May 28, 2010

Of quiet husbands and risotto surprises

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction (except for the recipe) and may or may not have some resemblence to persons living.

“You are going to be late for class,” he said as she dunked her toast and sipped her tea at a leisurely pace.

“Don’t worry, I have plenty of time. It takes 25 minutes to reach school, 35 max if there is traffic,” she replied in her nonchalant way.

He just shrugged and went back to reading his book. He knew it wouldn’t do any good to point out that the traffic increased at this time of the day.

She had always been like this, relaxed and completely out of sync with time; he sometimes wondered how she got anything done at all.

Earlier in their marriage, he used to get exasperated. “I am so glad you are not a doctor. Your patients would have died waiting for you on the operating table.” She would just laugh and walk away.

In time, he had learnt to relax around her laid back attitude but there were times when he still bristled when she went about her business as if time was infinite. Most of the time, he just shrugged and let go. It was easier that way, less stressful.

“Ok, I am ready. How do I look?” she asked with that twinkle in her eyes he had grown to love so much.

“Good,” he said. He wasn’t the loquacious one in this union. She pecked him on his cheek, got into the car and sped off.

“I hope she reaches school in time,” he muttered under his breath as he headed back into the house.

He was glad she was finally doing something with her life. The ten years they had been married he had stood by her as she squandered away her life on trivial pursuits instead of doing something productive with her talent.

“At least she woke up before she turned 50,” he thought as he went back to the book he was reading. He had picked it up at a garage sale for a dollar. It was called Risotto, Polenta and Pasta, a Taste of Italy.

He decided he would try his hand at making risotto. He knew she didn’t like him cooking without her present.

“You make too much mess and you are not very efficient with the chopping and the pots and pans. Let me help you,” she would insist.

He hated being told how to cook or her interfering “help”. He had his own ideas and even if he was wrong, he wanted to find it out for himself.

Today was the perfect chance. She won’t be back for another four hours. He can drive down to the grocery store for the supplies; cook to his heart’s content and even clean up the kitchen decently before she came home.

He set about in his meticulous way writing down the ingredients he needed for the risotto. The list was a big point of contention between the two. He believed in them, she didn’t. Today, he gets to do things his own way.

The List:
Arborio Rice
Vegetable stock
Parmesan Cheese
Ricotta Cheese

He came back an hour later with three plastic bags bursting at the seams. “She would throw a fit if she saw these plastic bags,” he thought.

She was a fanatic when it came to reusable fabric bags. He didn’t mind them but he didn’t always remember to get them out of the trunk of his car. In the beginning, he would just buy another reusable bag at the counter instead of risking a fight. Today, there was no one to accost him as he came home.

“Two more hours to go before she comes back,” he thought glancing at the watch and unloading the groceries.

He washed the rice under cold running water and kept it aside. As he reached for the chopping board he noticed the dishwasher needed to be emptied. He started putting the dishes in their proper places, separated the spoons and forks from the knives and put them in the top drawer, next to the stove.

He had to admire her organization skills. Everything was within easy reach. If only she wasn’t so anal about her lids and plastic containers. He put the thought away in a far corner of his mind as he set about chopping onions and celery.

“Hmmm… I wonder if these frozen methi leaves would taste good with the risotto,” he thought as he reached for the packet.

He started cooking, methodically chopping, washing, sautéing and stirring. He was done in exactly 40 minutes. He transferred the hot risotto to a serving dish as the phone rang. “Hey, it’s me. I am on my way home,” she told him.

He looked around the kitchen and with a sigh started cleaning up. By the time he was done there were ten minutes left for her to reach home.

“Just enough time to set up the table,” he thought. He turned on the light above the dining table and cleared it of the magazines and junk mail; wiped the table clean and set up two plates and two water glasses.

“This is as close to candle light as she will get,” he thought as he turned off the lights in the rest of the house, keeping the lights over the dining table on. He grabbed a salad bowl and added some packaged salad greens to it and then tossed some pecans, cranberries and some chopped tomatoes and cucumber to it.

As he set the salad and risotto on the table, he heard the garage door open. “Hi, I am home,” she called out as she entered the house. “You won’t believe what a jackass my professor was today…,” she stopped in mid sentence as she saw the simply laid out table and the steaming risotto.

For once in her life she was speechless at a gesture so unexpected, yet so full of love from this undemonstrative husband of hers. She hugged him tightly and then the two of them sat down to enjoy their meal in the quiet comfort a decade of married life brings with it.
Fenugreek and spinach Risotto
Serves 2

1//2 cup Arborio rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
4-5 button mushroo or 1 carrot, peeled and chopped (optional)
1/2 cup of methi leaves (fenugreek leaves)
1/2 cup spinach leaves, chopped fine
2 cups vegetable stock (substitute with water or a combination of veg stock and ½ cup white wine)
1 tbsp Ricotta Cheese (or butter for a creamier version)
1/2 grated parmesan or any other hard cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the rice in plenty of water and keep aside.

