Category Archives: Rice and Risotto

Roasted Corn Risotto

Grilled Corn RisottoIt’s summertime and we eat fresh corn whenever possible. A week or so ago I posted instructions (it’s not really a recipe) for roasted corn on the grill.  As I mentioned in the post, I always have leftover roasted corn which is great because it has so many uses, but this is one of my favorites. You could certainly add other ingredients to this risotto – sauteed or roasted red peppers, scallions or leeks, and/or bacon (Yum!). Essentially, I cook the risotto until almost ready and then stir in roasted corn since it is already fully cooked. I really don’t know why risotto is so intimidating; granted, it requires constant attention, but it’s not difficult. We enjoyed this with Barbequed Chicken and it just tasted like summer!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 1- 1.5 Cup Roasted Corn (can substitute regular corn)- cut off the cob
  • 3-4 Cups Chicken Broth (hot)
  • 1 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper (to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat chicken broth over medium heat and keep hot. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan and heat over medium; add rice to saucepan, saute for a few minutes and then add about 3/4 cup hot chicken broth, stirring constantly. risotto in brothCook until most of chicken broth is absorbed and then add another 3/4 cup hot broth, stirring constantly. When rice is approaching the ad dente (firm to the bite) phase, add corn. Add corn to risotto mixContinue cooking (adding more stock as necessary) until rice is tender but still al dente. Add parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Israeli Couscous and Roasted Beet Salad

Israeli Couscous and Beet Salad

Israeli Couscous and Beet Salad

It’s Tuesday again (time flies in the summer), so it was concert in the park night. As has become tradition, I made a cold salad and sandwiches (pulled pork with pickled fennel). The salad was inspired by my friend Geaneen’s recent trip to her sister-in-law’s organic farm; she returned home with beautiful petite beets and some fabulous green onions. I did have to supplement with extra beets, so I added some gold beets. I tried to use some of my favorite Mediterranean ingredients – including those in my beloved Greek salad. I was a little worried about how the salad would be received, not everyone is a fan of beets, but  it was an instant hit.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups Israeli Couscous (regular or tri-colored)
  • 4 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1 1/4 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 1/4 Cups Water
  • 4-6 Medium Beets (Golden or Red)
  • 4-6 Green Onions (or 1/2 medium sweet onion)
  • 6 Oz. Feta Cheese (more or less to your liking)
  • 3/4 Cup Kalmata Olives
  • 2 TBS. Fresh Mint – finely chopped
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Oregano – finely chopped
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Basil – finely chopped

For the Vinagrette (makes extra – save and use for other salads)

  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 4-5 TBS. Red Wine Vinegar (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 tsp. Honey
  • 1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 2-3 TBS. Olive Brine (from Kalmata Olives)
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper
  • Salt to taste (will depend on your olive brine)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300 Degrees. Remove stems and any roots from beets – rub with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Place on a foil covered baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes. In the meantime, remove the green parts and roots from green onions (or, if using sweet onions, slice into 1/4 inch rounds) and rub with olive oil – set aside. After beets have roasted for 35-45 minutes, add onions to baking sheet and return to the oven. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes until beets are tender when a fork is inserted. Remove beets and onions from oven and set aside. Prepare the vinagrette by combining all ingredients in a jar or tupperware container with a tight fitting lid; set aside. Heat 1 TBS. olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous and toast, stirring frequently,  for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and slightly browned. Through June 25 2013 078Add chicken broth, water, and salt. Cover and reduce heat to low – simmer for 15-20 minutes until all water is absorbed. In the meantime, when beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and cut into 1/4 inch pieces. Cut onions into small dice. Slice kalmata olives in half. When couscous is fully cooked, fluff with a fork and allow to cool slightly. Add 1/2 to 3/4 of the vinagrette (to taste) to the couscous. Add beets and onions. Add feta cheese and fresh herbs once couscous is completely cooled. Through June 25 2013 085Mix well, add more vinagrette if desired and season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Chicken Lemon Rice Soup (Avgolemono)

