Dishes and Glassware and Orzotto
When my roommate unexpectedly moved out, I was left with almost no dishes. I’ve moved five times in five years, and this somewhat nomadic lifestyle kept me from acquiring much more than a few odd plates and bowls. But I also love to cook for others, and I’m not about to ask a dinner party of eight friends to each grab a spoon and dig into a big pot of curry or to just hover over a frying pan with a fork and take a swig straight from a bottle of wine. Looking at the near empty cabinet, I realized that if I planned to entertain, I needed to acquire some plates… and bowls, and glasses, and flatware. Now, I know that I could get a 16 piece set of country blue something or other from Target or a similar store for $29.99. I could even go to DEAL$, my local dollar store, and buy my plates and bowls for just $1 each. However, I’d like to get something that is not just inexpensive, but is also aesthetically pleasing, so that I don’t find myself replacing them in a year– because that is neither cost efficient, nor ecologically responsible. What’s more, I want to get something that’s not so precious that I’ll be heartbroken if a piece is broken, and something that I’ll easily be able to add pieces to, should something break, or should some extra cash come my way.
As with the cookware, my first solution is to find some vintage pieces. I like to buy a lot of used items. It’s environmentally responsible– not increasing the demand for more stuff– and it’s often inexpensive. What’s more, used pieces embody a history– they can evoke stories, memories– they already have a spirit. Finally, used items are usually found in the local shops and thrift stores that I prefer to support over big box stores. I found some great dishes at the Greenpoint location of JUNK, on Franklin. (They also have a larger location in Williamsburg, on Driggs and North 10th.) Most of the dishes there are $1.99 or $2.99 each, which means amassing a set of 16 dishes was only slightly more expensive than buying the $29.99 set from Target. I mixed and matched dishes with odd colonial scenes. There are two types that are green and cream, and one type that is a pinkish color. I’d love to find some blue and cream ones in a similar style. I also purchased silverware– 4 pieces for $2.
I still needed drinking glasses. I have a lot of mason jars that we’ve been using as tumblers (a case of twelve is $10-$15), but we needed some wine glasses. I headed to Fishs Eddy at East 19th and Broadway, just Northwest of Union Square. They sell glassware and dishware from old restaurants, hotels and diners, in addition to dishes in patterns like “Memo” or “Floorplan” that are produced exclusively for their store. Prices vary, but the dishes are unusual and well made, and they always have some items on sale. Head to the back room for dollar glasses and plates. I found charming roadside glasses screened with the words “Farm Fresh” “Fresh Milk” or “Valley Dairy.” They are the perfect size to serve as Italian-style wine glasses (plus I like the irony of serving wine in something that was originally intended to serve milk). Sam also purchased two plates from Fishs Eddy’s antiques section. These were admittedly a little pricey– $11 each, but they are well made and go well with the dishes I found at JUNK. He’s also vowed to go back to purchase some kitchy football-shaped beer glasses.
Last night I served dinner on some of my new cute dishes (pictured.) Below is the recipe for my Orzo Risotto.
I planned on making classic risotto using Arborio rice, but when I went to my local grocery, their arborio was almost $9.00– which I consider unreasonable. So instead, I chose orzo, a rice shaped pasta that costs only $1.50 for a 1lb box. The orzo absorbs the liquid just as the Arborio would, and makes for a nice, creamy dish! Some people like to have their vegetables mixed into their risotto, but I prefer to cook mine separately, and place them on top.
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed and diced, divided
- 2 cups dry orzo
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3-4 cups of vegetable stock, warmed
- Juice of one lemon
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/3 cup grated cheese, such as parmesan, pecorino, or asiago
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
- 8 oz baby spinach, rinsed
- 1 medium zucchini or squash, sliced
- 8-10 mushrooms, sliced
- Handful of basil, rinsed and chopped
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add the shallot and half the garlic and cook over medium heat until the shallot becomes translucent. Add the orzo, and coat with the oil mixture, letting it lightly toast. Add the wine and 1 1/2 cups of broth. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon, and when the orzo has absorbed all of the liquid, add more, a ladle at a time, until orzo is tender and mixture has a creamy consistency. Add lemon juice and zest of lemon and stir. Add grated cheese and stir. Serve with sauteed vegetables (below) on top.
In a separate pan, heat olive oil. Add the remaining garlic and red pepper. Add the mushrooms and zucchini. Add a few tablespoons of broth, if necessary. Cover and cook until tender. Toss with spinach and chopped basil. Sprinkle with salt. Serve over your “orzotto.”