Risotto with tomatoes and cream

August 25, 2010  •  Category: ,


This afternoon was earmarked for some shopping in Beirut‘s new and glistening souks, a mall reminiscent of the most upscale ones  in the US. Unfortunately, as soon as we got to the garage, a  surprise was in store for us: a vehicle was parked in front of the  garage door, blocking our car. A derelict-looking thing too, not one of those resplendent BMWs, the #1 preferred car here, the car that says “ I am the King of the Road“.

No, this was a car that could have used a few months of tender loving care  at a body shop and upholsterer.

We looked around, hoping to spot the impudent driver. No one in sight, not even on a balcony. What to do? Go home and hope that in a few hours itwill be gone? Alice (daugther) suggested getting in our car and honking nonstop to alert the neighborhood. I said:” Try it if you want, but  we are in Beirut here, nobody pays any attention to honking!

Fifty  feet away, I saw a man loitering about; I called him ” are you the driver of this car?”;  “no, lady” he yelled back; he moved closer and leaned over the windshield, scrutinizing it ” Look, a phone number!”.

Sure enough, on the driver’s side of the dashboard, I saw a phone  number scribbled on a wrinkled tiny piece of paper in pencil. The man said to me ” See, all you have to do is call that  number  on your cell phone”.

He read the numbers out loud to me with  an Egyptian accent. ” Pfft! “, I thought, ” this guy seems to think it is that easy!”

A minute later, I heard a voice on the other end,  apologizing : ” I will be there in a jiffy, lady, I am in the Sabbagh  building across the street, just give me a minute!”.

Living inBeirut can be maddening, charming, exciting, dangerous, fun and  all of these combined.


  • 1 cup of risotto rice
  • 1 small onion
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1 large heirloom tomato
  • a cup of porcini mushrooms, either fresh or dried (if dried, soak in hot water for 30 minutes)
  • a few shakes of pink peppercorns and salt to taste
  • one jiggle of white wine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste (optional)
  • a handful of pine nuts, sauteed in butter till brown or toasted


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot; add the chopped onion. Stir until the onion is translucent (cover the pot to speed up the process).
  2. Add the rice and stir for 3 minutes till the rice takes on the color of mother-of-pearl.
  3. Add the white wine and let it simmer till it almost evaporates.
  4. Add the tomato and the mushrooms and stir. At this point, add a couple  ladles  of water  (about 2 cups) and let it simmer, stirring from time to time.
  5. Add some salt, pepper and some cream, let it simmer and meld into the rice.
  6. Add the parmesan cheese last, stir and serve the risotto when it is cooked but still firm to the bite and all the rice, when stirred, moves in the same direction. Sprinkle with pine nuts.


39 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Evan @swEEts says:

    I was just telling my boyfriend the other day that we need to make risotto.. this is perfect!

    I hate stupid people, but atleast you got the car out of the way! It’s kind of funny that the drivers number was the one scribbled on the paper!

  2. gloria says:

    This Risotto look delicious! gloria

  3. Amber @Almost Vegan says:

    Hehe, what a great story! The risotto looks excellent too.

  4. TheKitchenWitch says:

    The risotto is wonderful, but the story makes it even more delicious!

  5. joudie kalla says:

    Joumana, the creamyness is another indication that summer is nearly over and we have to make room for more wintery and hearty dishes. Summer is at an all time high in bierut, but over here in London it is raining non stop. This looks like one for the dreary weekend. Lovely post….

  6. Magdalena says:

    I love risotto. Even on Sunday, I had a similar one. Great !
    I am sorry for not visiting you lately so often, but I was travelling a bit here and there; quite busy, and in plus I suffer from sciatique; the problem is getting worse and we consider a spine surgery in coming months, depending on results of a scanner (btw, if I have pains going to my feet, what can be results?); I cannot seat; although I exercise every day and I swim every morning, it is fine; but I cannot seat . I have great “kines” here in Krakow, but this year even them cannot help me. I do not write this on my blog, because it is about my cooking, not my health; but on the other hand, my condition do not allow to life normally.

    P.S. As regards your comments on beans: yes, our are heartier; but, in general, our country is colder, and we need more fat and calories 🙂

    I hope I will visit you more often.

    take care,


  7. Susan says:

    Oh, I do love risotto! I’ve never made it with cream before so this does sound especially yummy. I’m glad you didn’t have to wait to get out of your garage too long! I wonder how long you would have waited if you hadn’t made the phone call???

  8. elra says:

    simply delicious, I love risotto too.

  9. Faith says:

    I had no idea that BMWs are the preferred car there! That explains a lot! I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my hubby (who is car shopping) is looking pretty much exclusively at them. Now I get it, lol.

    The risotta looks luxuriously creamy! I love the mushrooms!

  10. sweffling says:

    Another good post: lovely risotto, especially with the pine nuts added.

