Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last minute dinner guest - Risotto & Beans

Most of the recipes I make up start one of two ways. 1. I find a recipe somewhere (online, in a book, or from TV) and change it around a lot into something I like better or 2. I need to figure out something to make and throw random stuff together in hopes that it turns out good. In both cases I always warn my husband in advance, "This is an experiment, let me know if this is ok." And then while he eats I grill him with 40 questions about the taste, texture, etc. When it comes to food I am super picky (probably the only area in life I am truly high maintenance), but what is the point of rushing home to cook a nice meal if Nick hates it? The point is to make something with leftovers so I don't have to cook tomorrow, and we have lunch too. Therefore he's got to like it, and I'm willing to sacrifice once in awhile if I make something I don't 100% love so that he doesn't eat the same foods every day.

Peppers are one such food. I really only like roasted red peppers, but I try to throw them in once in awhile to my cooking to keep him happy. And generally every week when I food shop I'll make sure I have some onions, a red pepper, and then another vegetable I can COOK (salad veggies don't count). I'm really bad at planning meals (which is actually really horrible, this is how food gets wasted because you buy too much or forget about things). But onions and peppers last a long time and go in just about everything, so I build most of my meals around them.

Tonight I had one of my co-workers, Noelle, come over for dinner. She was having car trouble and we play soccer together so she came home with me and then I drove her to the game. Since Nick is away on a business trip I have been very lazy about cooking (long story short, I'm currently on a diet---for a secret reason!!!---and if I have no reason to cook, I'll just eat half a peanut butter sandwich and carrots). When I went food shopping I bought some tofu, yogurt, and Mother's Day cards. So when Noelle asked me to drive her to soccer and I said yes, it totally didn't dawn on me that I had no real food in the house (and when we have company that's the one time I actually plan a meal in advance).

Tuesday night I rushed into my kitchen at 10:30pm and rummaged through the pantry. Cooking for Noelle is a special challenge because she is allergic to sugar (not diabetic, actually allergic) and after knowing her for two years and cooking for her a lot, I have learned just how many things have sugar in it that you didn't really realize (tomato sauce? crackers?). So I scoured food labels and pieced together a one pot dish that I hoped wouldn't be too too heavy right before a game and came up with Rice and Beans Risotto--another taken on a Spanish favorite.

Ingredients you may already have:
*2-3 cloves of Fresh Garlic
*3 tablespoons Olive Oil
*2 tablespoons Butter
*4 cups of water or chicken stock

Ingredients you should always have:
*A can of beans (personally, the Puerto Rican in me has brand loyalty to Goya, but I honestly don't know if there's one that's better than another)
*2 small Onions

Ingredients you'll need to buy:
*two handfuls (maybe 1/2 - 3/4 of a cup) of a cheese blend (I used the four Mexican cheese one)
*1/2 of a red pepper
*1 1/2 cups Arborio rice - special rice for risotto
*Adobo - yes, more Goya. A blend of spices, garlic, salt, and cumin. I personally like the version with no pepper.
*Recaito (another wonder Goya invention, I ALWAYS make all my rice and beans dishes with it)

Step 1 - Clean and dice the veggies and garlic. Heat a large non-stick pan and put the olive oil and butter in. Once the butter is melted cook the veggies (and season with Adobo to your taste) until the onions start to look a little opaque.
Step 2 - When the onions look like they are starting to cook, add the rice. Make sure you stir and get the olive oil and butter over everything. While doing this heat up some (or all of the water/stock). I generally just take my measuring cup and nuke it 1 cup at a time (30 seconds-1 minute), but most people heat it up in a pan. For the sake of doing less dishes, I take the lazy route out.
Step 3 - Add a little bit of liquid to the pan, if it sizzles right away it's the perfect temperature, you can add more. The trick to risotto is to add a little bit of liquid at a time. As the liquid evaporates you add more (and stir frequently) because you want to slowly draw the starches of the rice out. While you're doing this, you should do step 4 as well.
Step 4 - Dump one can of beans (I used black) into it's on small pot that you can put a cover on. Add a little bit of water to the can when it's empty (maybe 1/4 - 1/3) and stir to get those good bits that stick to the bottom out and dump that in the pot too. Then add your Recaito. Do this to your own taste. Recaito is very savory. It's tomato based and also has onions, a minimal amount of cilantro, and other spices in it. I usually do 2-3 spoonfuls in my beans, but since this is unseasoned white rice, I did 5 big spoonfuls. Then cover the pot and cook on medium, stirring occasionally.
Step 5 - When the risotto is done, add the beans and stir. Then add your cheese and stir. Make sure most of the liquid is evaporated, it should still be creamy.
Step 6 - Let it cool a little, then serve!

Other options for meat eaters - Add shrimp or chicken. For that you should cook it in a separate pan with Adobo and Olive Oil, then add at the very end.
Other veggies this would go good with - Yellow peppers, zucchini, mushrooms (cook these at the beginning with the Onions and red peppers)

I'd say this was enough food for 4-6 people (depending on if this was your only dish, or just a side dish). And if you need to go out and buy everything (including the olive oil), it should cost you under $25 to make.

PS. I took pictures, as soon as Nick comes home and tells me where the digital camera cord is I'll upload them.

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