Broke Food: Risotto!

One of my favorite scenes in all of movie-dom is from The Little Princess. (Take your pick, but I prefer the Shirley Temple version.) Little Sarah has gone from wealthy and pampered prep school queen to orphan scullery maid, due to the unfortunate disappearance of her Father (and his fortune) during the Boers War. Now she must discard her fabulous clothes and furniture and live up in the freezing attic with the other little maid, while the other girls mock her relentlessly and the mean headmistress tortures her for being poor. (Let's just keep our Marxist analysis to ourselves...)

Then, one particularly freezing and dreary night, while the two little girls are sleeping, the next door neighbor's Indian butler, who has been charmed by little Sarah, replaces the squalor of their attic with a lush bedroom, filled with soft bed-dressing and clothes, a sumptuous buffet, and beautiful paintings. The girls wake up the next morning to think that they have conjured the whole thing through the power of imagination.

I think you can pull a similar trick with risotto. Through pure mind power (read: stirring a lot) you can transform plain old rice and broth into a warming gourmet meal. With the help of an friendly butler (read: mushrooms, squash, or other veggies) you can take it over the top to something truly magical. It really works for me when I am feeling like an orphan scullery maid, which is often these days. (Don't worry, its just finals period.)

So here is my recipe, which I've shared before (many times before), but made as plain and wallet-friendly as possible. I've been eating it so much lately I feel like a risotto making machine, but if its your first time, be vigilant- you don't want to ruin the bottom of your pan by not stirring enough.

Risotto w/ [your favorite and/or cheapest vegetable]
1 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
olive oil and/or earth balance
*1 c. white wine
1 cube veg boillon, or packaged veggie broth
Your vegetable of choice, plus an herb of choice

1. [First you will probably want to prepare the vegetable. If its mushrooms, slice and cook together with some thyme or oregano and olive oil in a saute pan until brown and slightly crispy. If using squash of pumpkin, slice in 1/2 and place in a pan in the oven along with some olive oil and sage and cook at 375 until soft. Asparagus can be sauteed or cooked in the oven with some oil and garlic. You get the picture.]
2. Fill a pot with water and boil along with a bouillon cube. Reduce heat to medium. (Alternatively, heat a package of veggie broth over low heat on the stove top.) Keep within reach of your other pot.
3. Melt 1 knob of Earth balance and a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When bubbling add in garlic and onion and cook until translucent.
3. Add in rice and allow to coat with oil and mix with onions and garlic. Salt and Pepper liberally.
4. Add in white wine. (*If you can't afford wine like me, substitute two tablespoons of plain vinegar or white wine vinegar.) Stir until just absorbed.
5. Ladle in about a cup of the heated broth, stirring until absorbed by the rice. Repeat this step over and over again, ladling and stirring, until rice is no longer crunchy and coated in a thick creamy sauce.
6. At this point, add back in your cooked veggie, salt and pepper liberally, stir, reduce heat to low and cover. Serve with warm bread and a crispy salad.

Suggestions for combos:

Butternut squash and sage

Lemon and Asparagus (add in a bit of lemon juice and zest when you add in the cooked asparagus.)

Mushroom and Leek with thyme, my personal favorite.

I suspect one can stretch this recipe into new territories, like using beets, fake cheese, or non-italian flavorings. However, even minus the veggies this is pretty awesome comfort food, and the only thing you really have to buy is the rice. Ah, cheap, classic, kitchen magic. "Because every little girl cook is a princess."

Song of the Day: Neko Case- This Tornado Loves You


The Ordinary Vegetarian said...

hello T!

i love this post--little princess love! my name is Sarah, and starting in the late 80's through the early 90's of my childhood i had short hair perms much like ms. temple's. i had many nicknames, most of which were undesirable, like poodle and curly sue, but the one i didn't mind so much was shirley temple. i always felt that the little princess made curly haired girls named Sarah cool. oh how i miss that movie (added to my wishlist NOW).

ps. i appreciate the risotto inspiration. seems like ages since i've made it, and i'm almost positive there's a box in my cabinet. the mushroom and leek with thyme sounds divine!

pixiepine said...

I love that movie...and the risotto parallel!

raul said...

Food looks great- Going to be in your country this weekend can you let me know where i could find some yummy places to eat?

jessy said...

i always forget about risotto, T - i can't believe it. dan & i haven't had any in such a looong time - totally gonna have to make some soon, and i'm loving the sound of the mushroom and leek with thyme combination. mmmmm!

i've never seen the little princess & now i'm gonna be adding to my netflix. w00t!

sophia said...

i'm so with you, risotto is like magic! a great way to feel pretty damn self-satisfied about eating a bowl of rice for dinner and not going grocery shopping.

i'm pretty partial to the 1995 cuaron version of "a little princess" myself! if i ever feel like i need to cry some gut-wrenching tears, i watch that, and love it.

miss v said...

well, i'd say that risotto can be an ab-fab dish any day of the week. i love the possibilities, and it's so much more glamorous than just plain ol' rice!

T said...

Ordinary Veg- That is so cute! Although I would be annoyed by being called 'poodle' too.

Raul- "Dolma" on Chausee De Ixelles near Place Flagey has a great vegetarian buffet. "Indochine" on Rue Lebroussart has tofu and seitan in their soups and vietnamese dishes. And in St. Gilles and Matongue there are a lot of great African restaurants that have vegetarian specialties like plaintains and curries. Good luck!

Sophia- I like that version too, especially all the vivid fantasy India scenes... Both versions are such tearjerkers.

vegan.in.brighton said...

I love risotto & I have some mushrooms & leeks in the fridge - I know what I'll be having for dinner.

The Voracious Vegan said...

I love that movie and I love risotto! Yours looks epically scrumptious, so creamy and rich, I love all of your suggestions to change it up. Thanks!

Mihl said...

I am amazed by the power of plain rice every time I make risotto. Yours has a great colour!

Bliss Doubt said...

I'm tempted to try making risotto now.

You've touched on things that bother me too. I have "The Little Princess" on DVD because it was a childhood favorite, and I'm still on the edge of my chair when Sarah is about to find her daddy in the hospital, while being pursued by the schoolmarm and security, but nowadays I think about Britain's unjust imperial wars, the way that the poor and the homeless were treated like dirt, and how the world was cruel. The world is still cruel to children without parents to defend them. Sarah was good because she cared about the other little maid even before their circumstances were joined.

Trinity (of haiku tofu) said...

Yum! Thanks for de-mystifying risotto. I've always wanted to make it, but was intimidated after watching a few too many episodes of Top Chef. Yours looks so so so yummy!