Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Commitment and Dedication: Radiohead and Risotto

Darling friends, some things in life require commitment and dedication.

In no particular order, the following are examples of such things:

1. Assembling IKEA furniture
2. Watching (or mentally preparing to watch) "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
3. Reading "War and Peace"
4. Repeatedly choosing to date players
5. Learning how to ride a bike (or maybe that's just Z...).

And when it comes to music and food:

1. Internalizing a Radiohead album
2. Successfully making risotto


Without many repeated hooks and easily decipherable lyrics, the ever expansive and cathartic Radiohead, in my view, require serious listening commitment before one fully appreciates the genius behind Radiohead.  Between front man Thom Yorke's ethereal and wistful vocal style, three guitars, atmoshperic electronic beats, an occasional glockenspiel, PLUS the usual suspects of keyboard, bass, drums -- Radiohead's sound is textured and layered.  As such, I need to listen to a Radiohead album several times in order to grasp the lyrics and unpack the music - and it's only then when the album clicks for me.

And since Thom's lyrics can be a bit obscure, I may consult with one of the 8,000+  (probably illegal - shhh) lyric websites for some help.   For example, check out the lyrics to the popular track KARMA POLICE  (off the 1997 album OK COMPUTER) below... I definitely hear "This is what you'll get when you mess with us", but "He speaks in maths"? "Hitler hairdo"??

Truth be told, the first time I saw Radiohead live in 2004 (front row, standing for 3 hours), I got bored.  Although I did casually listen to KID A (2000 release) and HAIL TO THE THIEF (2003 release) a couple times, I didn't take the time to internalize those albums.  Not surprisingly, the music was going over my head and it all sounded the same.  And they didn't even play the one song I knew well -- obviously CREEP.  But on a positive note, we were so close to the stage that Thom was actually sweating on me.  Keen.

For my second Radiohead show in 2008, I was prepared.  I made a conscious effort to spend time with IN RAINBOWS (2007 release) prior to the show.  And the effort was worth it because they played most of that album, and it was one of the best shows I have ever seen.  The Hollywood Bowl on beautiful Summer night + one of my fav concert mates Ms. LK + Pool Circle box seats + Trader Joe's munchies + wine + full immersion into the music = Transcendent Evening.

I became particularly attached to IN RAINBOWS.  The album impressed me musically as did Radiohead's decision to allow fans to purchase the digital album online at that consumer's desired price point - An elegant way to connect with fans and maintain loyalty.

HOUSE OF CARDS, off that album, became my anthem for the reflective Summer of 2008.

And after more than 3 years, Radiohead's 8th studio album KING OF LIMBS finally arrived this past February.  I went through the listening ritual: a few dry runs in the car, putzing around the homestead, while cooking, while running, laying in bed, lyric searching, and I have now finally internalized it...

My current fav track - MORNING MR. MAGPIE because it's taunting and eerie.  I also dig the steady electronic beat because it sounds like a soundtrack to a common re-occurring dream.  You know that dream where you are trying to get somewhere, and you are running, and you feel like the world is chasing you, and you are so close to your destination, but you can't get there... and then you wake up...  And when I awake from that kind of dream feeling a touch disoriented, I naturally go to the kitchen for a middle of the night cheese sandwich... I suspect others have experienced that dream and perhaps have also indulged in 3 AM cheese sandwiches...

But now for the star off KING OF LIMBS - LOTUS FLOWER, the current single.  This video is like Flaming Jalapeno Cheetos - I can't stop consumption.  I watched it like 8 times in a row.  I am no pro dancer, but I want to break out Thom's jig below one day at a boring wedding (ala Romy and Michele's with "Time After Time"). In fact, I would rather learn Thom's spas-tastic, writhing, wrenching moves any time over the Thriller dance (with all due respect to the late MJJ).

If you haven't seen this, YOU MUST!

And if you haven't picked up KING OF LIMBS, I say grab it and commit to it.  It's worth the investment.



Making the Italian rice dish Risotto is a labor of love. And, like internalizing a Radiohead record, you can't rush the process... it takes consistent attention and time, but when it's done - its a beautiful dish made with heart, soul, and sweat (literally because a couple drops may fall in as you stand over the hot stove - sweat is the secret ingredient actually).

Before diving into the recipe, check out this memorable clip from the movie "Big Night" which showcases the emotion that goes into risotto...  And this one of the best food movies ever, and I am not just saying that because Tony Shalhoub - one of my people - plays the impassioned Italian Chef, Primo. If you haven't seen it - add to Netflix queue.

