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Archive for the ‘Rice’ Category

Leftovers, Incognito

When you live with one other person and you like to cook, it’s pretty much guaranteed you will end up with leftovers. Lots of them. And when that other person you live with doesn’t love eating leftovers night after night, and you cannot bring yourself to throw away food, you’re left with a bit of a conundrum.

Many of said leftovers wind up as the next day’s lunch. But when you have, say, several pounds of leftover risotto, lunch isn’t really gonna do it, unless you want to have risotto for lunch every day, for eternity.

So what to do…? In such situations, creativity sets in: leftover spaghetti turns into crispy noodle cakes, veggies re-emerge as omelet fillings and, in the case of Sunday’s leftovers, risotto becomes suppli al telefono, Italian fried risotto balls.

I tried suppli for the fist time in Rome on a trip with my brother, and we both fell in love with them (and ate so many that my brother started sweating and could barely breath). At home, I’ve found them only at 2 Amy’s in DC, and I get them nearly every time I go (which, sadly, is only a handful of times each year).

Making suppli is pretty straightforward. You take some leftover risotto (an amount a little bigger than the size of a golf ball), stick a cube of mozzarella in the center of the ball, roll the ball in flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs and then fry the suckers.

In my case, I decided to bake them instead of frying them. Sacrilege, I know. But it was a work night, it was late, and I was tired. The thought of dealing with deep-frying and the cleanup was very, very unappealing.

Did the suppli suffer for it? Slightly, but not much. Fried suppli have a crispier exterior, and you can eat them with your fingers without creating a total mess. I think I prefer them that way. Baked suppli are a little more delicate and were best eaten with a fork, but the taste was still fantastic. After all, how bad could cheese-stuffed risotto be, really?

And whichever way you decide to make them, I assure you, no one will feel like they’re eating leftovers.

Suppli

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Peeling butternut squash is one of those unfortunate and unpleasant tasks that, to my dismay, almost always end up being worth it.

If recipes requiring peeled and chopped winter squash wound up being eh or even just okay, I’d swear off peeling squash forever. But the sad fact is, the payoff is usually tremendous. So I soldier on.

Sure, all that slicing and peeling is tedious, but that’s not what bothers me most. What gets me is what the little buggers do to my hands.

At first I thought I was the only one who had this problem. Every time I’d get the brilliant idea to peel and chop a butternut squash, my hands would end up looking chapped and raw, with a strange film covering the surface of my skin. No matter how many times I’d wash my hands and slather them with lotion, that strange sensation wouldn’t go away. I felt like Lady Macbeth.

But then I heard more family and friends making the same complaint. “I just spent all afternoon chopping up squash,” my mother once said to me over the phone, “and now my hands look like I stuck them in acid. I hate what that vegetable does to my skin!”

So it isn’t just me. And after a little Googling, I came across a scientific paper entitled “Butternut Squash (Curcurbita moschata) dermatitis,” written by two dermatologists. Apparently, a compound in butternut squash can cause contact dermatitis, a localized rash or irritation of the skin. This isn’t necessarily the case for everyone, but it happens to enough people that now I don’t feel like I’m crazy.

You can imagine my reaction, then, when I saw a phenomenal recipe for saffron risotto with roasted butternut squash, for which the first instructions read, “Peel squash, remove the seeds and chop into 3/4″ cubes.” Oh no, not that again. But the recipe looked so good and I couldn’t get it out of my head. There had to be another way.

That’s when it came to me: rubber gloves. A perfect solution? As it turns out, nearly, and it was certainly better than raw hands or — horrors — no risotto at all. I threw on a pair of tight-fitting rubber gloves and peeled away — a task that does not become any less tedious with gloves, but at least I didn’t need to sacrifice my skin in the process.

So problem solved. I peeled the squash, the squash didn’t peel me, and I made a risotto that was most definitely worth the effort.

Edited to add: If you’ve had a bad skin reaction after peeling and chopping squash, wash your hands with cool water and soap, then rub some cortisone cream all over your hands.  This should help heal the contact dermatitis, though the rash and strange sensation will not disappear immediately.

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