People feel all kinds of ways about reopening and venturing out. I'm not one to take risks (at all) so I go by the old adage, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should," and since I work for the school system, I will continue staying at home.
I was a homebody before the quarantine and I continue to be. Staying home never gets old for me. I love to cook. I love to read. I love to cuddle with my dog and play board games with my husband the kids. I love to do puzzles. I love to binge-watch shows. Occasionally I like to clean. I'm practicing how to be a gardener. There are a million and one things I love to do at home.
I also LOVE to see what I can cook up with bare-bones ingredients. I suppose this trait comes from my dad, who loves to make a game out of just about anything. Cooking like this is much like a game.
I have a zucchini to use up, so I start with that. I pick up Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Turns out he has about eleventeen zucchini recipes. I am astonished by all the inventive ways he uses zucchini.
I settle on Lemony Zucchini Risotto with Fried Eggs because it uses brown rice and I've never made risotto with brown rice, and I have some brown rice that needs using up and well... I love fried eggs on anything (how's that for a run-on sentence).
I will make a very inexpensive and glorious healthy vegetarian dinner, complete with every food group, using bare-bones ingredients and it will be absolutely fabulous. It may take an hour, but that's ok because I've got nothing better to do.
Mark Bittman says, "the grated zucchini mostly melts away, leaving behind a creamy richness that doesn't depend on tons of rice or mounds of cheese."
This risotto is a spring-time dish if there ever was one. It's fresh and lemony and tastes like a garden. Mark is right, the grated zucchini melts away - giving this a creamy richness that feels satisfying without weighing you down.
Lemony Zucchini Risotto with Fried Eggs
Adapted from Food Matters Cookbook
by Mark Bittman
1 cup short-grain brown rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
3 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
4 small or 2 large zucchini (about 1-1/2 pounds), grated
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil, optional
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish, optional
Notes: Take note that many of these ingredients are optional and this could really be made with 5 very basic ingredients (using about any vegetable), not counting salt and pepper. Don't box yourself into the ingredients called for -use what you have. This is a base recipe that can have many variations. The most important thing is enough liquid and constant stirring.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Stir in the brown rice, adjust the heat so that the water bubbles steadily, and cook, without stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well.
Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, just a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add the wine or water. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.
Begin to add the stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.
After about 15 minutes of adding stock, stir in the zucchini and cook, stirring, until it releases its liquid and the mixture again becomes dry. (You definitely DO NOT want to wait too long before adding the zucchini because it will give off A LOT of moisture and it will take a while to cook off). Begin tasting the rice about 5 minutes later; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch. It could take as long as 45 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the lemon zest and juice, add the Parmesan, butter, and basil if you're using them. Meanwhile, if you'd like to top with fried eggs, go ahead and fry your eggs however you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning for the risotto. Serve immediately, garnished with your fried eggs, and additional basil if you like.