I like hodgepodge food — food made with whatever you have on hand. For example, everyone should have arborio rice in their pantry. Risotto makes an easy one-pot meal, and it’s flexible (so many combinations of vegetables work with it). And forget what you’ve heard about having to stir the rice constantly as it cooks — that’s just baloney. (You’ll have to stir often, but you won’t be tied to the stovetop, I promise.)
The basic recipe for 4 hungry people is:
2 cups arborio rice
2 tablespoons oil
7 cups liquid (1 cup of that is usually wine, the rest hot broth)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Last night I made a risotto with sauteed mushrooms and Swiss chard, using red wine (because I like drinking red wine much more than white wine, and when I open a bottle of wine for cooking, you know I’ll end up putting some in my glass at the supper table!)
After warming the oil, I added some minced garlic; 30 seconds later, I added the rice and stirred, making sure the rice was completely coated with oil. After 2 minutes, when the rice became translucent, I added 1 cup of wine and simmered the mixture until the liquid was all absorbed. (Meanwhile, you should heat your broth in a separate pot, so that the rice mixture remains at the simmering point the entire time.) I began with 1 cup of broth, then increments of 1/2 cup after each previous addition is almost all absorbed. Stir as necessary.
While this was going on, I washed and sliced my mushrooms. I also washed a bunch of Swiss chard, separated the greens from the stems, chopped the greens, and sliced the stems into pieces. I then sauteed the mushrooms in butter (one of my favorite smells of all time!), then when the mushrooms had released their juices, I added the chard stems and some herbes the provence (I ran out of the batch my mother brought back from France, so I made a mix of rosemary, marjoram, savory, and thyme). A few minutes later, I added the greens, then covered the pan, to steam the greens tender.
When all the broth was absorbed, I stirred in the cheese and butter until melted, mixed in the vegetables, and dinner was served! (It may need some salting, but I would suggest doing it after adding the cheese, as parmesan is salty.)
Another hodgepodge that we enjoy is refrigerator iced tea (when we were kids it was called “sun tea”, and made out on the picnic table in the sun, but the risk of germ growth is too high that way, so we make ours in the fridge — it steeps just as quickly, and the flavor is just as full).
Iced tea is the perfect way to use up the teas that just don’t work for you as a hot beverage — because you can mix different flavors to get a good hodgepodge.
Yesterday’s iced tea* was made with two bags of rooiboos (red-bush) tea (I just don’t like the taste of this as a black tea substitute), and one bag of Bancha tea (a Japanese-style toasted green tea — again, too weird for my morning cuppa). But put them together in a pitcher of water, let them steep for 5 hours** or so, add 1/4 cup sugar, and you’ve got a delicious drink.
I like to say that I enjoy hodgepodge food because it’s a good way to use up what you have in the house at that particular time. But really, it’s because I am queen of one-pot meals (I don’t like to wash many pots and I don’t like to have to make room on the table for many trivets) and because I can’t bring myself to throw away perfectly good tea just because I don’t happen to like the taste of it.
*Yes, it’s out on the table in the picture, but that was just so I could try to photograph the color steeping out of the tea bag — see the pretty streaks of red? — we do steep it in the fridge, normally.)
**The girls rarely let it go as long as I think it should (about 8 hours?). So we start drinking it at 5 hours.