Many thanks to my fellow Radiohead fellow concert mate, LK who sent me great recipes and a great blog posting about risotto making tips, which was helpful because this was my virgin dance with risotto.  I ultimately chose a Giada recipe which called for porcini mushrooms and Gorgonzola (although I didn't use porcinis, but LOVE Gorgonzola).  It took dedication because I could not leave the rice unattended while it was cooking for even a minute, but ultimately I was very satisfied with the outcome, and KING OF LIMBS was right there with me in the kitchen.

Gorgonzola and Mushroom Risotto (4 - 6 Servings)

Here is what you need:

•4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (I used 6 cups to achieve desired creaminess, but heated up 8 cups (2 boxes) just in case)
•1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (Any mushrooms will work.  I used 8 oz of baby bellas because I couldn't find porcinis.) 
•3 tablespoons butter
•1 medium onion, diced
•1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (The special rice that Stanley Tucci is talking about!)
•1/2 cup dry white wine (and the balance of the bottle in your mouth - OPAH!)
•1/2 cup grated Parmesan (I omitted this because I forgot to buy it and didn't notice any lack of flavor or texture)
•3/4 cup (3 ounces) Gorgonzola, crumbled (consider using sparingly because Gorgonzola is sharp!)
•1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (I couldn't find chives so I substituted green onions)
•1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
•1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Here is what you do:

If using porcinis: In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the porcini mushrooms. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and set aside.  Reheat the stock to a simmer and keep warm over low heat.

If using any other type of mushrooms, no need to pre-soak the mushrooms.  Just begin simmering the stock in a medium saucepan.  If you have a simmer burner on your oven, now is the time to use it. In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook until the onions are tender but not brown, about 3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of warm stock (about a ladleful) and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue with remaining stock, adding 1/2 cup at a time, and allowing each addition to be absorbed, until the rice is tender to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes.  You can't go anywhere dung this process - don't text, don't pee, don't check on your dessert - because you need to constantly stir the risotto as it absorbs each ladleful of broth or the rice will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan... Don't say I didn't warn you. 
When the rice is to your desired creaminess, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan (if using), Gorgonzola, chives or green onions, salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl. Serve immediately. For next day eating, microwave is the best way to re-heat this... and its really good the next day after the flavors cozied up with each other over night ;)

Risotto is great because its filling, versatile, and works as a side dish or a main course all four seasons.  Plus it's fun to make, and your loved ones will appreciate your commitment, dedication, and devotion as they savour each lovely bite.

Hugs and Kisses.


  1. Hey lady...been looking for a good risotto recipe for a while. Didn't realize you have to keep stirring it! Now if I can only get my husband to try the mushroom thing. Re: Radiohead...I'm a fob turned "American" music fan as of the late 90's as I tried to listen to the radio to fit in with my friends in high school. I'll stick to bubblegum pop on 102.7 as I lack both patience and an ear for good lyrics. Cheers!

  2. Hiya Sonz - Thanks for the comment. I thought of you with this recipe actully... (pasta, italy...). You could try using firm tofu in place of the mushrooms since the texture is kind of similar...

  3. I love the melding of Radiohead and risotto via the medium of "commitment and dedication". Risotto is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Excellent post. your resident Calorie Rebel, I am wary of risotto's ultra-high calorie quotient. After all, we're not Italian peasants laboring in the fields all day burning off tons of calories we need to replace.

    No, we're ladies of luxury with cals to spare. So, Zeina...darling.... I am inspired to create a low-calorie alternative to this gorgeous mushroom-gorgonzola risotto that is as tasty and comforting but costs you only...wait for it...40% of the calories.

    Why 40%?

    Because if you subtract 40% of the calories of a typical diet (2,000 calories) you get 1200 calories, which is the recommended number for weight loss of a pound a week for moderately-exercising, healthy adult women.

    I am inspired! I will go out and blog about my experiment on the Calorie Rebel blog.

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  5. Cal Reb - Thanks so much for the comment and stopping in! I would LOVE a light version of this Risotto (especially as Summer approaches!). I will visit your blog to see what you come up with :) Cheers! Z

  6. Hey Z! Love risotto, and nice link to the clip from the movie "Big Night". One of my favorite movies. Wanted to share my fave scenes from it:

    JCB ;-)