food writer, obviously, haha.
Meanwhile get a small sauté pan, do not put anything in it except the pine nuts. So no butter, no oil – nada. Roast them on medium fire, be sure to shake ‘em up a little in between so they get nice and light brown. When done, remove from fire and let cool. They don’t need to be hot, they do need to have that roasted flavor. The smell is delightful too.
I wait until the risotto is almost done – like pasta, needs to have a little bit of a bite – before I add the rest to the risotto: the basil, pepper, lemon juice (taste the risotto a few times in between to make sure it’s enough) and about half of the feta cheese. It doesn’t need to melt in the risotto per se, but it does need to crumble and warm up somewhat!
The other half I put on the table along with the pine nuts, as finishing touches. I recommend a decent serving of feta cheese (it MAKES this dish imo) and a modest amount of pine nuts. The pine nuts, I use because they taste sweet whereas the rest of the dish is a bit salty. I like the combination!
The tomatoes pictured: I used Jamie Oliver’s Mothership Tomato Salad recipe (google it) from one of my mom’s cookbooks. But basically these are balsalmic vinegar tomatoes. Grab a good amount of different tomatoes (might I recommend cherry tomatoes?), I needed about 750 grams, chop them in big chunks (small tomatoes, you chop in half). Put them in a colander. Salt them with seasalt (several pinches in between scooping tomatoes around to divide the salt) to drain excessive fluid out (adding salt will NOT make tomatoes salty; it will make them more flavorful, most of the salt will drip right off). This takes about 15 minutes. Put them in a bowl when “drained”. I added a tablespoon of dried oregano and some leftover basil, scooped it all around. Then I made a dressing, as Jamie suggests I used 3 parts extra virgin olive oil against 1 part of balsalmic vinegar… and add a clove of garlic, 1 chopped spanish red (seedless) pepper. Stir stir stir together and pour over tomatoes, scoop them about so they’re all covered by the dressing. I added a yellow bellpepper for color; I wanted yellow tomatoes but couldn’t find them short notice. Bah. Haha. Aaaaaand done! I served this Sunday with mozzarella slices. It’s also supposed to be fabulous with ciabatta. YUM. It tasted even better a day later, but that’s just my opinion. Haha.
I put the tomatoes and risotto on one plate for the photo as they were leftovers (yay me!) but served them separately from one and other when I cooked this stuff on Sunday. I don’t recommend you eat these dishes together. The tomatoes have a much stronger flavor and will overshadow the risotto. Just sayin’. It works great as a starter, or separately for lunch (I had it for lunch today).
Oh gah. I wanted to post a second recipe but eh.. this post is already so long. Next time then!