    I love your combination of stories and recipes: mixed the two basic ingredients of life, people and food.

  11. Krista says:

    Love that story, Joumana. 🙂 What a crazy, marvelous place. 🙂 LOVE this risotto too – so creamy and warming.

  12. Patty Price says:

    I can’t believe that I have all the ingredients in my kitchen, I’m going to make this, it looks absolutely scrumptious, thanks for the recipe!

  13. sophia says:

    I’m so sad. I have this really good idea for risotto, but I had to leave it in DC because my luggage was over the weight limit. 🙁

    Oh well. I’ll enjoy yours in the meanwhile! If only I could just have one taste!

  14. Marcela says:

    I’ve been following you, and all your fantastic recipes; however, this recipe blew my mind….it is so delicious, yummy, soft, tender and fragrant. One of the best recipes of risotto tomatoes!!….Abrazos, Marcela

  15. Sushma Mallya says:

    This seems easy to prepare & looks delicious too

  16. Bria @ WestofPersia says:

    Funny story, beautiful recipe. Thank you for your lovely, kind comment on my blog earlier today. I’m rolling out of town for a few days; may or may not be online, but I’ll see you around online in a couple of weeks at the latest. Xoxo!

  17. Katerina says:

    This thing can happen here as well. It is not a surprise to me. I love risotto in all of its variations. It is such a comfort food.

  18. Pauline says:

    I love your snapshots of life in Beirut. And the freshness of your writing: I hadn’t come across “a jiggle of wine” before but it sounds just perfect !

  19. Jamie says:

    Your story made me smile and think of all the quirkiness found in cities and peoples I’ve been. I am a risotto freak, make it all winter, but the only time I have created a risotto that I wasn’t 100% pleased with was tomato so I will be trying your recipe very soon. It looks wonderful!

  20. Sophie says:

    What a story! Some people only think of themselfes!! Ppppfffff,…but this risotto sings to me!

    Pretty & tasty too! I love a good home masde risotto!!

  21. Barbara says:

    Maddening, charming, exciting and fun sound good to me, Joumana, but not dangerous!
    Your risotto sounds divine…mushrooms are such a super addition to any risotto. I’ve never tried pine nuts, but what a great idea!

  22. 12th Man says:

    Can’t see or read about risotto without thinking about the opening scene from Big Night. “Maybe she’d like mashed potatoes on the side as well?” Cheers!

  23. lisaiscooking says:

    How lucky to have found the phone number! And, what a delicious risotto. The mix of tomato and porcini sounds great, and I love the pine nuts on top.

  24. Cherine says:

    hehehe this is Beirut!!
    Tomorrow I’m going to Beirut souks 🙂
    The risotto looks really excellent…

  25. Jen_from_NJ says:

    The risotto sounds delicious – creamy, savory, and a little crunch from the pine nuts! I loved your story also!

  26. Suman Singh says:

    simply delicious risotto..

  27. grace says:

    wow. creamy doesn’t even begin to describe this! it’s so rich and decadent and lovely–well done!

  28. Magic of Spice says:

    How maddening about the car…How could it have not occurred to him that he may inconvenience, well at least he left a number. This risotto is fantastic, perfect 🙂

  29. Oui, Chef says:

    Mmmmm…this looks delicious! I love porcini in EVERYTHING, and the thought of using them with some fresh tomatoes from my garden makes me smile. Making a risotto myself for dinner tonight…great minds think alike, I guess. – S

  30. Heavenly Housewife says:

    Your risotto looks very rich and velvety. Just the thing to make you forget about the annoying incidents in life, like with the car.
    *kisses* HH

  31. theUngourmet says:

    How frustrating to be blocked in like that! Your risotto is beautiful! I can imagine it was a nice way to end a rough day! 😉

  32. Mika says:

    I never tried risotto with cream, but I used mascarpone instead, delicious…I will try your version, I love the idea of adding roasted pine nuts…

  33. Mimi says:

    Such a funny story. Risotto is the perfect comfort food.

  34. Julie says:

    Ton risotto est très crémeux, avec le croquant des pignons ça doit être extra !
    J’aime beaucoup tes récits de la vie à Beyrouth, c’est très pittoresque et on a l’impression de voyager avec toi, merci!!

  35. Katie @Cozydelicious says:

    This risotto looks wonderful and ich and comforting – and perfect for relaxing after a crazy day. And it sounds like you certainly had a crazy day!

  36. Jean says:

    Your risotto looks so rich and creamy. I’ve never made one with tomatoes but I’ve been thinking of other ways to use my dried porcini mushroom stash. I’d really like to try this next.

    Loved your story. Made me smile in the end. 🙂

  37. Mona says:

    Risotto looks perfect and super delicious!

  38. Lentil Breakdown says:

    Looking at the risotto, the story had a happy ending after all. But…NO RISOTTO FOR HIM! (spoken like the Soup Nazi).

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