Chicken Lemon Rice Soup

Chicken Lemon Rice Soup

This soup is a family favorite. My son orders it every time we go to one of our local Greek restaurants, but my daughter, who has very discerning taste, is often skeptical whether it will be “the real kind.” I really should make this more often, because it’s so easy and uses ingredients that I always have on hand. You can adjust the amount of lemon that you include to suit your own taste, but we like it pretty lemony, and that’s what this recipe reflects. I also add bits of shredded chicken (often rotisserie chicken), particularly when I am serving the soup as the main part of the meal, although I think it a worthy addition, the chicken is not traditional. If you happen to be hosting your Greek mother-in-law and want to impress her, don’t add the chicken. Last night we enjoyed the soup as a starter which was followed by lamb burgers; it made for a nice weeknight meal. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I had guests, but this recipe is really easy to follow without pictures.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Uncooked White Rice
  • 4 Eggs
  • Juice of 3 Lemons
  • 1 Cup Shredded Chicken Meat
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Chopped Parsley (optional – garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add chicken broth to a medium stockpot and bring to a boil. Add rice, stir, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until rice is al dente (about 15-18 minutes) or nearly fully cooked. In a medium sized glass or non-reactive bowl, beat 4 eggs; add lemon juice to bowl and beat until incorporated. Using a ladle, slowly add hot chicken broth to bowl of beaten eggs, whisking the entire time. Repeat this several times until the egg mixture reaches nearly the temperature as the chicken broth. This is prevents the eggs from cooking too quickly and becoming scrambled. Once the egg mixture is thoroughly heated, add it to the stockpot with the remaining chicken broth and rice. Add shredded chicken, if using. Taste for lemoniness, and add more lemon juice if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired, and serve immediately.Through March 18 017

Lobster Risotto

Lobster Bacon RisottoI recently entered a lobster recipe in a contest (recipe to be revealed later), and so I’ve been on a lobster kick lately. I can usually find live lobsters at my local Asian grocery store and they tend to be about $1.00-$2.00 less per pound than they are at my local grocery store. I remember back to when I lived in New England and lobsters were cheaper per pound than boneless chicken breasts; needless to say, we ate a lot of lobster. Lobster is such a delight that it’s well worth the occasional splurge. This is a risotto dish that I serve as an entree – it’s rich and filling and deserves to be the star of the meal, not a side dish. As with most risotto recipes; it’s very simple, and you can easily alter it to include other seasonal or on-hand ingredients (corn, bacon, green onions, roasted red peppers), but don’t feel that you have to add anything because simple lobster risotto is perfectly luxurious all on its own. I had some thick cut bacon from my local pork grower, so I did stir in the cooked bacon at the end. The most challenging aspect of this dish is removing the lobster meat; many gourmet grocers sell shelled lobster meat, but I still prefer to cook whole live lobsters and prepare my own stock.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Cup Fresh Lobster Meat (tail and large claw meat)- roughly chopped
  • 4-6 Cups Lobster or Seafood Stock (can substitute chicken stock)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
  • 4 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS. Butter
  • 2 Shallots – finely chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese – grated or shredded
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley – finely chopped (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat stock in a medium saucepan and leave simmering. In a medium stockpot, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until tender. Saute ShallotsAdd rice and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes until rice is well coated and heated. Add riceAdd 2 cups of hot stock and stir constantly until most of the stock has been absorbed. Continue to add stock 1 cup at a time until rice is creamy and al dente. Add stockStir in lobster meat, cheese and any other additional ingredients. Add more stock if risotto seems to dry – it should have a creamy, moist consistency. Serve immediately.

 

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is this Sunday, February 10, 2013 and we celebrate it with full force in our house. This upcoming year will be the Year of the Snake. For those of you who follow my blog, you may have read that my children are convinced I am really Asian, but the truth is that my Asian tendencies come from having traveled extensively throughout Asia and teaching primarily Asian students. Chinese New Year celebrations are festive and fun, and you may find that once you embrace the traditions, you will continue to do so years to come. I don’t have pictures for the food that I served last year (I started the blog last February and wasn’t in the habit of photographing my food), but I will outline some of the traditions and provide recipes for the traditional foods that I serve. Although I love homemade dumplings (and it is tradition that the family gather to make the dumplings on New Year’s Eve), I typically buy frozen dumplings – they are great and I can get a variety of types that way. I also usually buy the desert as well.

I will start with some of the traditions that are not food related and try to include the reasoning behind the traditions.

