Risotto

Why do we consider pasta to be easy and versatile but risotto to be challenging? Italians, the masters of both, don’t see it this way. “Every conceivable vegetable, seafood, and meat can go into risotto,” says my sumptuously illustrated copy of Venetian Taste. “The frugal Venetian does not hesitate to stretch a bit of leftover into half a meal by amplifying it with rice.”

I have often eaten delicious risotto, but my first memorable one was in Venice, turned deep violet-black by cuttlefish ink. Although replicating this particular pairing is nearly impossible stateside, the pale, creamy rice dishes colored by local vegetables and various spices are well within reach. All you need is to start with the right rice and then adjust your standard technique for cooking it. The rest, as the Venetians would say, is due volte più gustoso.
Learn to make Fresh Improv Risotto and Sunshine Risotto

Pizza

People may forever debate whether pizza is Italian, but there can be no doubt that it is American. One poll last year reported that “For Americans, pizza lands in the number one spot as the ultimate comfort food.” But if you were to ask, “What is pizza?” you’d get as many answers as respondents.

This, to my mind, is a good thing. It’s what makes pizza so popular. It’s also what makes pizza so easy and affordable to create from scratch at home. You don’t need a specific recipe with exact ingredients. You don’t even need a ratio with proportions of various toppings. All you need is some dough, a couple handfuls of garnishes, and a way to cook it. If you have a sourdough starter, the dough is in the bag—or should I say, jar.
Learn to make Sourdough Pizza Dough and Thin-Crust Pizza

Dig It, Store It

November has been gorgeous in Montana, but the ground will soon be frozen solid. So we spent the weekend putting the garden to bed: digging the final potatoes, carrots, and beets; pulling the last green tomatoes and peppers from the greenhouse; and stuffing overlooked garlic cloves deeply into the soil. If it weren’t for the 50 pounds of tomatoes ripening on the living room floor, we’d be boxing up the canning equipment too.

We are packing food away, though: much of this last garden haul can be stored in boxes, hung in mesh bags or baskets, or otherwise kept whole for months. No canner, dehydrator, or freezer space is required. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve grown your own, have fall CSA crops, or are simply buying what’s in season over the next few weeks: Box it up to eat well all winter long. Read more about storing vegetables and fruit for winter

Salad Dressing Bases

The salad dressing aisle at a grocery store baffles me: so long, so heavily preserved, so expensive—and so easy to make at home. Every dressing starts with oil and an acid, like vinegar, or something to make it creamy. From there, spices and other flavorings are added to make the desired blend. Even the most dedicated bachelor likely has the basic ingredients in his kitchen.

Imagine this: You’re invited over for a first dinner date, and the guy pulls out a squeeze jug of store-brand ranch. Impressed? Perhaps he splurged for a bottle with a fancy label. It’s probably still not memorable. Now imagine he combines oil, vinegar, and a few spices in a bottle, shakes it, and sprinkles the result over greens. Suddenly, you’re paying attention. In less than 5 minutes, he has a lip-smacking salad dressing—and you might be considering a second date before you even taste the main dish. Learn to make Vinegary and Creamy Salad Dressing Bases