I’ve been on a lot of roadtrips over the past thirty years. My family lived in Texas while one set of grandparents lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico; so we’d pile into the minivan and go for at least one visit every year. I loved the books on tape, the window seat views, and the unlimited Game Boy access.
Then there was the first time that I recall getting on an airplane: a trip from Dallas to Amarillo, Texas with my mom and sister. After much anticipation, it was confirmed – we would be flying on Shamu One, a plane painted like a killer whale that Southwest Airlines introduced to its fleet in 1988. My obsession with traveling, and killer whales, was born.
Traveling when I was younger was mostly about catching up with family and friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Now when I travel, ideally still with family and friends, it’s more about experiencing a new culture.
And there is no better way to experience a new culture than through their food. Eating is universal–you don’t have to speak the same language or practice the same religion to appreciate the time and effort that went into making a delicious meal. I first experienced pupusas, a Salvadorean dish of cheese and meat stuffed in a thick corn tortilla, while traveling in Nicaragua. Things have not been the same since. Eating poutine was a highlight during a trip to Montreal, and the paella in Spain finally convinced me that seafood is not to be feared.
My most recent travels took me to Italy, an undeniable food capital of the world. Night after night I ate fresh pasta and drank good wine, and this was all on a fairly restricted budget. Finding a good meal for not very much money is a lot easier to do than one might think. Of course, it’s nice to splurge every now and then, but often the best food is also the least pretentious food. Risotto, a dish from Northern Italy, is a prime example. The primary ingredients of the dish are rice, stock of any variety, and wine. The dish is completely customizable from there. Meat or seafood can be used if so desired, and many different vegetables and cheeses work perfectly in a risotto.
One of my favorite ways to make risotto is with seasonal ingredients. As the snow once again descends on New York City, I decided to make the butternut squash and mushroom risotto that was presented on the blog last November.
The squash and the mushrooms are hearty winter vegetables that still work well with the creaminess of the parmesan cheese you add at the end. Eaten traditionally, a risotto is served as an appetizer course, but on a cold winter’s night a bowl of this risotto is both an inviting meal and a delicious reminder that the world is our dinner table.
The original recipe is here