  • Clean your house thoroughly before Chinese New Year – this will help to clean out the Old Year.
  • Open all doors and windows at midnight on the start of Chinese New Year (New Year’s Eve) – this allows the Old Year to escape and the New Year to come in.
  • Pay all bills and debts (when possible) and clear up any grievances you may have with others – if you begin the New Year with outstanding bills, you will have them all year.
  • Wear red and/or gold or bright orange on Chinese New Year; avoid wearing white. Red represents happiness and good luck, gold and orange represent prosperity, while white represents death.
  • Wear a new outfit or piece of clothing on Chinese New Year to insure that you will not be wearing the same old clothes all year long.
  • Avoid the number 4 on Chinese New Year (the pronunciation of the word “Four” in Chinese is similar to the pronunciation of the word “Die” in Chinese.
  • The number 8 is lucky because the word “eight” sounds similar to the word “fortune” in Chinese.
  • Do NOT wash or cut your hair on Chinese New Year – you will wash or cut away all of your good luck.
  • Try not to cry, yell, or curse on Chinese New Year – so as not to be crying, yelling, or cursing throughout the whole New Year.
  • Do NOT clean the house or sweep any dirt out of the house on Chinese New Year – you will be sweeping away all of your good luck and fortune.
  • Try to avoid using knives and scissors on Chinese New Year – something about severing good luck.
  • If you visit the homes of others on Chinese New Year, bring them oranges/tangarines/clementines/mandarin oranges – as these are an offering of good luck and prosperity. If you are not expecting visitors, make sure you have your own supply of oranges in the house.
  • Give children red envelopes with a coin, or money – this will insure them good fortune in the new year (the more, the better – kids love that part).

Traditional Chinese New Year Foods (recipes follow):

  • A cooked whole fish – cooking the whole fish ensures that your family will have plenty of food and prosperity in the New Year.
  • Long Noodles (the longer, the better) – noodles represent longevity (long life); remember when eating noodles not to cut or break them (with either a knife or your teeth) or you will be cutting short your life. This is why many Asians “slurp” their noodles.
  • Dumplings- the crescent shape resembles Chinese money, so they represent wealth and prosperity.
  • Spring/Summer/Egg Rolls symbolize wealth because they resemble gold or silver bullions (bulk gold or silver).
  • Vegetables represent purification.
  • Duck (Peking is traditional) represents fidelity.
  • Pork represents strength.
  • Pumpkin represents prosperity, abundance, illustrious children, and it draws earth’s energy to manifest gold.
  • Whole chicken (served with head facing diners) represents wholeness, prosperity and abundance.
  • Prawns (shrimp) represent liveliness and happiness.
  • Rice represents fertility, wealth, and the link between heaven and earth.
  • Eggs (tea eggs are traditional) represent fertility (avoid them if you don’t want more children).
  • Layered cakes – the sweetness represents a rich, sweet life and the layers represent rising abundance for the upcoming year.

Fruit Cakes or Sticky Rice Cakes- these are traditionally fed to the Kitchen God so that he will report good things about your family when he returns to heaven before the New Year. Another tradition suggests wiping his mouth with a bit of the sticky cake to “seal his lips” so that he may not report any negative things about your family.

More information about Chinese New Year Symbolic Foods .

Chinese New Year Menu and Recipes:

  • Assorted Steamed Dumplings (Dim Sum)
  • Egg Drop Soup
  • Asian Style Steamed Clams or Mussells
  • Spring Rolls
  • Steamed Whole Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves
  • Beef with Broccoli
  • Pork Fried Rice
  • Shrimp Lo Mein
  • Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Shitake Mushrooms

Dumplings (Potstickers):

Pork Filling
1 lb. Ground Pork
4 Large Napa Cabbage Leaves – minced
3 Stalks Green Onions – minced
7 Shitake Mushrooms – minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 Cup Bamboo Shoots – minced
1/4 Cup Ginger Root – minced
3 TBS. Soy Sauce
2 TBS. Sesame Oil
2 TBS. Corn starch

OR

Shrimp Filling
1/2 lb. Raw Shrimp – peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb. Ground Pork
3 Stalks Green Onions – minced
1/4 Cup Ginger Root – minced
1 Cup Water Chestnuts -minced
1 tsp. Salt
3 TBS. Sesame Oil
2 TBS. Corn starch

Both

Use gyoza wrappers (circular) or wonton wrappers cut into circles for the wrappers.

