I love being a teacher. I love sweet little faces and hugs and reading books with all the expression that I can possibly muster. I love telling parents about the new thing that their child did at school that day and I love when parents tell me about the new thing that they did at home the night before. To the surprise of many, I love the challenge of solving a behavior “problem”-usually helping a child learn a new way to communicate a want or a need-and I love looking back at the end of the year and seeing how far everyone has come, myself included. I love finger paint and Mr. Potato Head. I have an unnatural love for office supplies (shared by most of my teacher friends, I’m pretty sure).
And yes, I love breaks.
This has been quite a break. Philip and I came down with a hellacious stomach virus on Christmas Eve that forced a reschedule of our holiday plans with his side of the family and rendered us unable to eat like normal human beings until Saturday. For Christmas Eve dinner I had saltines, cheese, and a frozen fruit pop. I nearly cried on Christmas Day when I couldn’t finish my steak or my twice-baked potato at dinner.
Friday night we watched our neighbor’s house burn. It was the most sickening and surreal thing that I’ve ever experienced, but it also reminded us that while we don’t talk to our neighbors much (not a very lively bunch, ourselves included), we live in a wonderful neighborhood with some incredibly kind and caring people. Our neighbors made it out of their house fine and are staying with family. If you’re the praying kind, remember them. Also, don’t forget to check your smoke alarms regularly. We also invested in a fire ladder for our second-story bedroom window (the only window in our home that isn’t relatively close to land or a porch). Finally, don’t forget to give thanks for firefighters, who risk their lives daily for people they don’t know. My dad is a firefighter, so that’s a sentiment close to my heart.
So, there have been some downsides to this break….but it hasn’t been all bad. Most of my break has been spent trying to avoid leaving the house, including two days this week where I managed to not even step outside the door or even put on clothing that didn’t have an elastic waistband (one day not even changing out of my PJs except to work out, the second making a half-hearted effort by putting on leggings and a sweater). I was asleep before midnight on New Year’s Eve and whined about having to leave the house on New Year’s Day to buy eggs and mouthwash.
Really, all I’ve wanted to do this week is stay in the house, cook, write, and read. Breaks give me an opportunity to not just take a break from my job but also a break from reality, a reality where I have to actually drive places and talk to people (I promise I’m not really antisocial). I love delving into the shut-in life for a few days here and there, but I guarantee you that if we hadn’t left the house yesterday I would have had the itch by the time today rolled around.
One thing about weather like this is that it really does make me crave food that is warm, filling, and easy. It’s too cold in my kitchen, what with the giant windows and all, to stand in there, inevitably in my bare feet (I know, not really a very safe way to wield knives) while it’s thirty-five degrees outside, plus I’m ready to get back under my fleece blanket pretty much as soon as I get out from under it. Risotto is a comfort food for me and it’s something that I don’t even really have to think about. Chop, heat, stir, pour, stir, pour, stir, pour, stir, scoop, slice, grate, eat. That’s about it. Usually, I make my risottos (like this risotto with bacon, this mushroom risotto, or this butternut squash risotto) with white wine, but this rich red wine risotto has a slightly deeper flavor, and with the tomato puree there’s a sweet, tangy acidity. The original recipe, from a Donna Hay book (<–affiliate link) I found at McKay, was served over eggplant, but the eggplants at the grocery store looked horrendous so artichokes it is. A dollop of crème frâiche left over from my parsnip soup (crème frâiche on ALL THE THINGS!) and some basil chiffonade complete the dish. Warm, comforting, perfection.
My break is pretty much over. Monday, it’s back to reality, back to a world where I have to actually go out in the cold…where I have to talk (a lot) to other people. I’ll spend the next three months looking forward to hermitizing myself again on Spring break. As long as I have recipes like this red wine risotto up my sleeve, though, I’ll be okay.
If you try my red wine risotto, you just might agree with me.
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Yield: 4 servings
This recipe is adapted from New Food Fast by Donna Hay .
5 minPrep Time:
25 minCook Time:
30 minTotal Time:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Small onion (diced)
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups tomato puree (I didn't have any, so I gave an equal amount of diced tomatoes a whir in the blender)
- 1 cup red wine (I use Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 2 cups arborio or other short to medium grain rice (I have made this with short-grain brown rice, which is delicious but takes a lot longer)
- 1/3 cup basil (chiffonade)
- 1 can artichoke hearts (drained and quartered or chopped)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- grated parmesan (for serving)
- crème frâiche (optional, for serving)
- Combine the stock, the wine, and the tomatoes in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a 3-4 quart saucepan or pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent.
- Add the other tablespoon of oil to the pot and add the rice. Stir to coat with oil and sauté for a minute or two.
- Add half a cup of the liquid to the rice/onion mixture and stir until the liquid is completely absorbed. Repeat until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the risotto among four bowls. Serve topped with the artichoke hearts, basil, a dollop of crème frâiche (optional) and grated cheese.