Dregs from the pantry: Spicy parmesan, broccoli, and pine nut risotto

It's the end of the month.

We're getting desperate.

We've eaten everything that's a ready-made meal. We've eaten everything we can from the fridge, minus one small and lonely head of broccoli, some leftover bits of cheeses, and a single grapefruit that has become soft and supple and been in there far too long. We've started digging into the drawers, the lazy susan and the freezer to find anything we can that's edible...that will make some kind of meal with the myriad of strange ingredients from my 'foraging' that we have remaining. We haven't quite reached sheer desperation yet, but even the Nature's Variety Prarie is starting to look more appetizing (unfortunately, we already gave the dogs all the biscuits)...If you've noticed that I haven't been posting many recipes, you're right - I'm broke! The food we've been eating hasn't exactly been fancy, nor blog-worthy.

Such is the life of a graduate student...getting paid your meager salary once a month, and living paycheck-to-paycheck hoping that no unexpected expenses come up so that you'll actually make it through to the end of the month. Someday we'll have real jobs like the rest of the world! This month we weren't quite so lucky - we ran out of money weeks ago to do any 'major' grocery shopping and have only been picking up a thing or two as is absolutely necessary. We're used to doing this once every in a while, but we've had expenses the last two months that wiped us out early; and we've completely decimated the kitchen goods I once kept in full stock so that I could make most recipes with only a trip to the store for perishables (now, those were the days!)

So, last night, we went through everything...I went methodically through the cupboards and drug out everything I could imagine might go together...broccoli, the last green in our fridge...parmesan cheese bits, leftover from other recipes since I've been a bit wary of the grater lately...a few pine nuts...

Well, this would have to do. I knew I had a little arborio rice in the cupboard that our old roommate had left when she moved in January. I had an open box of chicken broth in the bottom of the fridge (one of the few items I had stocked up on the last shopping trip)...how about a broccoli, parmesan, and pine nut risotto?

Sounded good to us! I got out the rice, the cheese, the pine nuts and broccoli, then grabbed a bottle of white wine I keep for cooking from the fridge, and chopped up our last onion and two cloves of garlic.

Unfortunately, when I picked up the chicken broth box, it had only a half a cup in the bottom of it.

With a sigh, I opened up the lazy susan, hoping beyond hope that I might have a hidden can of broth in there or two...

And there, before me, like a light shining out from the recesses of the dark, was a second box of broth! Hallelujah! I warmed it up, and started making a risotto that turned out to actually be mighty tasty. After our first bite...it was even deemed blog-worthy. So here it is...the dregs from our pantry, put together so that if you might find yourself in a situation similar to our own, you might not starve to death, you might even make a delicious meal...

Spicy Parmesan, Broccoli and Pine Nut Risotto, from our kitchen to yours

2 tbsp. butter, divided
olive oil
1 small head of broccoli, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 tsp. tarragon (I used dried; use fresh if you've got it)
~ 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup of white wine
1 box of chicken broth or stock (I'm not sure how much is in one of these)
~ 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
~ 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp. of butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a medium saute pan until melted. Add onions and to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Add the broccoli and saute until just tender and onions become translucent but not browned. Add the garlic, tarragon and red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds. Heat the chicken broth or stock to a simmer in a separate saucepan. While this is warming, add the rice, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until you can see a small white dot in the center, and the kernals are covered with oil. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates, then begin to add the broth or stock one cup at a time, while stirring. Make sure that the broth is completely absorbed before adding the next cup. After about 20 minutes, or when the rice is still slightly chewy, but not hard, and you reach the end of your broth or stock (NOTE: I ended up adding an additional cup of water to get the texture I wanted, but my arborio was part brown and part white; so I think the brown takes a little longer). Remove from heat and fold in the remaining 1 tbsp. of butter. Then stir in parmesan and pine nuts and season with salt and pepper. Garnish, if you've got it!

Now...just three more days to go...

13 comments from you:

linda said...

Oh how I feel your pain! Thankfully, things aren't quite that bad for us - paychecks come every two weeks. I find poverty cooking can be a fun challenge sometimes and an absolutely depressing act at others.

cookiecrumb said...

