I know a Saturday that is excellent must include two or more names for any excellent experience requires at least two people. Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) had an excellent adventure! (They also had a bogus journey, and are working on something else that has not yet jelled.) Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) had several adventures together, all of which seemed excellent for them. (Maybe not so much for viewers.) Skipping at least a couple of generations, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour—yes, that’s three people, but in those days there had to be a girl—did well with seven “on the road” movies.
So this post is about solo time. Ms. J is away at a retreat. My day involved a 5 a.m. start, an early a.m. cross-town drive to deliver what Ms. J forgot, an hour phone conference with an out-of-state client, a bit of shopping (which included a fallen and exploding soda can at Whole Foods), a handyman visit to handle the stuff I can’t do, plenty of writing, reading, dog play, etc., and thinking about the evening. Truly, a quiet, productive and peaceful day!
Saturday evening carries lots of freight. Being home—alone, yet—connotes failure. Or maybe that’s just me? In any event, several bars with fine quality food and “at the bar” dinner service came to mind. Then I looked in the freezer and realized I could save $30-40, not be driving on a Saturday night, and not have to shave. That’s a pretty good trifecta!
Here’s my martini. The olives are blue cheese-filled, left over from last week’s Mother’s Day dinner, and not discarded.
On the plate are raw mushrooms drizzled with chili oil. That’s health food around here. There are also two slices of leftover, reheated homemade pizza. Pics of the pizza in its first iteration are below. There’s also some so-so Thai smoked salmon from Whole Foods. (Not sure what makes it Thai, when there’s no flavor at all.) Finally, there are three smashed Arancini, my way.
Arancini? Arancini are Italian rice balls. Any traditional recipe will include some cheese in the middle, bread crumbs, and deep frying. They’re great that way, but it’s not my way!
My rice balls came about as a result of entertaining several times where our guests included gluten intolerant people and vegans. Rice balls work well for the gluten intolerants, but there’s no room for cheese for the vegans, and bread crumbs—and the beaten egg that would hold everything together—don’t work at all. Nevertheless, a dish that catches those with significant limitations works well for me.
So, here’s my take on Arancini. Cook Arborio rice according to box instructions, but leave out any beef or chicken-based broth. Some white wine can add flavor, though, and no one should object. (Avoid boxed or canned vegetable broth. Off flavor.) Substitute olive oil for butter.
While the rice is cooking and you’re making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, finely chop some Trader Joe’s sun-dried tomatoes in a bag (no oil), green onions, basil, and anything else that suits your fancy. (I’ve never added olives, but the moisture, fat, salt, and flavor probably add to the mix. Next time.) Stir your dice into the rice. Let the mixture cool, once the rice is al dente.
Take ¼ cups of the rice mixture and, using your hands, roll into balls. Bake on parchment paper at about 375° until lightly browned. Serve hot. (It’s the leftovers that get smashed and put in fry pan for reheating. Some melted cheese—I’m not a vegan—would have been a great addition.)
I’ve digressed from “aloneness” as a theme. Ms. J will be back Sunday afternoon, and that’s a good thing. In the meantime, though, 36 hours of quiet time certainly creates no negative issues for me.
P.S. I’ve added a photo of a roasted veggie platter I served for Mom’s Day. Mushrooms are closer to the mark, but we all show off for Mom. Also, check out this link to Freedom From Fries by Sam Sifton, former restaurant reviewer for the Times, who notes about frying that “[t]he process takes time, the grease spatters everywhere, you end up with pallid strips of starch and then, ‘You’re stuck with a few quarts of heavy, messy, used oil that you can’t dump down the drain, can’t pour in the garbage and can’t throw over the fence into Flanders’s yard.’” The smashed “fries” look great, and as a roasted potato expert, I’m ready to try Mr. Sifton’s recipe. And very comfortable with my decision not to deep fry Arancini balls at home.