Hello, and Risotto Primavera

I seem to have entirely neglected, if not per perception left entirely, this website. And, truly, the perception was my own, as I had decided, in moderate intention, to stop posting and let my recipes slowly fade into the infinity of the Cloud. But as everyone in my life knows, I finally moved from Chicago to North Carolina. Durham, more specifically. And in leaving, I was interested again in keeping this up, bolstered as well by the encouragement of several friends. So the blog will be resurrected from its really-dusty-kitchen, dishes-haven’t-been-done-in-weeks level disregard. And it seems I’ll need to change my subtitle.

I was told from some people that possibly this should no longer be titled “Dinner for Brian,” as the motivation for the title originally- that I was posting recipes in Chicago for my brother to try at home- is now less substantiated. If I want, I can go see Brian on any weeknight, make him dinner (or go out together), and receive immediate feedback. The internet no longer is a necessary medium. But, if I’m being honest, I mostly like the idea of cooking for a tangible (if now much more available) person. Yes, I usually eat alone. And yes, these recipes are often to serve my palate more than my lovely ginger brother’s. But I do take credit for expanding significantly his culinary horizons, and it’s still with his review in mind that I write. (Not to diminish the influences of my other brothers, who are easily as important and definitely more interesting than I am).

The real reason I’m posting tonight, as opposed to a lazy Sunday (my usual date), is because romanesco broccoli was on sale at Whole Foods today, and it looks so super cool, and I wanted to use it. And then, in doing so, I was thinking that everyone I know needs to cook with romanesco broccoli- mostly for the fun shape- and I must provide a recipe. Also, this is really, very delicious, and it is also incredibly easy to put together. I had never made risotto with actual arborio rice before, always favoring risotto from barley (also, where would I find arborio rice?). But in an attempt to have really quite pretty jars full of grains to hide in my cabinets (in the ideal of someday having this beautiful kitchen with open and exposed shelving), I bought a bunch of grains from my neighborhood co-op, and at that time I found arborio rice sneaking among the quinoa. I determined it must be tried.

Well, this has been a lengthy composition… Here’s the recipe.

Risotto Primavera

Serves 2

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup arborio rice

1/2 tbsp. butter

1/2 white onion, diced finely

2 carrots, sliced thinly

1 head romanesco broccoli, chopped into small florets

1/3 cup frozen peas

1/3 cup frozen corn

1/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan

Salt & pepper

Basil, sliced, to serve

Heat the stock in a small quart pan until just boiling. Lower to low heat and keep warm.

In a larger pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the arborio rice and mix. Add the broccoli. Season lightly. Add 2-3 ladle-fulls of stock to the pan (it will simmer and deglaze slightly). Stir and stir until the rice has absorbed most of the stock. (It’s not ridiculous, you can take breaks from stirring; just don’t leave it for a long period of time). Add another ladle or two of stock. Stir. Repeat this process until the rice is soft and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. You may not use all of your stock. Once the rice is cooked and most of the stock is absorbed, add the peas, corn, and Parmesan. Stir to combine well. Taste and season again.

Serve and top with fresh basil. Admire the pretty broccoli. And eat!


Tomato and Basil Wrap with Goat Cheese

I’m considering moving from Chicago to be closer to work. And by considering I mean looking at rental properties and planning the timeline of my summer around the move. I’ve had emotions ranging from excitement (to leave behind a bad commute) to apathy to an “everything will be about the same” attitude to outright sadness. And now that it’s getting closer, the latter is the overwhelming opinion. It’s probably because the trees are green now and the sun comes out. And that the streets are starting to burst open with people and the skyline is sparkling again. It’s probably something to do with the extra time the sunlight allots my day and the ease and freedom I have in calling up friends to meet for dinner. I’m a little unsure if I’ve allowed something so transient as a job to remove me from this beautiful city that is the reason I moved back to the midwest. And then I’m certain that people in their 20s are supposed to move for work because those are the sacrifices you make to be successful. But maybe-I-don’t-want-to-be-successful-I-just-want-to-eat-dinner-outside-on-the-sidewalks. Who finances that lifestyle?

So here’s a really delicious wrap that you can make for lunch the night before to bring to work. It feels pertinent to discuss things like that as I toss and turn with thoughts and expectations for work, life, and otherwise. Because the question: what should I bring for lunch tomorrow? persists despite all life events. It is the permanent question at 9:39pm when you wanted to go to bed 10 minutes ago. It is important because it’s food that will fuel your day, but so absurdly insignificant because it’s that midday meal that’s satisfied by leftovers or snacks or cafeteria food or random fridge grabs. No one really cares much about lunch. So here; change that.

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Tomato and Basil Wrap with Goat Cheese

Serves 1

1 large flour tortilla, softened

2 tbsp. roasted garlic hummus

1 tbsp. goat cheese, crumbled

8-10 fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup baby spinach

5 heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

Salt & pepper, to taste

To prepare the sandwich, I spread on a layer of hummus, followed by the goat cheese crumbles. Drop a few basil leaves and top with a small handful of baby spinach. Halve the tomatoes and stack precariously atop the greens. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roll the wrap by tucking in both ends and rolling away from you. I usually wrap it up in a paper towel and aluminum foil to keep it contained.

This stays well overnight, probably even longer (I haven’t tried). A perfectly flavorful lunch wrap tangy from the goat cheese and creamy from the hummus, with just the right peppery basil bite and pop of fresh tomato. Serve with some fruit or Greek yogurt for a truly healthy lunch of champions. Pride yourself on your preparedness and commitment to not buying lunch from the cafeteria. High five.

And now, back to ponder the great questions of life.