I hate clutter. You might think that this means that I live a Type A sort of white glove test-passing existence, but anyone who knows me can vouch wholeheartedly that I do not. Because I’m lazy. But every so often (er, 28 days or so) I go on a cleaning bender and purge and sweep to my heart’s content. My inboxes get Bit Literate, absurdly insignificant things get vacuumed (dusty ledge around the walls of the apartment, your days are numbered) and things cluttered in this ever-expanding document called “to blog” get purged, well, onto your screens.
I’ve gotten especially behind this month, so I hope you don’t mind that I dump five ideas onto you and then move onto what I really want to talk about, this new awesome thing that rhymes with nacro and nens. Sad but true, this entry is the equivalent of bartering two more bites of broccoli at the dinner table to ensure that you can get a scoop of Breyers Neapolitan for dessert, but like the brown, white and pink-striped stuff always was, I’ll try to make it completely worth it in the end.
1. That 70s Salad — The mandoline and I are getting along famously. I love it, it loves me, and sometimes we giggle together over those dark days before we were together and chopping things involved a knife (!) and a cutting board (!). It was only a matter of time before I made an entire salad with it, like this one with slivered radishes, cucumber, scallions, celery and fresh cranberry beans, topped with a Dijon vinaigrette. It was terrifically fun to make, but for some reason, the arrangement on the platter reminded me precisely of a 1970s dinner party, though I couldn’t figure out why. Ah, right. “Wife Swap” was on.
2. Lemon Risotto — I made this several weeks ago, and it’s fantastic in every way. There are few more awesome beddings for meat, but especially seafood, than this bright and simple risotto. You won’t believe how much flavor you can get out of the simplest ingredients. We served it alongside skinny asparagus that had been roasted to a crisp with flaky sea salt and olive oil, seared fattie scallops with coins of garlic that had been topped with…
3. Arugula Pesto — After finding ourselves with a ridiculous amount of fresh, sharp arugula in the fridge and no immediate desire to make a salad, I made a quick pesto with it with the usual ingredients–olive oil, toasted pine nuts, parmesan and salt–and while it was great, I’m not sure I fell for the intense bitterness. Alex and our friends loved it with the scallops, but I’m not convinced they weren’t being nice. That doesn’t leave you with much in the way of advice, but I think it’s worth a try, perhaps with just a handful of arugula to see if it’s your thing before moving onto a massive batch.
4. Spinach Salad with Couscous — This, my friends, I’m sorry to say is a dud. I made it, along with that lemon tart to bring to a dinner party last Friday and wow, was I not pleased with its egregiously flat and excessively raw, green taste. We finally dumped a cup of crumbled feta in it, which helped, but mostly I’m just telling you about this because I tried it and so now you don’t have to. I hear a lot of good things about Patricia Wells, but I’m going to have a wait a while before I give her a chance to redeem herself. Any bets on this?
5. Campari Cocktail — Hoo boy, I have fallen so hard for Campari, it’s practically all I can talk about. I had a Campari cocktail for the first time at Cookshop several weeks ago, and while my first reaction was “damn, that’s harsh” my second was, predictably, “I must have more.” What I find unbelievably refreshing about it is the bitterness, followed by that fantastic garnet hue. In the world of cocktails, there’s tart, there’s sour, there’s even a little spicy but mostly, there’s way, way, way too much sweet. This is the opposite in every way. There are a lot of fancy recipes out there for Campari cocktails, all of which look fantastic, but our at-home simple one has been ice cubes, 1/4 glass Campari , mostly filled with seltzer, followed by a short glug of sweet vermouth and a longer one of grapefruit juice. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s not much of a recipe, but I promise, it works.
And if you’ll excuse me, it 10 p.m. and I haven’t had one yet, and this must be immediately addressed.
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2002
Makes 6 first-course or 4 main-course servings.
6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
Bring broth to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cover to keep warm. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cups hot broth; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is creamy and tender, about 35 minutes. Stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Season risotto with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.