CONGRATULATIONS. End of caps. Sorry if I was shouting.
Very well done.
I think it totally sucks how poor we are while we're in school. When I was in college I had No Money, and my parents thought that was perfectly reasonable. In grad school I had whatever shitty wages I earned as a TA, but I was bouncing checks all over the place and couldn't afford a Christmas tree. WHY? What a hideous time of life. We're working our butts off, and people think it's fair that we should suffer.
I wish I could send you supper.
Hey, wait. You could have thrown in some *free* dandelions, you slacker. No Supper for You!! :D

vlb5757 said...

Let me just leave you with two words...not good ones, but they work...TOP RAMEN. LOL! When we were newly weds in 1979, our monthly income was a whopping $360 a month. Rent on a furnished apt was $170 and we still had car insurance on one car and food to buy. When hubby got sent out to sea I ate popcorn every night of the week to help stretch out our food bill and there were plenty of times I ate plain old ice cubes just so I could remember what crunching felt like. Times are better thankfully and they will be for you too.

Kate said...

Huzzah for poverty and studenthood! Secretly, the muffins I posted about this morning evolved out of five withering strawberries in the fridge and an absence of other muffin-worthy items like bran or buttermilk. I also live with two boys (one of whom is also my very Loving Boyfriend), and between my wallet and their appetites, it's amazing we ever eat anything but Ramen!
Your risotto looks lovely and has inspired me to make my own bare-cabinets version tonight, seeing as how I also happen to have some old arborio. Thanks!

Kitchen Queen said...

Hang in there, better days are ahead!

michelle said...

Hi everyone: All joking aside, I do know that there are many that are far less fortunate than myself and not able to even have arborio rice or olive oil, etc. in their 'bare cupboards' and we do try to support charities and give as much as we can, even when it's not very much (LB knows I'm a sucker for anyone that needs money!). So as "poor" as we are, believe me, we are still grateful to have what we have.

Hi Linda! I agree, sometimes it's cool to go digging through the pantry, but sometimes you want to just make a recipe and it stinks to realize you can't! It took a while to get used to only getting paid once a month, and we're still not very good at it!

Hi Cookiecrumb! Are there really dandelions growing up here in the winter? I haven't seen any...maybe I'll go to the coast and get some seawood...oh wait, that would me paying for extra gas! I can't win! I'll have to stop by and pick up some of your foraging efforts while I'm headed down your way this weekend!! (we're going to Berkeley for interviews)

Hi Vickie! Oh gawd, $300 a month? That wouldn't even pay my debt payment, much less rent! Believe me, I've paid my ramen dues - all through college! And I once lived a very poor, unpaid internship, summer on only canned green beans and the equivalent of costco applesauce (really). Eating ramen is like torture - we feel we at least deserve, as graduate students, to be upgraded to el cheapo mac 'n cheese! And if I ever have to eat ice cubes to remember what chewing was like - this just shows you are far stronger than I!

Hi Kate! I see you know my dilemma! I'm going to have to go and check out those muffins - I'm sure I'll have some withering strawberries in my fridge the end of some of the next few months! Good luck with your risotto!

Hi Kitchenqueen! Only two more days...

karina said...

Some of the best meals I've made are tossed together from pantry oddments & leftovers... It's an age-old art, you know. Women have been making this kitchen magic for years. Unsung.

Well done!

Clare Eats said...

Oh I know how you feel, I am soo very lucky that my partner isn't a student (anymore) but it is still hrd with me not earning money....

I think I am going to make a version of this tonight! Thanks for the inspiration :)

michelle said...

Hi Karina! So true. Kitchen magic is something I feel like all grandmothers are superb at, and I just hope to be like them someday.

Hi Clare! We're going to be in your position soon when LB gets a job and we move and I have to look for another one - but we'll be making more on that one salary than we are now! Sheesh!

Dawn said...

Michelle, that was very creative thinking (or almost desperate, as you said)!

lucette said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lucette said...

Trying again!
I too have a 1979 story--after my divorce, my income was $240/month, for me and my 2 daughters. We didn't know ramen then, but we got to know boxed mac and cheese very well.
I loved your dregs recipe, and I'm going to borrow your idea for my own blog, since, by chance, I made a dregs soup yesterday.

michelle said...

Hi Dawn: Necessity breeds invention, no?

Hi Lucette: Thanks for visiting! Yikes - $240 wouldn't even pay my credit card payment for the month (and secretly, might not even pay my food bill for the two of us these days!) Glad to hear that dregs are making a show in other people's kitchens!