My Italian professor in Florence had a favorite saying: “Piano, piano.” The words, which can be translated to mean “slowly, slowly,” served to remind my peers and me to slow down our pace, to take the time to relax and appreciate the simple moments.
Of course, as we were all American students at the villa in Fiesole, the philosophy of piano, piano was not easy to pick up. Used to running around with a caffeinated fix and a ringing cell phone our hands, Americans are constantly on the move. We live for the green light, the moment when we can step on the gas pedal and speed to the next stop and cross off another item on the to-do list.
In Italy, however, the opposite is true. Drinking coffee is not a two-minute, drive-thru affair but rather a period of extending lingering to chat with the proprietor about the latest soccer scores or the economic crisis. Meals are three-course, hour-plus events to socialize with family and neighbors and relax after a long day. Punctuality is rare; nothing ever seems to start on time, and yet there are few problems. There are few concerns about juggling a list of errands or scheduled appointments. Whereas Americans seem to value time as money, Italians prefer to savor time with pleasure. Though an American could think of a dozen better things to do than stand at a bar for 20 minutes drinking coffee, Italians live for such simple opportunities.
While I admit to succumbing to the hustle-and-bustle American lifestyle after returning from abroad, I am making efforts to slow down and appreciate life’s everyday joys. One example of my attempts at living slowly, slowly is my preparation of a classic Italian dish: risotto.
Although not very difficult to make, risotto is a bit labor intensive, since it requires constant stirring and watching. The basic recipe includes stock, wine and rice, but this time of year the markets are teeming with products perfect for a springtime feast. In light of this bounty, add some asparagus into a risotto as a great way to eat seasonally and practice the piano, piano way of life.
4 cups of vegetable stock
2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of asparagus, sliced diagonally
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup white wine
1 cup Arborio rice
1. In a medium saucepan, simmer the chicken stock on low heat to warm it.
2. While the broth warms, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat and saute the onion until it’s soft and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the asparagus, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the heat to medium-low and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the rice and saute the mixture, stirring constantly for one to 2 minutes, and then pour in the white wine and cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
5. Add a ladle of broth to the rice and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. When the mixture begins to dry out, add a new ladleful of stock. The rice will begin to take on a creamy consistency. Continue adding ladles of stock and stir constantly for 20 to 30 minutes until the rice is tender.
6. Once all the liquid has been absorbed, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese. Serve immediately.
Bethany Imondi is a junior in the College. Market to Table appears every other Friday in the guide.