Sauté the onions, celery and mushrooms (and/or carrots) in two tbsp of oil till translucent.

Add the methi and spinach and saute for 2-3 mins till the greens start to wilt.

Add the washed rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes. The rice should turn almost transparent. Make sure you stir the rice constantly so that it doesn't stick. You may choose to add a little butter if you want at this time if you want a richer (and tastier) version. (He does and I don’t complain).

Add 1/2 cup of white wine (or stock) and let the rice absorb it. This should take about 2-3 more minutes.

Now keep adding the remaining stock and stirring till all the stock is absorbed in the rice.

As the last installment of liquid gets absorbed add the ricotta cheese.

As you turn the heat off add 1/2 cup of parmesan/pecorino cheese and stir it in.

Garnish with sunflower seeds or capers.

*This is to emphasize how important it is to keep stirring the rice while the liquid is being added. It helps with releasing the starches and gives it that very creamy consistency that is so risotto or as our Italian friends would call it “Risotti!”

This special risotto is off to Bong Mom who is co-hosting the 2nd edition of Aqua's original Chalks and Chopsticks. Do you have a yarn to spin?

This is also being sent to His Cooking event, for obvious reasons.


  1. A beautiful story Jaya! Loved every line. And that risotto surely looks very risotti. :-)

  2. Good story! :))

    Risotto is yummy. I love when husbands are frugal and then when they are interested in cooking too.

  3. Loved the story, it is beautifully written and somehow I think is based on a real life event :)

  4. Lovely story Jaya, loved reading it, the way it unfolded was very engrossing.
    May I say, the husband is a great guy ;-)

  5. Loved the read and was imagining the two of you conversing. The risotto looks perfect and has the right texture, the husband did a splendid job!

  6. Thank you ladies.

    @ Sig: hence the disclaimer at the top of the post.

    @ Bong Mom: yes he is a great guy.

  7. Hi Jaya,loved reading your post.My hubby is like the lady in your story ,always taking the world in his pace :)...Loved the creamy risotto too.

  8. I like husbands who do the housework! Nicely narrated.

  9. Very nicely narrated. Hard to believe the disclaimer. Nice recipe too.

  10. My goodness. You can write lady. I loved it. I didn't read the risotto recipe, but every word apart from that. Where shall I start? If my husband made anything for me like that, not risotto, that'll be too much to ask for. Just upma or rasam would do, I would be over the moon. Emptying the dish washer, going shopping and cooking and setting the table and cleaning? whoever is that man, he is out of this world. If he is yours, guard him very well. Your fan count increased by one for sure.

  11. Sounds like someone I know and am stuck with ;)

    Lovely post :) And I love, love the new format of the site.

    And keep your long comments coming, that's how we met!

  12. Lovely, lovely story Jaya. you are gifted. And maybe with this post I shall force myself to make a risotto. Never went near it, it reminds me so much of the South Indian rice gruel called "kanji" which I can't stand....!

  13. PJ, Sra, Divya, Radha: Thank you. :)

    @ Bangalore Baker: Thank you and yes, I keep him as close as I can.

    @Ann: Thanks Ann. My first impression of risotto was of 'kanji" too, but I have grown to like it.

  14. Loved reading every single line Jaya!

  15. Nice gud u r in writting ....thanks for the wonderful entry.

  16. If I sitdown to write this, it would take me months Jaya...lovely post...I notice one thing you washed to me and also you gave little Indian flavour to that Italian dish...with adding methi..gud one

  17. lovely lovely story.A silent visitor but had to comment on this.

  18. Jaya, loved loved the post. I must have read it 3 times by now. The plot has a beautiful alluring, dreamy character to it. You are a very talented writer. Had I not 'known you' through your earlier posts, I would have thought this of this to be fiction.

    PS: Your husband is a gem of a keeper :-))

  19. Thank you Aqua, Priti, Jagruti, Anony and Supriya.

    Supriya, glad you enjoyed it so much. And yes, he is a keeper. :)

  20. First time here.
    Loved the story. You have so nicely woven the story, absolutely brilliant!!

  21. Dear Jaya,

    What a simple yet beautiful love story :))
    I loved ur story and my compliments to the author for the story and to the chef for the lovely recipe and clicks :))
    You must write more of these have a way with words....


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