The wonderful world of opportunities we live in - a cod risotto with caramelized onions and balsamic reduction on a Friday night
I was walking home from the noon school run yesterday, trying to compose the opening lines to a chapter in my mind, as well as a dialogue between two characters so as not to forget that they had to discuss certain subjects, when I realised that after all is said and done, I cannot much complain about my life. I think back to those years I was working jobs that sapped energy and happiness out of me, I think back to when getting up in the morning was like the cruelest joke the universe could pull on me, I think back to when I felt sick only at the thought that Sunday was nearly over and Monday would mark the start of a new working week, and I realise that I'm one lucky bitch. One who should not complain. I don't have to go through that anymore, I don't mind Sunday evenings at all, I still don't like Mondays but I am not on the verge of tears because of them!
As I walked on, the lines and dialogues completely forgotten, I was in awe of how wonderful the world I live in actually is. How truly amazing these times are. When could I ever have thought, back in my late teens, early twenties, that I would get to live in a time where I could write a book and self publish it? Sure, only four of five people have read my novels, but the truth is, my novels were read by four or five people! And that is amazing, certainly. In the days of yore, that same number of people would have read my writings if I had lent them the manuscripts. I probably wouldn't even manage to get them read by a publishing house, let alone have them be published and out there for four or five people to read! There's so much that is better nowadays, and so many opportunities we didn't get to have only twenty years ago.
This is indeed one of the things that to me makes these some of the best times we can live in. The amazing number of opportunities to pursue our dreams and do what we're passionate about that we have nowadays. Of course, they make it hard times to live in as well. Competition is far bigger, and better. Far more aggressive as well. It's very hard to get yourself noticed on your (good) work and talent alone, if you happen to have some. There's so much out there that you need to be able to invest in yourself as if you're a product, and anyone who has a hard time doing that - me!! - will kind of be swept under the rug. If you can sell yourself, and if you have the money to invest in yourself, then these opportunities we all have at hand now will surely pan out for you. But the mere fact I got my writings published, to me that is an acomplishment and makes me grateful to live in this age.
The same with food photography, which is something I always loved and admired from afar, because I could not afford to practice it, twenty years ago. Now, a good enough camera is not that expensive, and you even have online editing tools to make your life easier! There's an array of props being sold out there for next to nothing, too, so it's simple and easy to at least allow yourself to play with such an art as this. It has become achievable, it has become tangible, it's no longer something that I keep in my wildest dreams, never to come to life. Would I have thought this twenty years ago, as I browsed through my sister's Marie Claire Idées issues and swooned at the food styling and photography? No. It would not. Yet here I am, playing with something that used to fascinate me, and it makes me feel grateful to live in the world of today, where I can afford to chase my wildest dreams.
The same thing happens with food. Twenty years ago when I first came across chinese food in the chinese restaurants around town, I knew the food served there was not the food eaten by people in China, I knew because I had been told by people who had lived in Macao, and Hong Kong and China. I dreamt of trying dim sum and chinese buns, but I never thought I actually would one day. I have, and we have even cooked both from scratch. I never dreamt that I would come to try ramen or kimchi, I didn't even know there were such things, twenty odd years ago, but now I do, and I have tried both and fallen in love with. It makes me grateful to live in the world of today, despite everything else that is bad and wrong around us. These are the little things, see, and the little things, when put together, they make up a tapestry so big of all that's good one gets overwhelmed.
I also never imagined I would be eating risottos every Friday, twenty years ago, but I am, so here's the one we tried most recently, it's a cod risotto and even my son, who is not a fan of cod, loved it.
- 1 cup of carnaroli rice
- 1 l of fish stock
- 1 large dry cod fillets, that have been steeped in water for at least 24h
- 1 glass of white wine
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1 leek, sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1 tsp dried cilantro
- 1/2 tsp dark muscovado sugar
- a dash of balsamic vinegar
- olive oil, salt, pepper to taste
Start by boiling 1 l of water and immersing the cod in it for five to seven minutes, scalding the fish. Reserve the water and use it as your fish stock, if you like. I know I did! Let the fish cool down and when it's cold enough so you can touch it, flake it into small pieces and remove the skin and bones. Reserve. On a pan, heat up the olive oil and add the leak and half the garlic. When the vegetables are tender, add the rice and stir it until it becomes translucid. Freshen up with the white wine and let it evaporate completely before you start addin laddles of stock. You know it by know, add one laddle and let the liquid disappear before you add another. Now you can start on the cod and the caramelized onion with balsamic reduction. On a frying pan, heat up olive oil and add the onions, lowering the heat once it has become translucid. Stir it around and add the garlic. Let it steam up in the pan, adding the sugar until it starts to caramelize. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and let the onions cook in it, until both have reduced. Now you can add the cod, and season the whole with the herbs and the pepper. Check the seasoning and adjust, in case it needs more salt or more pepper. Keep an eye on your risotto, don't forget to add those laddles of stock! Once the cod is covered in the reduction, get it off the heat. By now, your rice should be cooked as well, so let it rest for about five minutes before adding the cod and the reduced onions and balsamic. Serve with a scatter of dill over it, and a good wine for company.