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Make dumplings.

To Boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To Steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of Napa cabbage leaves in a bamboo steamer basket and steam for about 6 minutes. You can also use a vegetable steamer pot lined with cabbage leaves, or grease the pot well.

To Pan Fry (potstickers)*: Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve. If using frozen dumplings, allow to thaw before frying.

To Freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

Dipping Sauce
2 Parts Soy sauce
1 Part Vinegar (red wine or black)
A Few Drops of Sesame Oil
Chili Garlic Paste (optional)
Minced Ginger (optional)
Minced Garlic (optional)
Minced Green Onion (optional)
Sugar (optional)

Egg Drop Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 -2 green onions, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • A few drops of sesame oil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a wok or saucepan, bring the 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add the white pepper and salt, and the sesame oil if using. Cook for about another minute.
Very slowly pour in the eggs in a steady stream. To make shreds, stir the egg rapidly in a clockwise direction for one minute. To make thin streams or ribbons, gently stir the eggs in a clockwise direction until they form.
Garnish with green onion and serve.

*Egg Drop Soup is frequently thickened with cornstarch in restaurants. To add a cornstarch thickener, mix 2 – 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. Just before adding the beaten egg, stir in the cornstarch/water mixture, remove the soup from the heat, and then add the beaten egg.

Tips for making Egg Drop Soup:

  • Lightly beat the egg so that no bubbles form
  • Turn off the heat the minute you begin pouring in the egg (this produces silkier threads)
  • Pour the egg in a very slow stream (pouring it through the tines of a fork from several inches above the pot is a good way to keep the stream slow and steady)
  • Begin stirring as soon as you start pouring in the egg
  • To make shreds or threads, stir rapidly for at least 1 minute
  • Stir the beaten egg in one direction only

Asian Style Steamed Mussels or Clams

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup Dry White Wine (or Rice Wine)
  • 1 TBS. Fish Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Lime Zest
  • 2-3 lbs. Mussels or Clams
  • 1 TBS. Peanut Oil
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Ginger -grated
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – crushe
  • 3 Fresh Red Thai Chilis- seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 Cups Cilantro- loosely packed
  • 2 Stalks Lemon Grass – bruised with a mallet (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat wine in a small saucepan until hot. Add sauce and rind, remove from heat and stand, covered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile scrub mussels and pull away the beards- and check to make sure clams or mussels are alive (discard any with broken shells or any opened – for mussels tap opened ones to make sure they move or try to close). Heat oil in large saucepan, add ginger, garlic, chilli and lemon grass. Cook, stirring until fragrant. Add wine mixture, 1 cup of cilantro, and mussels and simmer, covered for about 5 minutes or until mussels open (discard any that do not open). Add remaining cilantro. Spoon mussels and broth into large serving bowls or onto a large serving platter.

Whole Fish Steamed in Banana Leaf 

Ingredients:

  • 4 Medium Whole Fish – fully cleaned and prepped (allow about 1/3 fish per person) Suggested fish: red snapper, black sea bass or pomfret (they are smaller, so you’ll need about 1/2 fish per person)
  • 2 banana leaves (OR 2 sheets tin foil if steaming the fish) – for more on banana leaf, see below
  • 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon or Lime Juice
  • SAUCE FOR FISH:
  • 2 Green (spring) Onions- sliced (including the green stem)
  • 1/2 to 1 Fresh Red Chili-seeds and membrane removed – finely chopped
  • 3 Kaffir Lime Leaves (cut out the hard central stem and only include the soft leaf)- can substitute Lemon Grass – be sure to bruise it with a mallet to release flavor.
  • 3-4 Cloves Garlic -minced
  • 1 TBS. Lemon or Lime Juice
  • 2 TBS. Fish Sauce
  • 1/2  Cup Fresh Basil Leaves (Thai basil if available)-loosely-packed
  • 4 TBS. Coconut Oil – OR walnut, almond, olive, or other healthy, good-tasting oil
  • optional: 1 tsp. Butter (this makes the sauce richer-tasting)
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • TO GARNISH:
  • Lemon/Lime Slices
  • Sprinkling of Fresh Basil (other toppings: spring onions cut thinly lengthwise, and fresh-cut chili)

INSTRUCTIONS:

For more on how to buy and cook with banana leaf, see: Cooking with Banana Leaf – Tips and Practical Advice.

