Food moments of the moment

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Once again, I dared to try my hand at preparing one of my favorite restaurant dishes. And once again, it’s a dish from Eataly’s Verdure. This time around I was attempting to make their decadent Farrotto con Piselli which is farro cooked in the style of risotto with peas. I can gladly say that the dish came out tasting fantastic and pretty darn close to the original! I’ve said it before, I am head over heels in love with the texture and taste of farro. The ridiculously awesome chewiness is a texture that works great in salads and soups and just completely shines as a star in dishes like the risotto. This recipe might be vegetarian but it isn’t exactly “healthy”. There are very generous amounts of butter and cheese melted into the creamy mixture. But you know what? Sometimes you just need to indulge and enjoy every bite on your plate. I did add bright, nutritious peas and served it alongside a salad made with roasted butternut squash and shallots, toasted pumpkin seeds and an apple cider vinaigrette. As long as your indulgence is balanced out I don’t see anything wrong with it.

This whole try-to-recreate-restaurant-dishes-at-home have become my food moments of the moment. I’ve started with really easy ones so it’s not that impressive. It helps when the menu lists ingredients (and sometimes cooking techniques). I knew this dish was cooked risotto style and included peas and pecorino. I happened to have Parmesan on hand so I used that instead. I also knew that they must have used vegetable stock versus chicken stock because Verdure is the vegetarian restaurant of Eataly. I also knew they used lots of butter to finish off the dish because you REALLY taste it and it’s divine. They always have some variation of this dish on their menu. Back in the fall, the risotto was made using a butternut squash puree. Yum. I feel like the combinations for this dish are absolutely endless. Below is my recipe for Farrotto con Piselli inspired by Verdure.

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish

1 cup pre-soaked farro (follow package directions)

4 cups vegetable stock

½ yellow onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup frozen peas

1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, plus extra for finishing the dish

salt

black pepper

Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan over low heat and keep the stock warm.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sautee until soft. Add the garlic, and stir for one minute. Add in the farro and stir for about one minute to get the grains covered in oil and toast a bit. Add in a couple of ladles of the stock and continuously stir the farro until the stock has almost all been absorbed. Continue adding one ladleful at a time, stirring and letting it absorb in between until the farro is cooked through and a thick, creamy sauce has formed, about 30 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen peas and keep stirring. Off the heat, add in 1-2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and ½ cup of the grated cheese, stirring until the butter has melted. Serve with extra cheese if you so wish.

Something out of nothing

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Do you ever have those nights when you have no idea what the heck you’re going to make for dinner? That was me yesterday. When I lived alone it wasn’t such a problem not having a dinner plan. Whenever that happened I usually had a bowl of cereal or perhaps some scrambled eggs and toast. But now I have Kevin to feed, as well. He’s a strong man who comes home from his strenuous Crossfit workouts after work and is in need of a good, hearty dinner to replenish the nutrients his body needs. I don’t think a bowl of cereal would cut it for him. I had made a terrific dinner for us the night before of lentil salad and roasted cauliflower and chickpeas but, as I’ve learned in the last few months, leftovers are basically a thing of the past. Kevin’s appetite is twice the size of mine and there is rarely any leftover food for the next day’s meal. Since we’re having guests stay with us this weekend and I have a glorious meal plan in the works I’m trying to save every dollar I can in order to purchase the food. So last night I did what a lot of us end up doing. I opened the pantry and the fridge and tried to figure out what I could scrap together for a decent dinner.

This is what I found. I had 1/4 of a box of Arborio rice left, a half empty box of vegetable stock in the fridge along with a small block of Parmesan, and a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Risotto it would be. I also had half of a container of hummus, a bag of raw broccoli, one red bell pepper, and a few cherry tomatoes. Crudites, anyone? Perhaps I’d add in a slice of avocado toast. It it also from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good cookbook and we’re obsessed with it. To round out the meal and give us a little extra protein and deliciousness I would fry up some eggs and serve it over the rice. Didn’t sound half bad, eh? It was delicious and the only thing that took up any time at all was the risotto. But then again, there is something wonderfully relaxing about making risotto. The almost mindless process of adding a ladle full of stock to the pan and stirring, stirring, stirring is somewhat meditative.

When it’s warm outside there is such pleasure in eating dinner on the patio and biting into the crisp snap of a red bell pepper covered in a smear of spicy, velvety hummus. Save the warm pita slices for winter when we need the cushion only bread can provide. Give me a platter of fresh veggies as a substitute anytime. The risotto was just creamy enough but topped with the egg it was out of this world. Since I didn’t add a finishing touch of butter to the risotto the runny yolk added a luscious golden sauce that didn’t make me miss the butter one bit. And we can’t forget the avocado toast. It’s as simple as running a thin layer of Veganaise over a toasted piece of low-glycemic bread, topping it with meaty chunks of vibrant avocado, and sprinkling on a bit of coarse salt and fiery flakes of crushed red pepper. Delicious!

I’m not a trained chef, I’m not even a gourmet home chef, but I’ve been cooking long enough to know that sometimes you have to use your imagination and past experiences to make something out of nothing. If cooking at home is seen more as a challenge to you than it should be, trust me, just keep doing it and eventually you will have done it long enough to know what’s what. Recipes won’t seem as daunting and you’ll start coming up with substitutions based on personal preference all on your own. Then you’ll be creating wonderful food moments from almost nothing at all.