This week I made two veggie-friendly dishes for non-veggie friends. They liked them (woo-hoo!), so I am passing them onto you. I made risotto several times when I was studying abroad in London and sort of "mastered" the technique. Making risotto is not very difficult; we see something like Risotto ai Funghi Porcini on a menu and we think, wow. That must take hours, maybe even weeks to make. And it sure looks expensive. It's not! It takes about 40ish minutes to make all and all and the way I make it involves the following inexpensive ingredients: 2 cloves of garlic, 1 sweet onion, vegetable stock, arborio rice, butter, dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc or chardonnay) and grated parmigiano-reggiano. OK, the cheese can get a bit expensive I'll admit but a little can go a long way in this already-creamy dish. Cheese sections of supermarkets typically offer different sizes of cheese or "leftover" slivers, so you can buy a small chunk and grate it yourself to save a buck or two.
To start, you'll need to boil about 4 cups of liquid (I used 3 cups of water and 1 cup of vegetable stock) in a small sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 crushed cloves of garlic and a chopped sweet onion to a pot om medium-low heat, and let that baby sweat! Once the onion has begun to release its moisture, add one cup of arborio rice and coat the dry rice in the onion and butter.
After about 5 minutes of folding the rice, onion, butter and garlic together, add a cup or so of the liquid (once the liquid has boiled be sure to reduce it to a low heat!). Stir the rice and liquid until all the liquid has absorbed, and repeat 3 times for the remaining 3 cups of liquid (about 20-25 minutes). At this point you are going to want to taste a bit of the rice to see where it's at in the cooking process-- if it is soft there's no need to add more water or stock, if it's hard add another cup of liquid and let that absorb and repeat if necessary. Once your rice is a thick, creamy consistency add 1/3 cup of the dry white wine and fold the entire rice mixture.
Transfer the rice to a glass bowl, and add about 1/3-1/2 cup of parmigiano-reggiano. You are going to want to add just a bit at a time so that you can stop to fold the cheese into the rice. Like I said earlier, the arborio rice is going to be creamy even before the cheese is added. This is because it releases a TON of starch while cooking, so if you aren't very into cheese you can skip this step and add some salt instead. Serve while the risotto is nice and warm and garnish with a basil leaf! I steamed 3 pieces of zucchini, chopped into discs, with a bit of salt, pepper and garlic to serve on the side of this dish. Your 4-6 friends will be very impressed with your risotto-making skills!
I made vegetarian pad thai tonight because Will likes tofu. Yup. He likes tofu and he asked me to make something with it. Now, I bet you're thinking to yourself that you could never get anyone to eat tofu, maybe you don't even like it yourself. I challenge you to try out this dish, which uses a firm tofu, and then let me know if you've changed your mind! Tofu adds a ton of protein and really interesting texture to a dish which is why I love using it.
For this pad thai you're going to need an 8oz. package of rice noodles. Unlike pastas, which are made using wheat or flour, you don't need to boil rice noodles. The reason for this is because they are typically thin and will cook very quickly in boiled water. Super flimsy rice noodles don't taste that great, so stick your noodles in a bowl of warm water for a half hour or so (follow the directions on your package) and they will continue to soften as you add them to the rest of the ingredients without becoming overly soft and gooey.
Scramble 2 eggs in a pan with a bit of canola oil and then reserve them in a bowl for later. Add 2 cups of shredded carrot, 2 chopped sprigs of green onion and 2 cloves of crushed garlic to a pan with a tablespoon of canola oil. Stir the vegetables for a minute or so and then chop up a block of firm tofu and add to the pan.
Whisk together 4 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter, 2 1/2 tablespoons of roasted red chili paste, the juice of one very juicy lime and 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce together in a bowl. Peanut butter is not traditionally included in pad thai sauce, but my favorite thai restaurant at home offers a peanut butter sauce on the side and I always end up mixing it in! Once the sauce has been whisked together, pour it over the vegetables and combine everything with tongs.
Add the scrambled egg back into the pan along with 3-4 cups of bean sprouts and the rice noodles. Bean sprouts are absolutely my favorite part of this dish because of the crunch they offer. You are definitely going to want to add these at the end so that they stay nice and crisp! Once everything has been combined, taste the dish to determine whether you need any more of the sauce ingredients (if you like spice you are probably going to want to add more chili paste!). Finally, transfer to a bowl, serve, and watch 4-5 of your tofu-hating friends become believers. Amen.
Tomorrow I will finally be going to Julia's Empanadas in Dupont Circle. Can't wait to tell you which empanada(s... who am I kidding?) I try!