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Home Front: Dancer's Fuel

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For those out there who think the culinary aspirations of ballet dancers tend toward finding the perfect rice cake topping, Shira Lanyi is here to prove otherwise.

In what little spare time she has, Lanyi, an apprentice dancer with the Richmond Ballet, has launched her own catering company, Sur La Pointe.

"[Dancers] are obviously careful about what we put into our bodies because our bodies are our instruments," says Lanyi. That means "making careful choices about things that taste really good and fuel your body." Accordingly, Lanyi's food emphasizes the lightest and freshest ingredients of the season.

Lanyi says she inherited her love for cooking from her grandmother, who was put in charge of feeding the family at a very young age after her own mother passed away. On the business side, she's sought advice from Can Can owner Christopher Ripp and had the good luck to launch her catering career at the ballet's annual board meeting — good folks to impress.

Finishing touches, of course, are important onstage and make all the difference in the kitchen too. Lanyi serves her pumpkin risotto in the shells for an extra flourish.

Pumpkin Risotto

1 pie pumpkin (1-2 pounds)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely diced

3 cups arborio rice

1 cup sherry or dry white wine

7-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and pulp with a metal spoon. Cut each half into about three wedges and season with salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast in the oven until lightly browned and softened, about 25-30 minutes. Scoop the flesh from the pumpkin and divide in half. Puree one half of the pumpkin in the food processor until smooth, and chop the other half into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the rice, and toast with the shallot for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sherry and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Slowly add the heated stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently and allowing all liquid to be absorbed before adding additional liquid. Cook for about 20 minutes or until creamy. Add the pumpkin, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for additional 5 minutes or until rice is no longer al dente. Remove from heat, stir in the cheese and garnish with fresh parsley if desired. HS

For more information on Sur La Pointe, call 339-4015 or e-mail shira.lanyi@gmail.com.

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