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Big Girls, Small Kitchen Headshot

Sitcom Risotto

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Here's a little tip: chicks dig risotto. Most recently, I recommended the dish as foolproof first date fare for my friend Dave and his non-meat-eating female conquest. But in addition to being a show-stopping deal-sealer, risotto is also the perfect vehicle for pantry items and leftovers, and though it takes more time to make than a quick Fried Rice, I also find it to be the perfect thing to whip up when I am spending a quiet evening wooing myself.

Risotto gets a bad rap for requiring a lot of attention and effort. But really, you can leave it alone more than you would think. After the rice starts to get going, I usually put on the TV to catch up on my shows. I'll add a cup full of stock, keep the heat very low, then enjoy the first few minutes of my program on the couch while sipping the rest of the bottle of wine I opened for the risotto. When the commercial comes, I head back over to the pot, give it a stir, add some more broth, and head back to my show. If you cook your risotto low and slow like this, the timing works perfectly with whatever sitcom you want to watch in the meantime. At the end of 30 minutes, the rice is usually ready, and you can begin the next show, while trying not to choke on your risotto between punch lines.

A few weeks back, I had one of these sitcom risotto nights. What I had on hand were beets, as well as some smoked mozzarella and arugula leftover from these pizzettes. And since I had already made Pink Greens earlier in the week with the tops of my beets, I thought the arugula would be the right addition for balancing the richness of the dish and adding some great color.

When I cook for one, I usually end up making enough for Caitlyn, my roommate, as well, should she return in time from work to join me, and even if she doesn't, I am always more than happy to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. On this particular occasion though, I was in a rather gluttonous mood. After all, I had a lot of 30 Rock to catch up on, and one bowl with one glass of wine didn't seem to suffice. I ended up eating the second helping directly out of the pot and, after I had sucked down the remainder of the wine, I was holding my stomach in overly satiated pain, trying not to laugh so hard at Tracy Morgan that I lost my supper.

When Caitlyn came home, I was asleep on the couch with pink hands and mouth, empty pot and plate, looking as peaceful as a toddler after too many juice boxes.

--Phoebe Lapine, of Big Girls, Small Kitchen

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Beet Risotto
Makes 2 servings

As I said, you can really use whatever you have on hand for risottos. If using a woodier green like beet greens, chard, or kale, mix it in earlier than I do with the arugula so it has proper time to wilt.

Ingredients

2 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 large roasted beets (for preparation, see here)
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp parmesan shavings
2 tbsp grated smoked mozzarella (optional)
1 cup chopped arugula (optional)

Coat a dutch oven or deep saute pan with olive oil, and cook the shallot, garlic, and ginger until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and continue to cook for another few minutes so the grains are covered in oil and beginning to toast. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and the wine and cook, stirring, until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Return the heat to medium, and add 1 cup of stock, stirring occasionally until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue adding the stock to the pot in 1/2 cup portions, stirring occasionally until each batch is absorbed before adding more. You don't need to be constantly stirring, but you also want to make sure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the liquids are almost absorbed, add the next 1/2 cup of stock and repeat. During this time, if the liquids have absorbed, don't be shy in adding more stock. This is not a precise science, it may end up being more or less than 3 cups total.

In the meantime, puree one of the beets and 1/2 cup of stock in a food processor until blended. Coarsely chop the remaining beet, and set aside.

Once the stock is almost gone, and the risotto has only a slight bite to it, add the beet mixture. When the risotto is almost done, add the chopped beets and the arugula and cook until the leaves are wilted. Top with mozzarella and/or parmesan, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately. Best if enjoyed in front of the television, with a bottle of wine.