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Rinse the fish under cold water and inspect for any remaining scales or entails – remove any you find. Place fish in a shallow baking dish and cover with sauce (including on the inside of the fish) – place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 20-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove fish from refrigerator and pour remaining sauce into a bowl. Lay one banana leaf on a clean work surface – top with a fish and spoon some sauce marinade over the surface. Fold one long side of the banana leaf over the fish and then fold the two sides over (trim the sides if too long). Holding the folded sides in place “roll” the fish onto the remaining long side of banana leaf – this should sufficiently cover the fish. If you like, you can use kitchen twine to tie up the “packet,” but I don’t usually find that necessary. Place the banana leaf “packet” seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat process until all fish have been wrapped. Add a little extra sauce and some water to the bottom of the baking dish (about 1/2 inch). Place in the oven and cook for 20-35 minutes depending on size and thickness of fish. Remove from oven and check for doneness – the flesh of the fish should be opaque and flaky and should easily pull away from the bones, but still be very moist. Transfer fish to a serving platter and garnish.

Spicy Orange Beef with Broccoli

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2  tsp.  Salt
  • 1  Clove Garlic -minced
  • 1/2  tsp.  Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1  lb.  Boneless Sirloin Steak -cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1/2  tsp.  Grated Orange Rind
  • 1/4  Cup  Orange Juice
  • 1  TBS.  Cornstarch
  • 2  TBS.  Low-sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1  tsp.  Sesame Oil
  • 3/4  Cup Green Onions – 1 inch slices

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine garlic, pepper, and beef, tossing well. Combine rind, juice, cornstarch, and soy sauce, stirring with a whisk. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef mixture and onions; sauté 2 minutes. Add juice mixture; cook 2 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Add broccoli and continue cooking until broccoli is just tender. Serve beef mixture over rice.

Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms

See the recipe for Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Sesame Sprouts and eliminate sesame sprouts and add shitake mushrooms (cut in half) for last 3-4 minutes of stir frying.

Pork Fried Rice

The following looks to be a good recipe for pork fried rice – I have made fried rice so many times that I just kind of “wing it” and have never bothered to write down the recipe, but this one looks similar to how I would make it. The trick is to use leftover cold/dry rice. If you are going to be making rice especially for this dish, spread your cooked rice in a single layer on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator. This will allow your rice to dry out and chill which is what makes for good frying – rice with too much moisture will be sticky and clumpy when fried. http://www.dinneralovestory.com/quick-and-easy-pork-fried-rice/

Shrimp Lo Mein

Similar to fried rice, lo mein is just something I usually throw together. I might add a dash of oyster sauce or some garlic chili sauce if I want a touch of spice. You can use a variety of vegetables, including red pepper, peapods, broccoli, and baby bok choy. My staples are shredded cabbage (not very much – use the extra from your steamed dumplings), carrots, peapods, and green onions. As noted in the blogged recipe below – try to find lo mein noodles. They will be in the refrigerated section of your Asian market. If you can’t find fresh lo mein noodles, use a thinner pasta like Angel Hair or Thin Spaghetti. Many recipes call for linguine – I think that is just too thick for lo mein. http://smells-like-home.com/2012/06/take-out-fake-out-shrimp-lo-mein/

I hope you enjoy Chinese New Year and that it brings you good luck, prosperity, longevity, and good fortune all around. Gong She Fa Chai!

More of my Asian Recipes:

Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup Asian Style Barbequed Chicken Wings
Braised Chicken Thighs in Teriyaki Sauce
Asian Style Chicken Skewers
Chicken Stir Fry
Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Leek Risotto

