Until I got home and raided the fridge.
This year I was not going to be embarrassed to eat until I developed a food baby large enough to rival my pregnant sister-in-law's. I'm a tall girl, I exercise more than anyone else in my family and my metabolism is still zipping along like my eldest brother's fancy new BMW that I still can't identify by model. My stomach is a beast and the only way to keep it from emanating embarrassing gastric noises is to feed it. A lot.
After accepting my brother's invitation, I did what any gracious guest (with an ulterior motive) would do. I offered to bring something. When my brother said they were fine, that my sister-in-law would "make a salad," I knew it was do or starve time. I insisted on bringing two appetizers and their favorite peanut butter paisley brownies for dessert.
It didn't occur to me until later that my recipe box wasn't exactly well-equiped with appetizers.
As I started scouring my favorite food blogs for ideas, I suddenly remembered the chive risotto cakes Esi from Dishing Up Delights made last month. At the time she posted the recipe, I thought, "Golly gee, these would be great for a dinner party!" Or at least I thought they would be if I threw dinner parties. And said things like "Golly gee." I didn't know when I would have the opportunity to try the arancini-esque cakes, so I was excited when I realized they would go perfectly with the Italian-themed pizza night. Cheese + more cheese = One happy family (and one happy "beast").
I also stumbled upon an oven-roasted chickpea recipe on the Kitchn and decided to tack the gasam masala spiced beans on for good measure. Between the two appetizers, my brother's pizza and salad, and my brownies, I knew my stomach would be covered.
The risotto cakes were surprisingly easy to make -- especially after giving the "batter" plenty of time to chill in the refrigerator before molding them into patties. They actually proved to be easier than the chickpeas which took considerable time to peel in order to ensure they crisped up right. The frustration wasn't really worth it. While my mother described the crunchy peas as "addicting," and my dad seemed to enjoy the few handfuls he took, my sister-in-law and brother seemed less than impressed. I didn't exactly shun the bowl, but the chickpeas aren't something I'd covet or let the beast gorge on. They were good, but no where near as appetizing as the luscious risotto cakes.
I was nervous about the potential consequences of transporting the pre-made, panko-crusted cakes down to my brother's condo, but they held up nicely over the 30-minute drive, and were a memorable way to start the evening. Everyone loved the juxtaposition of the creamy, cheese-filled center with the pan-fried crispy exterior, and the five of us easily went through the twelve cakes. Because my eldest brother was not yet in town, I decided to double the amount I made that first day and make them again on Christmas Eve, and then again on Christmas to use up the leftovers.
While the chive risotto cakes began as a form of insurance to guard against a starving belly, I can see them becoming a tradition at my family's future get togethers. My dad and brothers are already discussing what sauces might go well with them.
As for the beast? She's got no compliments. Sauce, cheese, cake -- bring it on.
Chive Risotto Cakes
(Adapted from Ina Garten via Dishing Up Delights)
Makes approx. 12 cakes
1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, egg, chives, Fontina, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooked rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3/4 inch thick. Place 4-6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cooking. turning once, for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary until all the cakes are fried. Serve hot.
Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
(Adapted from the Kitchn)
Makes about 2 cups
1 15 ounce can organic chickpeas
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon gasam masala
Heat the oven 400°F.
Pour the chickpeas into a colander and drain and rinse very well under running water. Pat dry and peel off the outer skin.
Toss the chickpeas with the olive oil and salt, and spread out on a large cookie sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until brown and crispy. Turn and stir every ten minutes so they don't burn.
Take out and toss to taste with gasam masala and additional salt if desired.