Chard risotto with a soupçon of whining.

All the cool kids on the Food Internet are writing about cucumbers and zucchini today, but I’m all out of cucurbits and also incredibly uncool. Today we had chard – it’s been sitting in a vase beside a window for the past two days, getting brighter, bushier, more lovely. The trouble with buying produce at markets along my bus route home is that I have to carry the produce home on the bus where it inevitably wilts. A little bit of care and water upon arriving home does wonders, and in the meantime chard makes a very pretty centrepiece.

We had risotto, because today was unpleasant. The cat woke me up with claws, and I zoned out in the shower and forgot to shave my legs. I broke my favourite gold sandals around lunchtime and had to wander around the office shoeless, consummate professional that I always am, and then I noticed my hair had fallen apart after the fan behind my head flung everything into wild disarray and the concealer I’d dabbed on my monster pimple that morning had worn off and my mascara was running, so I looked just awesome – incredibly stable. You know you look special when everyone who comes to your office opens with “are you okay?”

I had to take the bus home wearing near-non-existent footwear, and quit on my “shoes” at my stop and walked home barefoot along a busy city street and I might have caught foot syphilis. These are first-world problems, but incredibly dramatic when one is focused entirely on herself.

So we ate comfort food, with my beautiful red chard, and Nick bought beer and pretended like I was a rational human being, and now everything is almost better. Thanks, risotto. Wine and cheese have never not helped me yet.

Chard risotto

(Serves four as a side-dish, two as a main course. Is easily multiplied.)

  • 3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb. chard (about one bunch), stalks and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil, divided
  • Salt to taste, if needed

Heat stock until boiling, then reduce heat and maintain a gentle simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, heat oil and melt the first tablespoon of butter. Add onions, garlic, and the chopped chard stalks and cook for two to three minutes, until onions are translucent. Add rice to pan, stirring for about a minute, or until rice grains turn opaque.

Add leaves. It will look like your ratio of rice to greens is off. It will look this way for a long time, but it’ll all work itself out. Pour in wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure nothing has stuck. Add pepper and nutmeg. Cook until wine has been completely absorbed.

Add one cup of the warm chicken stock, stirring frequently until liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat with an additional cup of stock, and then repeat again with one to two more cups as needed. Test your rice for tenderness – if it is al denté, great. If it isn’t, just pour in a little bit more stock, as needed, and let it absorb into the rice.

When rice is ready, stir in butter, Parmesan cheese, and one tablespoon of the basil. Adjust your seasonings, to taste. Serve hot, with additional Parmesan cheese and a light sprinkling of chopped fresh basil. The whole process takes about 30 minutes, but believe me, the stirring and the smells are therapeutic. Plus, who opens a bottle of wine to cook with and doesn’t dip in? Try 30 minutes of cooking with the bottle all to yourself, and tell me you don’t feel better about everything, even if you were fine to begin with.

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