I started blogging about three weeks ago, sent 11 posts into the mysterious electronic universe out there, got a few likes, a couple of followers, and some comments. Today I stopped, looked at my blog, and decided that it was too chaotic. “Too busy,” as the graphic artists say. For my own peace of mind, as well as my own aesthetic sense, it needs to be organized. It is especially relevant for me now since my main motivation to start this blog was to share my Shavuos recipes in memory of my father. I have already started preparing for Shavuos, and I want this set of recipes be clearly identifiable as a set, yet easy to find individually.
I have to confess that I am technically challenged and computer illiterate. I am definitely nothing like my husband who would press this, click that, open something else, and – voila! – things get done somehow. He is unable to teach me or to explain how he gets there, though. It’s so perfectly clear to him! I am convinced that it is just as clear to my youngest granddaughter, the four-year-old. I think nowadays, when babies are born, they come equipped with an I-Pad instead of the pacifier.
“Hey Bubby, where is my I-Pad?” demands newborn Shira who just spit out the pacifier. So as academically inclined as I am, I decided to sign up for the beginners’ course at the Word Press Blogging University. Within minutes, I received the first assignment: to publish a “who I am and why I’m here post.” I have not taken courses and received assignments for more then twenty years, so I am being very diligent about it. I am writing. Even though I have already done exactly that in my very first post “Hello, Beautiful People!” And I really think that one post without a recipe is all that a food blog can bear. I am in a quandary! I have made something delicious but very quick today, and I have not stopped to take any photos.
However, I am generally a decisive person. I don’t find quandaries comfortable so I don’t stay in them very long. Pardon me while I go to the kitchen, snap at least a couple of pictures, come back and tell you a story of Totally Natural Fake Risotto. Take a break. To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I BE BACK!” Meanwhile, here is Luciano Pavarotti in Rigoletto.
Even though I’ve already confessed to being in love with Florence, Milan is also high up on the list of my favorites, mainly because of Teatro alla Scala – my husband and I are big opera fans – but also, Lombardy food is just as fine as that of Tuscany. There is the great Gothic Duomo di Milano, and of course, you can visit the monks’ dining room at the Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”
You can also dive into the boutiques across the street from the Piazza del Duomo and forget to emerge. But I have never been very impressed by the gilded quasi – Baroque pomposity of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. All it is, is the oldest shopping mall in Italy, very high-end, and with a price tag on a cappuccino about ten times higher than you pay right around the corner.
I grew up a few blocks away from Odessa Passage, with its exquisite statues, that had been built about 100 years before the Galeria in Milan.
The obvious resemblance is evident, but here, you feel airiness, lightness of form, and perfect harmony of decorations. Or maybe I am biased, just a little?
Enough waxing nostalgic, let’s talk about food. Risotto has originated in Lombardy, and there are many different variations. Most of them agree on either cooking rice in broth or adding broth later. Most of them also include wine. And, other then modern vegetarian risotto recipes, traditionally there is some kind of meat. Like most Italian dishes, it is supposed to be topped with Parmesan, already a non-kosher combination. So this is what I do with it.
By the time I went to the kitchen to take pictures, all the ingredients had already been put in the bowl, but not mixed yet. I think you can see, though, brown rice, soy ground meat substitute, diced tomatoes, squeezed garlic, and cilantro. By the way, this cilantro just came out of the freezer. For a method to preserve fresh herbs, see my post Saving Animals and Herbs. There is a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. I don’t cook rice in broth, nor do I add broth later; instead, I add diced tomatoes. Lots of garlic, together with cilantro and cinnamon, create a picante flavor. Altogether, my risotto has taken a definite trip south, picking up tomato and garlic flavors prevalent in Southern Italian cuisine.
To complete the southern twist of it, I use light but sweet red wine instead of traditional Northern Italian dry white wine or vermouth. Rashi Light, which we usually use for Kiddush, works perfectly. A propos, that tall black cylinder with opera posters on it that you see in many of my photos is just a wine cooler.
Talking about wine, even though my risotto contains meat substitute, rather than real meat, it tastes very real, and so a deep velvety Cabernet Sauvignon goes with it very well. This is Shomron Selected, from Carmel. It is perhaps a bit more fruity than what you’d expect, but it is just as full bodied, and it offsets all this garlic, cilantro, and cinnamon perfectly. So I don’t even know if this could rightly be called risotto, but it’s healthy, filling, extremely quick and easy to make, and, most importantly, delicious!
- 1 cup brown rice, uncooked (makes 2 cups of cooked rice)
- 1 1/2 cup water, to cook rice
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- 8 oz (1/2 package) soy ground meat substitute
- 1 large soft tomato, diced
- 4 or more cloves of garlic, squeezed
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (you might want to try oregano instead)
- 1/2 cup of light sweet red wine
- a pinch of cinnamon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil rice in water with olive oil and a pinch of salt for about 20 minutes, or until ready. I use an electric rise cooker where the timing is a bit different.
- Transfer rice to a baking dish. Add fake ground meat, crumbled very fine.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.
- Bake covered at 350 for 10 – 15 minutes. Don’t overbake, as it tends to get dry. If it does, add a little more wine.
P.S. Ok, Professor, how did I do?