So … in case you hadn’t noticed … I’m cheering for Italy in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Hosted by Germany, this event promises to be a month-long celebration of "the beautiful game." The most popular sporting event in the world, the World Cup unites men, women and children in their passion for football (don’t call it soccer!).
How did football come to be called the beautiful game? Naive Cream Puff that I am I always assumed that it had something to do with the fact that generally speaking, football players are hot. Apparently this is not the case.
According to Wikipedia, football’s moniker as "the beautiful game" came about thanks to the autobiography of the man who is widely considered to be the greatest soccer player ever: PelÃ©. In 1977, PelÃ©’s autobiography was published with the title My Life and the Beautiful Game. So who’s going to argue with the greatest ever?!? Personally, I still like my "football players are hot" theory. But that’s just me.
In my family, football holds a place of extreme honour and the World Cup is considered an event so grand that regular life is justifiably put on hold.
Italy’s playing but you have to have a filling replaced? Learn to live with the pain of a toothache.
There’s a debate about which goalkeeper the Italian coach should go with but there’s no milk? Calcium is overrated.
The match Italy played three days ago is being repeated for the tenth time at 2:00 in the morning but you have to get up early for work? The boss will understand.
This is the sort of thing that goes on in my family … and we love every minute of it!
As I pondered how best to show my support for my Italian brothers, I remembered a dish that I used to prepare when I was a teenager. At that point in my life my mother was just teaching me how to cook so my repertoire was limited to dishes like chicken stock and tomato sauce. But one day, when I was 13 or 14, my dear Uncle C presented me with my very first cookbook called Vogue Entertaining: Lunches, Brunches, Barbecues, Elegant Dinners & Cocktail Parties.
Printed in large format with full colour photos on every page, I had never seen anything like this book. In one shining moment I was hooked on cookbooks forever. As talented and brilliant a cook as my mother is, the gatherings evoked in this cookbook were like nothing I’d ever seen before. Enormous floral centrepieces, silver flatware, tall ivory candles, crystal pedestal stands, luxurious linens … I memorized every page in the book constantly amazed that people dined in such beautiful settings. One hundred plus cookbooks later, I have only Uncle C to blame … or thank!
In any event, one of the very first recipes that I was drawn to in this book was a recipe for Risotto Tricolore (Tricoloured Rice). Admittedly, the idea of colour coordinating food may seem a bit over the top nowadays. Yet somehow, in the 1980s, this dish struck me as the height of sophistication. It is one of the very first dishes that I can recall preparing on my own. At that time, to be allowed to cook unsupervised in my mother’s kitchen was truly momentous. I remember feeling grown up and proud. And best of all the rice, although somewhat garish to look at, was delicious.
So today I wave my proverbial flag in the form of a rice dish. I send all my best wishes to the Italian team and hope that as in 1982, we can celebrate the championship of the most beautiful game on earth.
Adapted from Vogue Entertaining.
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow onion, chopped finely
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1-1/2 cups freshly grated parmigiano
- salt to taste
- In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. As soon as the butter is melted, add the onions and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the onions.
- Add the rice and stir several times to coat with the butter and onions.
- Add the white wine and stir constantly until the wine has evaporated.
- Increase the heat to medium and slowly begin adding the chicken stock, one cup at a time. I found that 6 cups of chicken stock was more than enough but be sure to have extra on hand should you need it.
- As you add each cup of stock, stir the rice frequently to ensure that it doesn’t burn or stick. As each cup of stock is absorbed by the rice, add the next cup.
- Once the rice is cooked, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of the grated parmigiano. Mix well.
- Divide the rice into three portions. Keep one portion in the skillet, and put the second and third portions in two separate pots.
- Add the chopped parsley and basil to one portion, mix well.
- Add the tomato paste to another portion, mix well.
- Taste all three portions and adjust seasoning accordingly. If necessary, add more grated parmigiano.
- Arrange the rice on a serving platter so that you have the green rice, then the white rice and then the red rice, which represent colours of the Italian flag. Serve immediately.
Note: This recipe serves 4-6. Leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated the next day.
The lovely Paz of The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz has invited me to participate in From My Rasoi #6. From My Rasoi, initially created by Meena of Hooked on Heat, is an event where people share food and stories from their own kitchens. How could I ont participate?!? This post is my entry for that event. Thank you Paz and thank you Meena!