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Listening to: Tarantela de Ribayaz, Arianna Savall
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an adventurer.
It started with me reading way too many books, and actually believing that there could be some truth in all those stories. I used to pull out my personal notebook on all occasions to jot down ideas and random thoughts, to the point of being almost bullied at school for being a little too peculiar. I could not wait to be old enough to see all the things I could see and discover foods and see people and crowds and music and noises. Though I probably couldn’t have sailed on a pirate ship, I still had a whole world to visit.
So on I went: I boarded my first plane at 16 and was hungry for exploring the world ever since. Still, as I traveled and explored the world, I realized that the adventures I was after mostly lied in the stories. When I realized that one of the parts of the experience was the part where I could tell about it – via photos and written stories – I felt my life changing.
Being an adventurer, I realized later, meant to me that I wanted to tell – and listen to – stories.
There is so much I didn’t share on the blog: all my travels to Europe, my US experiences prior to this blog, my living in a 30m apartment with two other people and a dog and all the things that happened and were really difficult and I am glad they happened.
If adventuring is experiencing and telling things and stories that excite you, now that I’m past 25 I understand how things that are exciting to us shift, and change, and ebb and flow, and sceneries broaden and narrow.
I understand that the world is vast and the more of it you see the more it seems to broaden. And, when your world broadens, you inevitably start picking out your favorite spots – those parts and places of you that feel as cozy as a soft armchair and a cup of tea. If life were a big room, you’d still have a favorite chair, a favorite corner, a favorite window. Therefore no matter how big the room is: it will always be as big as your favorite spot.
After all, what is being adventurers, if not staying constantly surprised with life, independently of the size you choose your world to be?
As my favorite spots are taking shape, one is among the dearest to my heart (aside one very special place by the sea, but that is another story): that corner on the northeast of Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a beautiful land of mountains and sea and rivers and vineyards, all grouped in a relatively tiny region. Within this place, one of my favorite spots is a town called Faedis and, with this tiny town made of stone houses, my favorite light shines through a house that once belonged to a lady called Ophelia, of which I already talked in this post.
I like to think that life always brings us to where our karma left a trace, like thieves back on the crime scene.
We cooked and shot one of my favorite recipes: risotto with Radicchio Tardivo di Treviso – a recipe that is more of the Veneto side, but the radicchio which grows so plentiful here tempted us to try it out all the same.
To me, exploring Ophelia’s house for the first time was definitely quite the adventure. On those crackling, still beautiful wooden floors, I wandered through the ghosts left from a time past and re-live a different life every time I go through that door.
Even though some of us are probably meant to stick to our favorite chair and peacefully watch all the other people sit on the others.
This risotto is light enough to be a perfect post-holiday meal – especially if you skip the mascarpone, and it’s a silly easy recipe with a short ingredient list. It is surprisingly tasty for a risotto that lacks both butter and cheese – the base consists of only olive oil and shallot. The mascarpone gives it a nice roundness, but I find by no means necessary. I added instructions for both the vegan and lighter version and the more traditional one: choose your risotto adventure yourself.
NOTE: if you cannot find radicchio, try this same recipe with nettles, chicory greens, or even cabbage or rapini or more simply spinach. Any leafy green that tastes good cooked will work in this recipe.
- 2 heads radicchio 'tardivo di Treviso'
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot
- 150g risotto rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli or Vialone Nano (my favorite kind)
- Hot vegetable stock
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese, or gorgonzola (skip or use cashew cream for a vegan version)
- Some Grana to finish (skip if vegan)
- Cut one of the radicchio heads in 4 lengthwise, then finely chop the other head (get rid of the stem) and set aside. Add the radicchio cut lengthwise to a plate and cover with clingfilm. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes, until soft. Cut off most of the stem and toss them generously with olive oil.
- Heat a pan until quite hot and add the radicchio. Let it brown on all sides, until nicely cooked and until the tops are crispy. Set aside.
- Add the olive oil to a pot with sides about 4-5 inches (10 - 13 cm) tall. Add the shallot and turn on the heat to medium-low, and start sautéing. Add the finely chopped radicchio the pot after a minute. Add a little stock to help the vegetables cook.
- After a couple minutes, add the rice, and stir for a minute on high to toast it.Then, add about a cup of stock, and let the rice cook on medium-low until absorbed. Keep an eye on it, as you will need to add another cup of stock once the first cup is absorbed. Keep an eye on it constantly and shake the pot often, to avoid sticking.
- RIsotto usually cooks in between 15 and 18 minutes - check the box for cooking times. the rice should feel soft under your teeth but with still some bite. If the rice seems cooked but there seems to be too much liquid, turn the heat to high and let it evaporate, shaking the pan. Once ready, remove from the heat, add the cheeses if using and shake the pan several times, as if you were sautéing it in a pan.
- Serve immediately with the pan-fried radicchio and a tiny quenelle of mascarpone or creamy gorgonzola.
- NOTE: this is the simplest process, but this way the radicchio won't preserve its color. If you want to keep it bright and purple, you will need to blanch it in salted water, pot uncovered, and purée it, then add it when cooking is almost done. I like adding the radicchio at the beginning of cooking though - it's easier and very flavorful.