“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” Quoted from John Lennon
By the time I left New York this year, I was completely out of money. In my last few days I had to get very creative with feeding myself because I only had random leftover ingredients to work with. Surprisingly, it turned out that I had almost all the necessary ingredients to make risotto! All I needed to buy was an onion, which I bought at the deli a block away from my new apartment and which I paid for by scrounging through the entire place until I found a dollar in assorted change.
Instead of parmesan, I had some scraps of cheddar cheese. Instead of wine or other seasonings, I pretty much only had some chipotle hot sauce and other more middle-eastern type spices. However, I did have chicken broth, Arborio rice, onions and garlic. I decided to make an American comfort rendition of risotto. I threw in all the extra ingredients I had in the fridge. I call it my leftovers risotto. It was great! Luckily the meal was very rich so I was able to stretch it out for my last few meals before I went home.
After two weeks of eating almost no animal products, my craving for cheese was starting to get a little out of hand. Devon and I wanted something creamy, so I decided to try and make a vegan risotto. As I left my internship that day, the chef told me it would be impossible to make a good risotto without dairy, so I was determined to prove him wrong! I know that the starches from Arborio rice generally give a creamy texture to risotto, however there is also usually the addition of butter and cheese. I tried to make up for the lack of the sharp parmesan cheese and rich butter by packing the dish with lots of other flavors. I began by using lots of onions, garlic, and some crimini mushrooms to add a rich, earthy flavor. I replaced the chicken broth with vegetable broth and added white wine to the rice as I continuously stirred. On the side I sautéed asparagus tips in lemon, olive oil, and lots of fresh cracked pepper. Finally, I combined the risotto with the asparagus and added sea salt as well as more lemon. juice The two key ingredients that made this recipe such a success were the coarsely cracked pepper and the lemon juice. The dish turned out creamy, yet very light and extremely flavorful! The lemon enhanced the asparagus and added a freshness while the pepper enriched the earthiness gave a punch of flavor with every bite.
Nothing is more apparent than the fact that I really need a new camera! Unfortunately, I was the victim of a robbery when I was at the airport over winter break. My Beautiful camera that I absolutely love is now gone forever. At the time I was angry because I had wanted to document memories from reuniting with high school friends but now there are bigger problems; namely the issue of not being able to take quality photos of my creations. Unfortunately, all images since December have been taken on an iPhone. Hopefully I can remedy this problem soon, but until then please believe me when I say that my food not only tastes amazing but it looks much more appetizing than it does in photos.
Enough with the disclaimers, time to get to the meal! Over the last few days I have really been craving tapas. I have only been to tapas restaurants a few times in my life, but I fondly remember the small bubbling skillets of spicy meatballs and potato coquettes. Therefore, I decided to venture into unknown territory for me: Spanish cuisine. I have never experimented with flavors and ingredients from Spain so I was a little bit nervous about my endeavor. I needed not worry however because everything turned out great! I three small dishes: spicy tomato garlic shrimp, cauliflower risotto, and chorizo braised in malbec and garlic. Everything was great but I was especially happy with how the risotto turned out!
See, I have a rather negative track record with making risotto, so I didn’t expect this dish to turn out much better. You must understand that making risotto is a rather complicated process that requires constant attention during the long cooking period. The first and only other time I made risotto I tried a butternut squash rendition….it would have been fine but there were two major problems with the finished product. Firstly, I ran out of chicken broth while cooking the rice so it came out rather sticky. Secondly, I also didn’t have white wine to put in the rice. I figured that red wine would be a suitable substitute but I was very wrong! The risotto ended up turning purple and it looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book with the orange squash pieces mixed in. My mom still makes fun of me for the disaster! She is a great mom though because she ate the meal anyways. Now back to the present. I was unusually calm about my second attempt at risotto. To keep up with the Spanish theme I used manchego cheese instead of parmesan and also threw in some cauliflower for an addition of veggies. The cooking process was uneventful and the product was creamy, comforting al dente Arborio rice with an almost stringy cheesy component. This was definitely the richest part of the meal, I accidently ate too much of this and ended up getting full before finishing the other two plates! Speaking of the other two plates…
I made the shrimp by marinating it raw in lots of chopped garlic. I then sautéed the shrimp with a diced tomato and some tomato paste. I finished off that dish by adding some heat with chili pepper flakes and chili powder. Voila. The chorizo was a little more difficult. When I was searching whole foods I had wanted cured chorizo but the store only had raw chorizo sausage links. It took a while for the sausage to cook long enough for me to cut it into pieces but once I did I simmered the meat with garlic and red wine. I eventually added tomato paste to deepen the flavor as well as to add thickness. I simmered the chorizo until I finished the risotto then served all three dishes together. The three dishes each had a different flavor that complimented the others. The chorizo was slightly sweet with heavier secondary flavors. The shrimp was spicy and tangy. Finally the risotto was creamy and salty. Ta Da! Tapas college style.