Impromptu Risotto-ish

Garlicturino86 (GT8) and I were hungry, so we decided to cook together. We took a look at the fridge and pantry and pulled out the items that were available for us to use. They were surprisingly limited: black beans, chicken broth (with vegetables and herbs), garlic, jasmine rice, pasta, a very small amount of frozen broccoli, fresh carrots, and milk.

“What can we possibly make with this?” I asked.

“Well, we can use the rice and chicken broth to make a sort of risotto,” GT8 replied.

I set to work peeling carrots and GT8 finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic. We heated 1.5 cups of chicken broth to a boil, then added 1 cup of jasmine rice and let it cook, covered, for about 15 minutes. I defrosted the broccoli and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Once GT8 had cut the carrots into bite-sized pieces we set them to boil as well, allowing them to cook for nearly as long as the rice. I also rinsed and drained a can of black beans.

Once the carrots were fairly soft and sweet, we drained them. We heated some olive oil in a frying pan, browned the garlic, then added the broccoli, followed a little while later by the carrots and the beans. By the time they were ready, GT8 had taken the rice off the heat and transferred it into a large bowl. I mixed in the beans and vegetables. The flavors all blended together marvelously, especially the rice and beans. This is definitely a meal we would both like to make again sometime.

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The Quest for the Ultimate Comfort Food

I haven’t been feeling well for the past week or so – most likely a cold or something – and the way I know it’s something serious and not seasonal allergies is because my eating habits have changed. I’m drinking hot tea like water, I’m drinking more juice and water than usual, I’m often only eating at all because I know I need to, and I’m craving chicken broth. Usually, chicken broth might add a nice flavor to a dish, but my general attitude is “take it or leave it.” Instead, it’s been a staple of my diet for the past few days.

So begins the quest for the ultimate comfort food. I’ve experimented with pastina, by which I mean a mix of different tiny pastas that come in a variety of shapes. I like to cook half a cup of it in 2 cups of chicken broth, which I’ll season according to my current mood. The pastina soaks up all the broth and tastes amazing. It’s one of the few foods I’ll continue eating until it’s gone, regardless of how little it takes for me to actually stop feeling hungry.

But when I’m sick I want chicken soup. It’s about the only time I really want chicken soup. The chicken itself is good because my rational brain knows I need protein, but mostly I want the broth. In liquid form, thanks.

So, today I decided to try working things out a bit differently. I prepared the pastina in salted water instead, cooking it until it was about al dente, then turned off the heat and let it sit so it could soak up the remaining water. Then I heated 2 cups of chicken broth (College Inn Light & Fat Free) over a very low flame. I added some fresh herbs my aunt grows in her backyard and was kind enough to share with me: oregano, lemon-thyme, and lavender. I also added some salt, ground ginger, and of course garlic powder. (better suited to seasoning a broth, I think)

I put 2 oz chicken breast in the broth, and once that had turned white, I added cut green beans and the pastina (complete with the cooking water it hadn’t yet absorbed). Some time cooking over a slightly higher flame, a sprinkling of (dried) Italian seasoning, and several stirs later, I had a rather promising soup.

chicken soup with pastina and green beans

The flavors are subtle but pleasant, and there’s a bit of a kick to it that sneaks up on one. (most likely from the ginger) The soup clears out the sinuses and satisfies hunger quite nicely. I think, if a vegetable is needed at all, it should be in smaller pieces and cooked so it’s no longer crunchy. Measures should be taken to keep the chicken from drying out. But overall, I’d say this soup is a pretty good contender.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?

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