Reading my new Italian cookbook again (see previous post), I was struck with how useful these kinds of cookbooks are - the ones where you're given a range of methods, and then shown how to ring the changes so that you can create a huge variety of dishes from the same concept.
As well as my new Italian, I have Richard Ehrlich's The Lazy Cook: Simple, Sophisticated Food and How to Make It, running through pan-grilling, flash-roasting, gratins, and more. I treasure it, partly because Harvey bought it, but mainly because it's so user-friendly.
The other day I downloaded my first e-cookbook, Fast, Fresh and Green, by Susie Middleton. In a nutshell, it gives nine interesting ways to prepare vegetables - quick-roasting, quick-braising, hands-on sauteing, walk-away sauteing, two-stepping, no-cooking, stir-frying and grilling - with lots of appealing examples. I expect it will boost my vege consumption very nicely.
So tonight I took a leaf out of all these books and concocted my own risotto. Earlier I had sorted out the vege bin and cooked up a broth made mainly of rather tired leeks and spring onions, a proper onion and woody bits of asparagus, with a few green peas thrown in. When I blitzed it, it became a delicious thin green stock. There were a few fresh sticks of asparagus left too, but they were too good to go into the common pot. I cooked them separately and kept them warm to have as part of my dinner. But if you had plenty of asparagus, you could make the stock entirely of that, plus an onion - then it becomes asparagus risotto instead.
I melted some butter, softened a chopped onion in it, and added half a cup of arborio rice, turning it well in the butter to coat the grains.
I added the end of a bottle of white wine - about 3/4 of a cup - and turned up the heat to make it bubble.
I stirred the rice slowly to absorb the liquid, and as it disappeared, I added the hot green vege stock a ladleful at a time.
It took about five ladlefuls to reach the right consistency - definitely cooked through, but not soft. (I don't think "al dente" gets it quite right for rice - it shouldn't take much pressure to bite a grain in half, and it definitely shouldn't be in the least gritty.)
To finish it and bump up the protein, I stirred in an egg and a few more little pieces of butter, turned off the gas, and left the pot on the warm hob while I fried some cut-up bacon rashers and grated some pecorino cheese.
So my dinner was an Italian variation on Dr Seuss's green eggs and ham - a nice little pile of creamy pale green risotto, with crispy bacon scattered around, flakes of pecorino on top and asparagus on the side. It took very little time, and as my son likes to say, it was "delishwahse".
But - and this is a recurring problem for me, though usually with meat dishes - it didn't LOOK wonderful, and I knew it wouldn't make a good photo. So you'll just have to imagine eating it instead!