Thursday, June 18, 2015

Love Thy Neighbor

By Allyson Haas
wolf sanctuary LA
Just hangin' at the Wolf Sanctuary as one does when being raised in LA
I'm not a particularly religious person.  Spiritual, yes, but traditionally religious, no.  I do, however, believe in the general testaments of being kind to others and loving thy neighbor (for the most part, though some of our neighbors are just flat out bad people).

I'm particularly fond of one of my neighbors.  She's my go-to gal in good times and bad.  Last week's spontaneous adventures to the wolf sanctuary - with her.  Sunday's trip to be wrapped in the embrace of Amma, the Hugging Saint - with her.  Honestly, she makes a trip to the courthouse to pay a ticket fun.  It's not just the good times that she's about either; she's one of those all-too-rare "ride or die" friends.

Take, for example, the night our poor dog Simon left this world too soon.  Without any extended family living within a 2000 mile radius, and not knowing who else to call, I phoned her in desperation at two in the morning.  Not only was she gracious about my call interrupting her slumber, but in under three minutes she was standing on our doorstep, having already taken care of Simon's final arrangements.  She stayed to watch C while we took Simon on his last car ride to the aftercare center, and by the time we returned she had gathered, washed, and packaged all of his things to be taken away.  She was our angel, and still is.

homemade risotto and pesto
No Easy Cheez in this care package
Which is why when she wasn't feeling well one recent night, and needed some kindness of her own, I felt compelled to put together a care package.  One serving of wild mushroom risotto, some homemade spinach basil pesto, a hunk of fresh baguette, and a few pieces of that homemade Butterfinger.  For a finishing touch: cutlery wrapped in a napkin and tied up with a pretty ribbon, and a classic cherry lollipop.  Treating people well is one of my favorite things; it never hurts to take good care of those you love, and it's so easy to brighten someone's day with the simplest of actions.

Plus I really need some good karma to balance out all the screaming/yelling/losing my s*it gentle guidance I've been giving this week.  C is taking to potty training like an elephant to roller skates, or not very well at all.  On the bright side, it's giving me plenty of opportunities to test out all of my non-toxic floor cleaner recipes.

Mushroom Risotto
Risotto sounds fancy, but it's actually super easy to make.  Just keep in mind that, like a whiny boyfriend (or child) who always needs your attention, it requires constant stirring.
1 cup arborio rice
1 carton vegetable stock
2 shallots, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Splash of olive oil
Some white wine
Some sherry or sweet vermouth
Some cream (optional)
2 pints mushrooms (I do one crimini, one white)
1/2 cup (more less depending on your taste) of grated Parmesan/Asiago cheese 
Fresh herbs*
*for this recipe I didn't have fresh on hand, so I used a heavy dash of Herbes de Provence

In a large pot (or saucepan), coat the bottom with olive oil and bring to low heat.  Brown the shallots.

Once browned, add rice and enough stock to cover.  Stir and mix until liquid is absorbed.

Continue to add liquid, alternating between veggie stock and either sherry or vermouth.  Note: each time add about a quarter cup and continually mix until absorbed.  Do this until you see the rice expanding considerably.  You can taste it as well - if it's crunchy keep adding liquid.

Once it's about done, I add about half a cup of the parmesan/asiago mix (make it easy on yourself and buy the already grated one from Trader Joe's).

When the cheese is melted and incorporated, throw in a spot of cream. Don't bother to go out and buy cream just for this recipe, if you have some on hand, throw it in.  You can also add a pat of butter for richness if you don't have cream.

When the rice is soft, remove from heat, portion, and serve immediately.  Or in my case, portion and give some to your neighbor.

Spinach Basil Pesto
Pesto also sounds fancy, but it is quite possibly the easiest thing to make.  It's virtually impossible to screw up.
Handful of fresh spinach
Handful of fresh basil
1/4 container of the TJ's Parmesan/Asiago mix
Olive oil to cover
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or, in my case, a baby food maker.  Pulse for about two minutes until you get a paste-like consistency.  You can add a clove or two of garlic and a handful of nuts if you want it to be like real pesto.  The Haasband doesn't like it that way, so I never do.  

I usually make this every Sunday and use it throughout the week.  Bake it on chicken, use to make a delicious Caprese sandwich, mix it in with quinoa pasta to make an easy "green mac and cheese" or mix it with some mayo to liven up a turkey bacon BLT. 

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