Leek RisottoSometimes the simplest things are the best. This is one of those recipes that was a result of creating something out of what I had in the fridge and pantry; sometimes I question why I spend so much time thinking about new recipes…I should just learn that some of the best creations take the least amount of thought. The holidays are over, and I’ve made a commitment to using up all of the great food that we have in our freezer. Because we buy so much locally raised meat and poultry, it is typically frozen. I’m not so great about planning meals in advance, so using meat out of the freezer is not easy for me, but I’m really trying to be better about it. So, Friday afternoon I decided I’d use up some of the fabulous boneless pork chops I had from Melo Farms. I did my standard Ultimate Tender Pork Chop recipe, but was lacking a side dish. I love to make risotto, so I always have Arborio rice on hand. I didn’t have much to mix in with the risotta, but I did have a couple of leeks hanging around in the vegetable drawer, so I decided to make a simple leek risotto – result: excellent. The leeks have a mild onion flavor, but they have a butteriness (not sure that’s a word) about them that works so well with the creamy risotto. What’s great about this recipe is that you only need 1 leek; so don’t go out and buy a pack of leeks for this recipe, but, rather, make this with a leftover leek – because almost all recipes only call for a few leeks and you, undoubtedly, have leftovers (they are great in quiche and mashed potatoes as well). So, simple is often better, and, some of the best inventions come from working with what you have. (Serves 4 as a side dish)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 1 Leek – chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • 3-4 Cups Chicken Broth (hot)
  • 1 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Parsley – finely chopped
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper (to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat chicken broth over medium heat and keep hot. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan and heat over medium; add leeks and saute until tender but not quite browned.Slice leeks and then halve Add rice to saucepan, saute for a few minutesSaute leeks and then add about 3/4 cup hot chicken broth, stirring constantly.Add Chicken Stock Cook until most of chicken broth is absorbed and then add another 3/4 cup hot broth, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until risotto is tnderRepeat process until rice is tender but still al dente. Add parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and season with salt and pepper.

 

 

 

 

Cube Steak with Mushrooms and Gravy

Cube Steak with Mushrooms, gravy, and Mashed PotatoesThere is nothing gourmet about this recipe, but it is Midwestern comfort food all day long. This was a staple in my house as a kid; honestly, I’ve made it only a very few time but always enjoy it; usually I make it when I am in desperate need of comfort food. Cube steaks are not inexpensive, which is surprising, because I think they’re kind of glorified ground beef, but they are flavorful. (Our family dog was served a raw cube steak ever night for dinner). I would love to tell you that I served the cubed steak with some awesome homemade gravy, but, that’s not the case – I doused them in Heinz beef gravy out of the jar (my Mom always used Franco American which comes in a can – I just feel better about gravy out of a jar). My Mom also used canned mushrooms – really? So, here’s my spruced up cube steak with mushrooms and gravy recipe. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 Cube Steaks
  • 1/4 Cup Minced Onion (about 1/2 Small onion)
  • 1 Clove Garlic – Minced
  • 1 Package of Sliced White Mushrooms
  • 2 Jars of Beef Gravy
  • 2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Season cube steaks generously with salt and pepper and allow to rest for 30-45 minutes.Cube Steak In a large saucepan, heat olive oil; add garlic and onion and saute until fragrant. Add mushrooms and saute until softened. Remove mushrooms from saucepan and set aside. Saute Mushrooms and onionsAdd cube steaks to pan and brown on both sides. Return mushroom mixture to pan and add gravy. Reduce heat, cover,  and simmer until cube steaks are fully cooked and tender – at least 20 minutes. Combine Gravy, mushrooms, and cube steakServe over mashed potatoes.

Miso Glazed Lobster Skewers

Miso glazed grilled lobster with miso brown rice and confetti corn

This dinner was a result of many things – the “diet,” lobster tails on sale at the grocery store, and a desire to enjoy fresh corn for just a little bit longer. Miso contains probiotics, which I have to have two servings of per day, but more importantly, I love the flavor; it’s nutty and mild and pungent all at the same time. I decided to try a miso glaze on grilled lobster. I didn’t really marinate the lobster, because I thought the miso might be overpowering; I just dunked the lobster pieces into the miso, threaded them on a screwer and grilled (or, rather, Bryan grilled) them. Brown rice is allowed on my diet, but I wanted to jazz it up a bit and have it compliment the lobster, so I simply added 2-3 TBS. of the miso glaze to the boiling rice water before I added the rice. (This is really the same method I use for making my Spanish rice – but I use salsa – and it works with almost any flavoring you want to incorporate into your rice).  For the confetti corn, I used grilled corn and added it to a saute of red peppers and shallots. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-6 Lobster Tails (uncooked)
  • 1/2 Cup Light Miso
  • 1/4 Cup Light Soy Sauce
  • 14 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Mirin (or white wine)
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. Chopped Garlic
  • 4 Ears of Fresh Sweetcorn
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper- seeded and chopped
  • 1 Large Shallot
  • 1 1/2 Cups Brown Rice


