S o yesterday was not a great day for me. Today isn’t any better. Well, to a degree. I found out that there are two cooking contests here in VA that I can enter, won a phone I wanted on Ebay, and I finally settled on a blog template. Yes, look familiar? Right. It’s my old one. What went wrong? I wasn’t satisfied until I realized that I missed my old one. So, I simply reconfigured some links, gadget/widget layout and became quite content. This color ensemble represents me and I think I like it the most. Changing it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen any time soon because I guess I have a lot riding on it. Anyway, recently I’ve been a basket case with questions of millions bouncing around my head. Will we get a house? Will we get an apartment? Can we get a loan? What type of loan? How am I going to pay for a house or an apartment? When should I mail out invitations? When can I do homework? What hours do I work?
-Insert giant scream.-
I’m tired. I can’t sleep without taking melatonin and I don’t like to depend on pills. I’m back to 100 lbs, which is “okay” but not fantastic. Okay as in at least I’m not UNDER 100 lbs, but, definitely 15 to 20 less than what I want to be. My stomach, from yesterday, is determined to eat itself. Somehow, I got contaminated, but to be frank, I know I always jeopardize my health when I cook with wheat or gluten for the guys. Am I stupid? Yeah, probably. Is it worth it? They’re content with what I prepare, so, I guess. Recently, though, I’ve been thinking too much because I’m tired. I’m worrying about stupid stuff even if it’s a minor accident (which I know once is at least forgivable - I hope) and stuff that I can’t prevent. There are a lot of things in the world that we can’t prevent, illness being a primary probability. Yesterday at work, since it was rather slow, I flipped through the Food and Wine magazines and came across an article that had me in awe. Have you ever heard of Grant Achatz? If not, I shall indulge you.
Grant Achatz was named best chef in America for 2008. He is the owner and head chef of Alinea, which was featured on America’s Top 50 Restaurants in 2006. In 2007, he was diagnosed with terminal tongue cancer. Nearly every doctor he visited had told him that there was no hope unless they cut out his tongue which, in turn, would have him almost mute, eating habits severely inhibited, and the worst part of all, losing the ability to taste. With a determination to find an alternative method to having his tongue removed, Achatz followed the advice of one physician and sought out the University of Chicago Medical center for treatment in July. Come December, he was cancer free. During that time, he had gone under extreme dosages of radiation in combination with chemotherapy and the common side effects of extreme skin irritation, hair loss, and taste lost. Even though he felt ill and weak due to treatment, he only lost about 10 days of work. He stated in the article that he would always go to his restaurant even if it was only for a few hours just to prove to his chefs that he was still alive.
Because of his experience, Achatz stated that his sense of flavor combinations has been heightened and advanced beyond one could ever imagine. In example, despite his sous chef’s declarations of insanity, Achatz combines burnt crumbs with chestnuts to create a bitter sweet symphony. It is amazing how a horrendous incident can actually benefit you in the long run. I can relate with my food allergies. So I can’t eat what normal people eat, big deal. I’ll just use my own imagination to create food marriages that one wouldn’t normally think of. I think that’s what makes each and everyone’s cooking unique and better. Because of my ailment, and knowing there are others out there too, I want to share my experiences, my creations, and make them happy. That’s why I cook; I want to help people. I want to show everyone that there is hope, no matter the grimness looming overhead. Even if the recipes may appear simple and sweet, some are just pure comfort with, maybe, a small twist. And, hey, if one man can look in the face of death and laugh, who’s to stop the rest of us?
Roasted Eggplant and Pumpkin Risotto with basil and pistachios 1 small eggplant 3 slices of sweet dumpling squash ¼ cup Arborio rice 1 ½ cup water ¼ cup nondairy milk 1 tsp nondairy margarine 1 tbsp white wine ½ tsp smoked paprika 1 tsp nutritional yeast, optional 2 tbsp roasted pistachios, crushed Crushed red pepper to taste Handful of fresh basil leaves Salt and pepper to taste
If you want to do it a day ahead (and I did), prep the eggplant and pumpkin.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and roast the eggplant and pumpkin for 20 to 30 minutes, give or take the calibration of your oven.
Once the pumpkin and eggplant are done, remove and set aside to cool. Once cooled, diced them about ¼ inch cubes. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
In a pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, sautee the diced onions until soft. Remove from the pan and add the rice, tossing until they obtain a gentle golden hue. Deglaze the pain with the wine and add ½ cup water to the rice. Cook, with continual stirring, for 10 minutes or until the rice is just tender, adding water if it appears dried out as you go along. Add the eggplant, pumpkin, salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Mash the pumpkin as you go if you wish and then add the, milk, margarine, pistachios, and red pepper flakes, cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Turn off the heat, add the basil on the last minute. Stir until combined then spoon into a bowl. Top it with nutritional yeast and a dash of smoked paprika for a smoky flavor. Simple, comforting, and delicious.