Sandy, turning 25 & Risotto

For you & your pleasure, I aptly timed the song to the slideshow (hooray!)

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Things around here have been busier than an oyster bar on Saturdays and I apologize. I hope the slideshow speaks for itself. Food, drinks, friends, family and ugly tears from Claire Danes (!!!!).

I also turned 25 recently. And if you know me, you know I love birthdays. Always have, always will. This year was no different – lots of champagne, lots of love & lots of internet birthday wishes. Nothing like the purchase of new black lace shorts & a plate of cupcakes to make a gal feel really special.

Honestly, I was a bit nervy about this birthday because it felt like such a milestone. 25, I thought, aren’t you supposed to have it all figured out by 25? Maybe it was that I just imagined myself differently at this age.When I woke up on October 23rd, I certainly didn’t feel any older. I was still having the same nightmares I had as a 24 year old, still unable to fall asleep at 2 a.m. because I couldn’t get that damn chorus of “Everybody Talks” out of my head. Catchy pop song, sure. But for one straight week, night after night, I laid in bed with this “…It started with a whisper“. Over and over and over and over. “25, I thought, must be a test.”

If 25 was indeed testing me, Hurricane Sandy was one shitty final exam. The superstorm was unexpected, forceful and over two weeks became quite the roadblock in my ability to juggle my looming financials. I quickly found myself broke after paying rent which was then exasperated by being out of work for 12 straight days. I felt defeated, frustrated and sunk into an icky hole of selfish sadness.

What later followed was a major spill down a flight of stairs, a black & blue bum and five to ten minutes of ugly, public crying. Just bursting into tears on 75th & 2nd for no obvious reason. I read somewhere “you really know you’ve made it in New York when you cry in public.” For the sake of everything, I sure hope that’s true.

The one gleaming beacon of hope from this hurri-cation has been my ability to conjure up some cheap, tasty eats in my dollhouse kitchen. Now that it’s November, millions of peoples palettes suddenly change & like clockwork, they crave all things autumn. I’d be one rich lady if I had a penny for every tweet, facebook & instagram photo I’ve seen (or myself posted) in the last month that was “fall” related. I’m talking pumpkins, cider, squash, pumpkin spice lattes – you name it. Pretty much any sort of food (or flavored beverage) you consume & or cook while wearing comfy cozy sweaters, colored cords and oxfords. The air is crisp, the leaves change colors and you can happily leave the house wearing layers. Time to cuddle up near a fireplace with your fall fling, my friends, even if all you do is kiss like eskimos & drink Hot Toddies.

When you venture out for a meal, don’t be too shocked at the menu changes. So long heirloom tomatoes, you’re so last summer. Time to make way for pumpkin ravioli, brussel sprouts and warm whiskey cocktails. Stereotypical, of course. Delicious nonetheless.

In keeping up with my fall-loving foodies, I typed “yummy comfort food” into google a few weeks ago. I had the night off from work and was in the mood to whip up something crazy delicious. This was what appeared. My stomach grumbled (always a good sign) and I knew that had to happen A.S.A.P. A few hours later, it most certainly did.

Butternut Squash Risotto

The recipe from Simply Recipes is pretty spot on, but I did change a few things :

1. I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock – either will work. When I make this again, I’ll probably use chicken stock, just to tell the major differences between the two

2. After the threat / warning from Mom the Masterchef (“You will cut your finger off trying to peel a butternut squash by yourself,”) I bought freshly peeled, pre-cut butternut squash from the store and it worked perfectly (and I can only imagine, saved a lot of time & a lot of limbs)

3. Instead of parmesan cheese, I went for pecorino – a bit more of a salty bite than parm., but again, either will do

4. While I’m sure chives would work swimmingly in this dish, I have only read about (and can now attest to) the magical union that is sage & butternut squash. In my version, I lightly fried the sage in 1 tsp of olive oil before adding it to the risotto. Crunchy, fried herbs? Just say yes

While the risotto was a huge hit, last night I found myself in quite the pickle for dinner. It was around 6, I was starving and thanks to Sandy, I had to make due with my almost empty pantry for dinner. First thing I saw was a can of butternut squash soup. “No, that’s overkill,” I thought. And then, I saw the rice. That’s right, I went ahead and made risotto again – but this time, no recipe & no overkill! After digging through my pantry and fridge I found these things (arborio rice, a bottle of white wine, 1/2 an onion, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 (+ or -) cups of vegetable stock, a handful of cherry tomatoes & a hunk of goat cheese).

Mmmm, dinner

Tomato & Goat Cheese Risotto

– 1/4 (ish) cups Goat cheese (in terms of how much I used – I was ravenous & didn’t measure :tisk tisk: but it looked about to be 1/4 cup of crumbled goat cheese – I’m sure if you like your risotto extra tangy, go ahead and use more – or you can add a little at a time, stir the cheese in the risotto and taste / reapply)

– 1 box cherry  tomatoes (I used 10 exactly & cut them in half)

– 1 bottle dry white wine (Sauv. Blanc worked well – now, I did not use a whole bottle in the risotto – I used about 1/2, however, depending on how much stock you actually have, you can substitute with wine. EX : I only used 2 cups stock but after stirring the risotto over and over over, I realized it was getting a bit dry – hence, I added more wine. Plus, it’s always fun to have a glass while you cook)

-Butter, 1/2 cup chopped onions, 5 cloves garlic

– Vegetable stock (Like I mentioned, I used about 2 cups – but, depending on how al-dente you like your rice, feel free to add more / less. Also, I ran out of stock right after the 2nd cup and because I needed a little more, I substituted with wine)

My apologies if this recipe is a wee bit scattered – like I said, I used no recipe for this sucker. Pretty much eye-balled just about everything – AND IT WORKED! Bliss!

1. Place a medium-sized saucepan over low-medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add your chopped onions and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are translucent and garlic is slightly browned and fragrant

2. De-glaze your pan with 1 cup of white wine, stir everything together and add your rice (I used 1/2 a cup of rice just for myself but I was starving … turns out it was about 1 & 1/2 servings – maybe 2 servings if you’re someone who likes tiny portions)

3. Stir frequently – stir frequently – STIR FREQUENTLY. The most important thing with risotto is you, my little Chef, need to be over the stove, stirring your butt off until its finished. After adding the rice, stir until all the liquid is absorbed – it will absorb, I promise – and then add another cup of stock / wine. Continue cooking the risotto until there is almost no liquid left and test your risotto – if it’s still al-dente / hard, add some more liquid. Test your rice again and do the same thing until it is cooked to your liking – 1/2 cup – 1 cup of stock at a time. I found that I probably tested my rice twice, added s’more wine and on the third time (about 20 minutes of stirring) that it was finished and perfectly al-dente

4. When the rice is cooked to your liking, stir in the cheese until well-incorporated and give it one final whisk. Serve A.S.A.P. with a few crumbles of more goat cheese on top, if you like

Two risottos in one post? Who would’ve thought? I blame Sandy.

Keep eating (xx)


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