Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Spinach Artichoke Risotto for Cook the Books April/May Selection: Lessons in Chemistry

Hi Friends, it's been a while. Lots of life changes, some good (I got a new job and out of some toxicity) and some bad (I lost my fur baby Max, the best cat ever, and got bronchitis and COVID again and have some lingering breathing junk) and I'm still not doing a whole lot of cooking. I missed our last round of Cook the Books, even though I read the book and I really didn't want to miss this one, so I am coming in right at the wire with my dish for the fabulous, lives-up-to-its-hype novel, Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. 

I think you might have to have been living under a big not-reading rock this past year to not hear about this book and see the many gushy reviews about it. It's been on my radar for a while now and this was the push I needed to read it.

Here's the blurb:

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results. 

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show 
Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.  

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, 
Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel: Garmus, Bonnie: 9780385547345:  Books

My Thoughts: Although I bought a hard copy of the book, I ended up using an Audible credit and listened to most of the book. It was delightful, the narrator captured the characters well and I enjoyed spending time with them. I really loved this novel, it's a charming and smartly written book and a debut novel which is hard to believe, it's so good! I loved Elizabeth Zott, she is just quirky enough of a character to be endearing without overdoing it. Intelligent, strong, funny, and dealing with so much struggle and sexism while making her way as a chemist and a woman in the 1950-60s. The supporting characters were fun--my absolute favorite was Six-Thirty. I could keep talking about the book, it will go down as one of my favorites for the year, but it's been a long day and really, you should just go read it (or listen to it) if you haven't already. I am also in half excitement, and half fear that Apple TV+ will be doing the series but the end of the audiobook was an interview with the author and she seems to think it's in good hands, so, fingers crossed... 

With Elizabeth Zott and her cooking show, there was food in the book. Dishes like baked spaghetti Bolognese, chicken pot pie, broccoli and mushroom casserole, vinegar, and brownies. I know there were more mentions but it was hard to keep track with the audiobook. 

I took inspiration from a spinach casserole Elizabeth made. I was thinking spinach and rice but rather than something baked in the oven, my thoughts turned to risotto which I love to make (the zen of stirring) and to eat. Given the fact that I am working remotely from home, but still remain super busy and not wanting to spend a lot of time or dirty up many dishes, I decided to add a little pre-made magic to my homemade risotto dinner and so I bought a container of parmesan spinach artichoke dip from the deli and also added a can of halved artichoke hearts and pre-shredded cheese. (OK, so I was having a dip craving too!) I'd like to think Elizabeth would understand the shortcuts, even if she wouldn't have approved them!  

Spinach Artichoke Risotto
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen  
(Serves 4-ish

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 tsp garlic, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tsp salt
1 cup dry white wine, room temperature
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or non-chicken stock, warmed 
1 (8 oz) container prepared spinach artichoke dip or homemade
1 can artichoke hearts, cut into bite-size wedges 
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or other favorite cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan + more to top 
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice or to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over high heat add the butter, shallots and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring regularly. Add the rice and salt and stir with a wooden spoon to coat all the kernels with oil. Continue to cook for about 3 minutes, or until the rice is sizzling. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is almost completely absorbed. Now begin adding the chicken broth, one cup at a time, stirring frequently between additions. 

After the first cup is almost entirely absorbed, add the next cup. Continue in this way until the rice is cooked through and you have a creamy risotto, about 20 minutes in all. (The risotto should be slightly loose, not dry; it should run off your spoon. If it gets too dry, add a bit more broth.) Gently stir in the prepared spinach dip, artichoke hearts, cheeses and black pepper and warm through. Taste and add lemon juice, salt and more black pepper as need. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: Oh yeah, this was tasty comfort food and other than the stirring time, quick and easy to put together. The dip blended right into the risotto and the extra cheese didn't hurt. If you wanted more protein, some chicken would be nic but I was more than satisfied with it as written. I will happily make this again. 

So, yes, the deadline for this round of Cook the Books is today, but if you want to join in the next one, Simona of Briciole will be hosting our June/July pick, Food Americana by David Page (May 2021).


  1. Love the inventiveness of this dish! So glad you posted and made it! (You have me worried about the potential television adaptation now, too.) :)

  2. This risotto may not get Elizabeth's approval but it is definitely going on my to make list. It sounds amazing!!

  3. It was so good to see you on board! Hopefully life is treating you better these days. I've now got artichoke spinach dip on my shopping list, unless I get energetic and make it. That risotto sounds so delicious.

  4. Hi it's cathy -- I just love risottos and am always looking for new ideas for them. Thanks for sharing

  5. I like the idea of making risotto with what you craved. Also, rice and cheese is comforting. Great to have you back on board :)

  6. Deb, the recipe and the book sound wonderful. I've heard many of my friends recommend this book. I'll have to get it. thanks


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)