By Arianna Johnson
September 16, 2010
Rice is one of the most universal foods. It is eaten everywhere, from Japan to Morocco, and is accessible to virtually anyone. For something that is considered a Ďpoor-manísí food, rice can make, and accompany, some of the most delicious dishes. One of those dishes is the creamy, dreamy risotto.Where risotto originated is up for debate; however, the one fact that is concrete is that it was invented in Italy. Whether it was in the North or South or first made by a glass painter or a peasant doesnít really matter.
Arborio rice is one such wondrous ingredient. This specific type of rice is plumper than your ordinary white rice and, when cooked properly, becomes one of the richest dishes on the planet. It is magical to see what comes out of a simple grain once you add hot liquid to it and stir it for a little more than twenty minutes. Since the actual science as to why this occurs is far too complicated, the basic gist of it is that once hot liquid is added to this particular rice and you continuously stir it, the starches in the rice comes out and absorbs the liquid, creating a luscious, creamy texture. And despite what many may think, or even say, it is not complicated to make at all. Although it isnít the quickest cooking dish, it is well worth the wait. Other great aspects of this dish are that it is affordable (unless you use rare mushrooms or saffron) and is almost as versatile as pasta. You can put all kinds of vegetables in it, like peas and asparagus, as well as proteins, such as shrimp or chicken. You can even make it sweet, like a rice pudding.
Hereís how you make it: Start with 1 Ĺ cups Arborio rice, 6 cups of simmering chicken or vegetable stock, 1 medium-sized onion, diced, 2 large garlic gloves, minced, and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. First, bring the stock to a simmer and then, in a large skillet, add olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook it for about eight minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the rice and toast it in the pan for about one minute. Then, slowly add a ladle-full of the hot liquid and stir until it is completely absorbed. Keep repeating this process until the liquid is gone or the rice is tender. (Note: You cannot walk away from this. You must stir the rice constantly and ensure there is enough stock in the pan.)
Once the rice is almost cooked through, you are at the stage where you can add anything you desire; make sure you season it just right using salt and pepper. I personally like to add mushrooms and peas. I cook the mushrooms with the onions first and then add frozen peas in the last two minutes of its cooking time. Serve the risotto in bowls with some Parmesan cheese on the side.
Although risotto might be slightly labor intensive, it is a decadent dish that most people think they can only get in a fancy restaurant. Now you know that the stereotype that has been cast on risotto is just a myth. So give it a try and enjoy the richness that such a simple ingredient as rice can create.
By Arianna Johnson
May 5, 2010
If you ask me, the most universally liked food is pizza. People have different opinions on where best pizza comes from: some prefer the deep dish pizza from Chicago, while others are in favor of New Yorkís thin crust pizza. Most people will name pizza as their favorite food. However, to me, the most appealing aspect of pizza is its versatility.
There is some controversy over where pizza originated from, but the combination of flatbread type dough, tomatoes, and cheese was most likely birthed in Naples, Italy. This classic example of pizza was then named after Queen Margherita of Savoy and has become the most popular across the board. Then, this idea began to spread throughout Italy and each region developed their own versions. In the south, they have a thicker crust and in Rome they make it very long and cut it in a way that you must eat it like a sandwich. Finally, it came to the United States and spread just as quickly and diversely.
Now, back to pizzaís versatility. Itís not just in the crust; itís the ingredients you can add onto it. Itís been shown that people will put anything on pizza; if itís actually tasty or not Ėthatís debatable. Just a few examples are sausage and peppers, pepperoni, or, if you want to be really fancy, smoked salmon and caviar-a Wolfgang Puck specialty. But, recently I have discovered a new phenomenon in pizza that I just had to try myself: grilled pizza.
This concept works the same as pizza cooked in an infernally hot oven. You still top it with whatever you please, but the crust is grilled. The smoky, charred flavor brought by the grilled crust adds another wonderful dimension to an already incredible dish. What you can do is either find a pizza dough recipe or go to your favorite pizzeria and ask for a ball of dough; they will usually sell it to you and it takes much less work than making your own. Then, you heat and grease a grill or grill pan and cook the dough until it is charred and slightly bubbling on both sides. At this point, I prefer to place the pizza in the oven (under the broiler) to melt the cheese and heat up the other ingredients, rather than trying to do it on the grill and run the risk of the dough being burnt. However, if you want to make a pizza that is topped with cold ingredients such as melon and prosciutto or a Caesar salad, then there is no need to place it in the oven.
Who knew there could be yet another thing you can do with pizza? So, instead of ordering pizza the next time youíre with friends, consider making your own. Itís fun and will bring everyone together to create something scrumptious.