Monday, May 14, 2012

Super Moon Risotto (Cakes)

Dear Mouse,

"Ever since the Professor and his wife have come, our daily life seems to have jumped the track. I sleep at the wrong time, drink wine, and eat different Kabuli. Fancy. Bad for the system."
- Vanya, Target Margin's 'Uncle Vanya'

Last week, I basically didn't really sleep much. Even so,  I managed to have a series of vivid and bothersome dreams. I'm not saying that they were necessarily due to my nightly meltdown in this seemingly harmless "Chekhov Slumber Party", running for one more week. I'm also not saying the fault lies with eating leftover 'Drunk Man Noodles' from Spice for breakfast at 5AM. Anything's possible.

On the third mostly sleepless night,  I dreamed that I went out of my house (house?) to take my car (car?) to work (work? j/k) and was dismayed to see that the tires were basically flaccid. 'How', I (dream) thought to my (dream) self, 'could I have let this happen? How have I been just driving around on these tires and running them ragged instead of taking proper care of them? Is there a gas station near here? How will I get there? Will anyone help me put air in these things? And (for real, I thought this in my dream), how do I get out of here without anyone finding out I did this and laughing at me?' And then I woke up. (Oh, and I was also parked on somebody's lawn. Because that's how I (dream) roll.)

As you've often gleefully pointed out, Mouse, my dream life is almost ludicrously easy to read, its metaphors so obvious they can hardly even be called metaphor (what's the opposite of metaphor? Obva-phor?) So there's something reassuring about knowing that this dream means nothing more complicated than  maybe I just need a break. To, you know, pump air into my obvaphorical tires. 

                                                                  I'm getting to the food.

I venture to say though that my recent insomnia and various other mood swings and mild hallucinations aren't ALL due to nights of mashed-up Chekhov and days of musical Gertrude Stein (rehearsing this). There's a LOT goin' on in the air around us right now. There's the pollen count, which I'm gonna say has accounted for, oh, 87% of my recent conversations. There's this crazy weather (remember when it used to be kind of  nice out  in MAY?) And then of course there was the Super Moon that, well, happened last week and I'm just getting around to posting this now.

                                                            I'm GETTING to the food!

It was cloudy, so we in NYC didn't see it, but we (at least I) sure felt it. The Super Moon, so named for being the biggest/closest full moon of the year, zoomed into our lives on May 5 in the sign of Scorpio, the astrological sign associated with death, sex, regeneration, and scorpions. Yow. As this is a blog devoted to food (I'm GETTING to it!!) and not New-Age Hoo-Ha, I'll stop there, but my point is, yow. There's a lot out there to throw a girl off balance at the moment, especially a Sensitive Cancer with flat tires. 

Enter Risotto. This risotto, to be specific:

                       Shape and color of risotto pictured here to be explained in next paragraph.

I can't think of anything better to make for dinner during such a Lunatic Week. Creamy, soothing, filling, complex in flavor but not (as you might suspect) in assembly, it is the ultimate comfort food AND comes with the fringe benefit of stress release as you stir and stir, adding broth one cup at a time and marveling at how not even a cup of rice magically expands to feed you, your guest, and either another person or you, again, late-night, post-show, frying leftovers into risotto CAKES and silently thanking your genius sister for the suggestion. 


The Boo

Super Moon Risotto (Cakes) for Basically Two or Three People
(based on Ina Garten's recipe)


3/4 C Arborio Rice
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp butter
1/2 C chopped fennel
1 med onion chopped
1/3 C dry white wine (and you'll probably splash some more in during the stirring, why not)
4 C (about) hot chicken broth (maybe have some extra there in case)
1/2 lb asparagus
zest of two lemons
1tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 C mascarpone
1/4 C parmesan (or more if you like -- and definitely more for serving)
1 tbsp minced fresh chives

 I would do this part first: cut asparagus into 1-in lengths, discarding woody stems, and blanch in boiling water for a few minutes. Set aside. 

Olive oil and butter into your dutch oven or similar pot over med heat. When hot/melted, add onion and fennel and saute  for 5-7 minutes, til tender. Add rice and stir to coat w/oil and butter. Add the wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly until absorbed. Start adding hot chicken broth, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed before adding the next. Do this til all broth is gone.  This will take about 25-30 min. When you're 15 minutes in, add the asparagus, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock and stirring, til the rice is tender but firm. 

Whisk lemon juice and mascarpone together. When risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in mascarpone mixture plus parmesan and chives. Let it settle a minute then serve with addtional parm and chives for sprinkling. 

                                                      THE NEXT DAY:

Put 1 tbsp of olive oil into a pan over med/low heat.  Maybe using a 1/4 C scoop or similar, scoop a ball of leftover risotto into pan and gently flatten to make more of a cake shape. Fry over medium heat for about ten min (be patient and also watch so you don't burn). When it's brown on the bottom and able to hold its shape reasonably, carefully flip over and do the other side. Eat. Yum.