The Loss of a Friend

I considered not publishing a post this week.  Our friend, Stephen, died last Friday after a battle with cancer.  He was one of the strongest, most alive men I knew, and it is confusing and very sad that he can no longer share his Irish songs and jokes, and his fine stories of politics and finance with us.  But we’ll remember.  And he was one to appreciate good humor in difficult circumstances.  Hence this week’s post.

The 18th hole at the Cardinal Course at CCNC, Pinehurst. The green is to the left, up a serious hill, and a long way from the tee.

Monday – Thursday:  Pinehurst, NC, Dinner at Rob and Missie’s (they live in Pinehurst), followed by cooking steaks, a fine restaurant in Pinehurst and a final dinner at the Country Club of North Carolina, and then home to Pittsburgh.

No picture of the pasta, but here is grand-dog Arlo with a a ball.

Friday:                       Beez bowties and meatballs in Marinara – no picture, alas, but this was a fine dish cooked by SWMBP

Saturday:                  Mixed Seafood Grill

Sunday:                     Brunch:  Eggs Benedict with Asparagus

Dinner:  Risi e Bisi, Parmigiano Toasts

“They called it golf because all the other four-letter words were used.”

  • Raymond Floyd

I believe that I have now officially joined the ranks of the suburban retired. Last week, for the first time in my life, I went on a golf trip with three friends.  I had never before played 18 holes three days in a row, which was the plan for the trip.  So, it was with a slight unease that I packed my clubs and my bag and joined Tim, Ambrose and Dave for the drive to Pinehurst, North Carolina.

It was a magnificent trip –  the company was great, the weather near perfect, the golf courses beautiful and difficult, the result not a complete disaster and I’ve decided that I can play a round a day for the rest of my life.  But I don’t want to become a bore about all this, so I promise not to tell you about the tee shot I hit on number 12, or the great shot out of the bunker on 14 (e-mail me, please, if you want details).

We also had some great food, many great laughs (Dave has the best stories about Pittsburgh and needs to write a book), and met an old neighbor and made new friends and I want to go back.

And while we were away, our significant others conducted their own opening day of golf and celebrated afterward with dinner:

The thing about golf is that, no matter how poorly you play on one hole, you are likely to have a fine shot or series of shots on the next.  The logical implication of this is that the reverse is also true – no matter how well you play, disaster is always lurking at the next hole.  In this way, golf is very much like life – you have to pick yourself up again every day.

Tim, who arranged the trip is also a good cook and a great lover of risotto.  So the recipe this week will involve a near cousin of that satisfying dish.  In Venice they cook a dish they call Risi e Bisi, which sounds much better in Italian than in English where we render it “Rice and Peas.”

Note:  For those of you who love either golf or P. G. Wodehouse, I have transcribed a wonderful passage from Wodehouse’s story, “The Heart of a Goof.” Scroll down beneath the recipe to read the passage.

Alas, no pictures of the dish as I cooked it, which would have been helpful to illustrate the recipe.

Risi e Bisi

(adapted from Milk Street Magazine, May-June, 2021)

Timing:             About 1 hour total – You’ll spend a bit of time stirring

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice (we used Canaroli – you can also use vialone nano, but use one of these Italian brands if you want the creaminess that risotto calls for.

2 cups frozen peas – divided, 1 cup still frozen, 1 cup thawed and at room temperature

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large white onion, divided.  One half thinly sliced (you’ll use this in the purée), and one half finely chopped (you’ll use that in the risotto)

1 medium celery stalk, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 quart chicken stock or broth

2 cups lightly packed fresh, flat-leaf parsley

3-4 ounces of pancetta, finely chopped

4 tablespoons butter – cut into tablespoons portions and divided

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated – about 1 cup

Prep:

Bring 1 cup of frozen peas to room temperature (run cold water over them, then drain and set aside).

Chop the vegetables and measure out the fennel seeds, parsley, butter, and rice.

Cook:

Put the carrot, sliced onion, celery, fennel seeds, broth and 2 cups of water into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high and then cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 11 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

Remove the pot from the heat and, using a slotted spoon and draining off as much liquid as possible put the solids into a blender.  Now add 1 cup of the broth and the frozen peas and the parsley to the blender (leaving the remaining broth in the covered pot to keep it warm – you’ll use this broth to cook the rice).  Blend until the mixture is smooth – about 1 minute.  Set aside in the blender jar.

In a large saucepan over medium, combine the chopped onion, pancetta and 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned and the pancetta is rendered and lightly browned – about 7 minutes.  Now add the rice and stir to coat the grains with the fat.  Next, stir in 1 cup of the warm broth and cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed – about 5 minutes.  Ladle in additional broth to barely cover the rice and simmer, stirring often, until the broth is mostly absorbed.  You’ll be doing this 4 times or so and the whole process will take 25 to 30 minutes.  You’re finished when the rice (use a spoon to sample a grain) is cooked and the dish is creamy.

Finish:   Remove the pan from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes.  Add the thawed peas and the purée and stir until heated through – a minute or so.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and stir until melted.  Stir in the parmigiano, taste and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with additional parmigiano.

 

Excerpt from P. G. Wodehouse’s story, “The Heart of a Goof”:

“. . . Like so many indifferent golfers, Ferdinand Dibble had always made the game hard for himself by thinking too much.  He was a deep student of the works of the masters, and whenever he prepared to play a stroke he had a complete mental list of all the mistakes which it was possible to make.  He would remember how Taylor had warned against dipping the right shoulder, how Vardon had inveighed against any movement of the head; he would recall how Ray had mentioned the tendency to snatch back the club, how Braid had spoken sadly of those who sin against their better selves by stiffening the muscles and heaving.

The consequence was that when, after waggling in a frozen manner till mere shame urged him to take some definite course of action, he eventually swung, he invariably proceeded to dip his right shoulder, stiffen his muscles, heave, and snatch back the club, at the same time raising his head sharply as in the illustrated plate (‘Some Frequent Faults of the Beginners – No. 3 – Lifting the Bean’) facing page thirty-four of James Braid’s Golf Without Tears.  Today he had been so preoccupied with his broken heart that he had made his shots absently, almost carelessly, with the result that at least one in every three had been a lallapaoloosa.”