A Single-Serving Pesto Risotto to Ease Into the Weekend

Photo by Rocky Luten

“Risotto is the kind of food you make for people you love.” My ex said that to me once, referring to how long it takes to stir it, how no one would ever set aside all that time just for themselves and a plate of risotto.

I disagreed.

Maybe it’s because I’m an egoist and love myself. But I make risotto for one all the time. Sometimes I even plate it and eat it with a fork instead of in bed (just kidding, I always eat it in bed, straight out of the pan with the wooden spoon I was cooking with). As the great Nigella Lawson once said, “the act of cooking for yourself is in itself a supremely positive act, an act of kindness.”

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Furthermore, I’m convinced quantity lends itself to quality: Food just happens to taste better when you cook it small-scale.

How is it, for instance, that the same recipe you’ve been making for yourself over and over, when suddenly doubled for guests, doesn’t quite come out the same? In my experience, a risotto for ten is much more likely to downward-spiral into a bland, soggy porridge than is one for four, or even one for one. It seems that when cooking comes out of necessity (with quantity in mind over quality), it’s the food that inevitably suffers.

There’s a great distinction that needs to be made between things that take time and things that take effort. Risotto takes time, sure—albeit not much, just 18 minutes for the Arborio rice to absorb all the broth. But the one thing it does not take is effort.

I love what Lawson has to say about Zen and the Art of Risotto-Stirring in Nigella Kitchen:

I find any simple form of cooking calming in itself, but risotto-making (like baking) relies on the ritual of unchallenging but repeated actions. Unlike baking, the rewards are all but instant. Twenty minutes after you’ve tipped the rice into your saucepan, you’ve decompressed and dinner’s on the table. But the principle of mindless repetitive activity holds; more, it’s intensified. When you cook risotto, it’s not just that you are required to stir, but that you are required to do nothing but stir.

When I’m feeling most stressed about life’s pressures (work, love life, whether or not I’ll die alone), I appreciate the calmness of having to stand there by the stove, watching the shallot and butter–slicked rice soak up ladleful by ladleful of Better Than Bouillon stock. Then the way the pesto simultaneously dyes it a glorious green and loosens it all’onda (meaning it ripples like a wave). Stirring my soon-to-be dinner for 16 to 18 minutes straight is my own way of practicing mindfulness, how I like to be, as they say, with myself. Some find this state in running, others in yoga. I hate exercise personally, so for me, risotto-stirring it is.

And eating it, of course. Eating it is very good.

Serves 1

  • 1

    tablespoon butter

  • 1

    shallot, chopped

  • 1/2

    cup Arborio rice

  • 1/4

    cup white wine or dry vermouth

  • 2

    cups chicken, seafood, or vegetable stock (especially Better Than Bouillon), heated

  • 4

    gorgeous jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 3

    tablespoons your favorite jarred pesto, or homemade (if you’re an overachiever)

  • 1

    tablespoon sour cream

  • 1

    pinch salt and pepper, to taste

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Do you ever cook yourself something special and take it with you to bed? Let us know in the comments below.

Rice, Shrimp, Pesto, Dinner

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