Yesterday, one of Nina and Pinta's play dates turned into an excellent Indian feast. We're lucky to have old friends who have children around the same age. Some of our friends are also exceptional cooks. The friends we saw last night I'm going to call Ameriga and Vespucci. She's a dot-com winner turned graduate student. He's a writer. He does all of the cooking in their household. Together, like Santa Maria and myself, they are on a voyage of discovery through the uncharted regions of shifting gender roles.
The meal was delicious and the company was fun. Best of all, I didn’t labor in the kitchen. I waltzed into their apartment after work and was handed a glass of red wine. It was a soft on the mouth and softer on the wallet glass of Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes. I'd never had it before, and I thought it was quite good. Much better than, in fact (and Vespucci volunteered), the bottle of Rosé he christened "Walmart Willie" that he served with dinner.
We sat down to Vespucci's captivating vegetable curry, complete with carrots, green peas, celery, and boiled potatoes. His rice was laced with cloves, cardamom pods, and cashews. His raita showcased cilantro plucked fresh from his terrace garden, where he grows a thriving crop of vegetables and herbs under the light of reflector boards made from recycled aluminum foil. These were all side dishes to his soul satisfying beef-kababs, studded with cumin and slivers of potatoes. I wasn't there to document it, but Santa Maria claims he prepared all of this in a half an hour before I arrived. I'm hoping to get details from him on how he does it. As soon as I do, I'll post them here.
Though I didn't have to do any work for dinner, I'm so neurotic about food that I did manage to find some work to do in the kitchen. Not my friend's kitchen, my own. Despite the plans to go out, I did a lot of prep work that morning for dinner. The truth is, I wasn't sure I'd be able to join everyone for dinner. I do have a job, after all. So thinking that I might go hungry if I had to work late (a distinct possibility), I roasted pork loins and chopped an onion and a head of fennel for some risotto.
I was happy to cook up the risotto this evening. I'm quite thrilled with how it came out. Santa Maria had to go out a book reading, so I was on my own with the kids. I started cooking it before they were ready for bed, and I had to turn everything off for about a half an hour in the middle of the process. The kids couldn't wait. The risotto would have to.
It's been drummed into my head that you have to keep stirring risotto. Well, I just learned that you don't. Despite sitting for all that time, it turned out just fine. Santa Maria sang its praises when she got home.
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 head of fennel, cored and diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 quart chicken stock
- grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
Heat the stock
In a heavy pot, saute the onion and fennel until soft, about five minutes
Add the rice, stir to coat with oil
Add the wine, cook til it's absorbed
Start adding the stock one ladle, about a half a cup, at a time
Stir so the rice doesn't stick
As soon as the stock is absorbed, add more
Repeat until the rice is cooked, about twenty minutes
Salt and pepper to taste
Add the cheese to taste