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eat the cup 2014, part three

well as of today, all teams will have played once in the opening round of the world cup, so we've had a good chance to see what everyone is made of. thus far, i would say that everyone is made of extremely healthy muscle tissue and classical bone structure, but we'll get to that later. [on a side note, my computer has been telling me for a month and a half that my keyboard batteries are low. is it possible that my computer has an anxiety disorder? because it kind of seems like it's a little edgy.]

today's [actually last night's] meal celebrates the winners from day three of the competition, the cup's first four-game day and one of the greater culinary challenges i've faced. i had originally planned to skip day three and move right on to day four, but quite honestly, day four's [sunday's] games were so unforgivably boring that i don't really think they deserve a meal. day three, however, had some nice surprises and some interesting culinary possibilities.

my predictions for the day were more than a little off, although i do have some defense...

colombia vs greece
my prediction :: col 0, gre 0
actual result :: col 3, gre 0

what i had in mind with my prediction here was that greece has built their national strategy on having rock-solid defense for the last decade or so. they've never been strong on offense, but they qualified for the world cup conceding just four goals in the entire process. this was a meltdown of olympic proportions.

côte d'ivoire vs japan
my prediction :: civ 2, jpn 1
actual result :: civ 2, jpn 1

hey look, japan are awesomely fast and efficient [which is a compliment, but almost sounds racist when i write it], but côte d'ivoire are... well anyone will tell you that it takes a kind of je ne sais quoi to flourish at this level. côte d'ivoire have that.

uruguay vs costa rica
my prediction :: uru 2, crc 0
actual result :: crc 3, uru 1

i was not counting on luis suarez being unavailable. just leave the discussion there. suarez is what uruguay has. sure, there are others, but he's the catalyst. he's the magic. without him, they are nothing. costa rica, on the other hand, showed that they are really something, and possibly one of the more underrated teams.

england vs italy
my prediction :: eng 1, ita 1
actual result :: ita 2, eng 1

oh just shut up. i was being optimistic.

so for this day, i had to come up with something that incorporated elements of italian, costa rican, ivorian and colombian cuisine. yeah, sure. that's easy...

just look at how far you have to zoom out to fit them all in on google maps!

actually, as it happens, ivorian cuisine has many elements in common with [caribbean] coastal cuisines of costa rica and colombia. most prominently, the plantain and the peanut feature in all three culinary traditions.

while we may think of the plantain as a somewhat bland banana, it is actually considered a core starch, much like a potato, in a lot of southern hemisphere cookery. there is a north american weed [note :: i happen to find them visually appealing] that bears the name plantain, but it has no relation to the nourishing foodstuff we're dealing with here.

plantains taste about half way between a banana and a potato, which means that they don't have the sweetness of the fruit, but aren't quite as bland as the tuber. they can be consumed green or ripe, but not raw, when they taste really, really nasty. [trust me on this one.] i find that as they ripen, they move from closer to the potato to closer to the fruit, so if you want a more dessert-like element, let them become as ripe as you can without actually becoming rotten. for this recipe, i used green ones.

also common in caribbean cuisine, both in colombia and costa rica, are fresh tropical fruits, like the mango. from the very first time i tasted a mango, i realised why people refer to tropical islands as "paradise". it is truly one of the most beautiful foods available to humankind and left to my own devices, i'd probably eat it several times a week.

the odd man out in here seemed to be italian cuisine, which is odd because italians have spread their culture over a great deal of the new world and their culinary heritage with it. that said, italian cooking is tremendously adaptable, which is why i thought of using an italian base and incorporating elements from the other countries. and my base?

risotto.

i'd never heard of this before my mother bought me a vegetarian cookbook that had a whole section on it. but the first time i tried it, i realised that i had found my foodie home. seriously, risotto has everything going for it. it's hard to screw up. it can be made with almost anything. it's tremendously comforting. what's not to love? [if you're an england fan, like me, it might be difficult for you to admit right now that italian cuisine is tremendously loveable. just keep in mind that italy had greater than 92% pass accuracy, the highest in fifty years of world cup competitions, which speaks to a very tough, focused game.]

the thing about risotto is that it's more or less just rice, so you can combine it with anything you like. the magic is really in the preparation. mine went thusly:

2 large green plantains, skinned and sliced
1 shot of whiskey or rum
1 tsp olive oil [or peanut oil]
1 tsp butter
black pepper

heat the butter and olive oil together in a skillet until very hot. add the plantains and sautée for a few minutes. add the alcohol. sautée a few minutes more, until all the butter and oil is absorbed. remove the plantains from the heat and place them in a bowl. grind a few smatterings of black pepper over them and toss lightly. then leave them alone.

for the next part, here's what you'll need:

1 whole mango
about a half cup of vinegar

peel and chop the mango, then place in a bowl with the vinegar. toss to coat the mango and set aside.

and finally, the risotto:

2 tbsp olive oil [or peanut oil]
3-4 chopped green onions, white and green parts separated
3-4 cloves garlic
about a half cup of peanuts
1 cup arborio rice
2.5 cups broth [of any sort, although i'd avoid something fish-based, since it'll introduce a weird element]
half a cup white wine [optional]

heat the oil in a deep skillet, then add the garlic and the white parts of the onions. fry until the onions are limp, but not until the garlic starts to brown. add the rice and the peanuts. stir fry until all the rice starts to brown. [reduce heat if necessary to stop the garlic from burning.]

if you're using white wine, add that first and stir until absorbed. then start adding the broth, about a half cup at a time. stir constantly as you incorporate the broth, adding more when it is fully absorbed. when the rice starts to feel soft, but not fully cooked, add the green parts of the onion and the mango. add more liquid and allow everything to get to know each other. there are a lot of flavours here, so this may take a while.

keep adding liquid [if you run out of broth, use water] until the rice is semi-soft and sticky. that's what risotto is supposed to be like.

because both risotto and plantains qualify as starches, i'd recommend keeping the balance between the two roughly equal, or dinner will start to seem overly bulky [and so will everyone who eats it]. but for an after dinner treat, may i recommend...

man candy of the match

well, demi-god among men didier drogba is an obvious choice, but i really don't love him as much with the hipster beard he's sporting at the cup. if he's wanting to add some chin hairs to his look, he could take some styling tips from ivorian teammate wilfried bony. as a swansea fan, i figure i should get my eyes full of bony while i still can, because we all know he'll be departing the team for higher-rated pastures as soon as the cup tournament is over [if that long], but for the time being... damn that is some fine viewing... [note :: wilfried also has the most perfect legs of any human being living on earth, but i couldn't find an adequate pic of them.]

me? really?

i need oxygen...
you're cute, oh yes you are
and stylee. plus those amazing eyes...

i have to admit, i already know what i'm doing for the next "eat the cup"... at least i think i do... stay tuned.

Comments

Really, whats with guys drowning their looks with a hipster beard? His abs are amazing though. Mangoes and risotto who knew!
Kate MacDonald said…
I really recommend trying it! (The mangoes and risotto, not the abs...)

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