Friday, December 5, 2008

Today's Challenge

Top Chef fans will appreciate the challenge that faced me at lunch today: try to make a fast, hearty, healthy meal with the ingredients in my parents' kitchen. Sounds easy enough until you see what they have in their kitchen. The pantry has some rice, pasta, onions, and garlic. The fridge has decaying tomatoes, pathetic looking cucumber, lemons, eggs, a pack of muenster cheese, a bag of gourmet cheeses that somehow had chunks of ice in it, radishes, and mini peppers. The freezer held quite a few unidentifiable items in zip lock bags.
Normal people slap some cheese between two slices of bread and call it a draw. This is what I made:

Roasted Pepper Risotto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup Arborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 large roasted pepper, peeled, or 7-8 small
salt and pepper

I chopped up half an onion and the garlic cloves and added them to the pan of hot olive oil. After they cooked for a few minutes, I added the thyme and then the Arborio rice. At this point, a typical risotto recipe has the addition of white cooking wine. I could only find red wine in the house - four open bottles in fact - but I didn't want red risotto so I left out the wine. On a side burner, a pot of chicken broth slowly simmered. I scooped 1/4 cup of broth out at a time and poured it over the rice, constantly stirring, allowing the rice to absorb the broth before adding another scoop.
In the meantime I roasted the mini peppers. Note that roasting mini peppers results in mostly burnt peppers. Stick with roasting the big ones and sauteing the smaller ones. After peeling off the roasted/burnt skin, I added pieces of pepper to the mostly cooked risotto. I squeezed some lemon juice over the whole concoction and stirred. Finally I added the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I tasted a few grains of rice to make sure they had cooked all the way through. Nothing worse than crunchy risotto.
The risotto ended up being quite tasty, but what I really enjoyed was making something out of the nothing that was my parents' kitchen.

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