Thursday, September 21, 2006

Eggplant Risotto

Risotto (arborio rice) is another Italian dish that I have no qualms in saying that I did not grow up eating. For one thing, the differences in Italian cooking vary widely not just region-to-region, but also from kitchen-to-kitchen that you can easily spend a lifetime exploring all of the possibilities. No single Italian grows up with every Italian dish. It is also important to note that my greatest influence in cooking was my father -- who was not just an Italian, but a long-term bachelor before (and after) his marriage. He was a great, and passionate cook, but he was also Mr. Mom. While he aspired to the delicate and complex cooking of Julia Child, his own cooking was often centered mostly around cuts of various meats, frying things, coldcuts, and (with the exception of his tomato-gravy, and corned beef on St. Patrick's Day) those things which could be made quickly and easily: utilizing only a 24-year-old spatula, and a skillet that looked as though it had shielded him throughout a war and several hostage crises. His cooking was born of his ethnicity, his necessity, and his resources. And consistently, it was damn good. I see these things with a clearer eye now.

(As a side note, when David and I moved out of the old house, we could not wait to chuck the crummy old cooking supplies and buy new ones. Now, when I think of the history the old man's skillet had, I wouldn't focus on its long lack of a non-stick surface: I would mount it on my kitchen wall as an historical artifact.)

Still, my tastes (and my husband's) run just a bit more to the veggie side now and again. My inexperience with the medium of risotto, however, made me rather timid about trying it out. But over the years, She Whom I Love to Taunt (but actually rely on, and worship somewhat) has emphasized the ease of making risotto so many times that I actually started to believe it. And Rachael? "Easy-peasy" it is.

I started the rice with onion and mushroom. Then I began to add the chicken stock according to the package directions. While I slow-cooked the risotto, I grilled eggplant on the side. It was very simple to continue adding chicken broth as the risotto cooked, thickened, cooked, thickened... Lather, rinse, repeat. I added fresh basil at the end, and served it with some ovoline (buffalo mozzarella the size of eggs) that I got at my new favorite grocery store. Just because it was there.

Chris has not yet completely developed an appreciation for eggplant, but I will continue to make it because I love it so much. I will temper it, for his sake, with the occasional serving of coldcuts and corned beef. I know what boys like.

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