so,

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine the  miso , soy sauce, mirin (or wine) , brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic to make the miso glaze.To prepare the rice: follow the instructions on the package but skimp a bit on the water and substitute 1- 2 TBS. of the miso glaze. Preheat a grill to medium. Place corn (unshucked) on the grill and cover. Meanwhile, remove meat from lobster tails and remove the “vein” that runs just under the red “skin.” (Yes, that vein is just like the one you remove in shrimp – gross). Cut the lobster meat into large bitesize chunks (I say large because the meat will shrink a bit during grilling, and you need to have large enough pieces to skewer).  After about ten minutes, take the corn off the grill and remove the husks and silk. Brush corn generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the lobster meat to the remaining miso glaze and coat generously. Skewer the lobster meat on two barbeque skewers (don’t pack on too tightly). (If you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water before using – this will prevent them from catching fire). Grease the area of the grill which will hold the lobster (I just use spray Pam). Place skewered lobster and the shucked corn on the grill – turn the corn as is browns. Turn the lobster skewers as they brown and start to become opaque. In the meantime, heat 1 TBS. Olive oil in a medium saute pan, add shallot and red pepper and saute until tender. (Bryan typically tends the grill while I continue in the kitchen – this is a meal where it’s nice to have a designated grill master). Check the rice and give a stir to fluff it. When the corn is cooked, cut it off the cob, combine with the sauteed red pepper and shallots and season with salt and pepper. When the lobster is nicely grilled and cooked through (I think the best method for testing doneness is to try a piece) remove from grill and serve immediately (you can serve on individual skewers if you like, but I just served it loose).

Enjoy!

Pork Belly Risotto Topped with a Fried Egg

Pork Belly Risotto (with a Sunny Side Up Egg and Grilled Bread)

While in Chicago for my Dad’s Memorial Celebration, we stumbled upon a random Italian restaurant. One of the specials was pork belly risotto served with a fried egg on top. To my surprise, my kids were all intrigued by the risotto, so we asked if it would be “weird” if we ordered one as an appetizer. Our waiter was thrilled, and said “absolutely no weirdness at all.”  The egg was sunny side up, atop the risotto, so I was responsible for breaking it up and dishing out the risotto. We all agreed, the risotto was amazing. Pork belly is essentially just uncured and unsliced bacon, it has a lot of fat, but cooked properly, it’s delicious. Pork belly can be challenging to find, but if you have a farmer’s market or know of a pork farmer, they will likely have it, but you may have to special order it. I have also seen it in my local Asian grocery stores. So, I decided I had to try to recreate the dish once we returned home. I had a couple packages of pork belly (sometimes called pork side) in the freezer (from our great local pork farmers at Melo Farms) and I always have arborio rice on hand. What I noticed about the risotto in Chicago was that it was really tender, almost mushy. I’ve always been taught that risotto should be “al dente” with a little bite (crunch), but I would have to say, I embraced the well cooked risotto in this recipe and it was perfect.  Cooking time for the pork belly is 2 1/2 hrs. but it basically cooks on its own – you just have to flip it once. The risotto takes anywhere from 25-40 minutes – this is active cooking time as you have stir almost constantly. We had the risotto as a main course; it serves 4, but you could serve about 8-10 appetizer portions (just serve with a couple of eggs).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 Lb. Pork Belly
  • 1  Cup Arborio Rice
  • 3-5 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic – Chopped
  • 1/4 Medium Sized Sweet Onion (about 3 TBS.- Finely Chopped)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Seasoned Pepper (you could use regular)
  • 3 TBS. Italian Herbs (Dried)
  • 1/4 Cup Wine (I used red, but white would be fine – as would chicken broth)
  • 1 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS. Butter
  • 3-4 TBS. Canola Oil
  • 4 Large Eggs (1 per person unless serving as an appetizer)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees. Place pork belly in a medium baking dish.Use a sharp knife to “score” the skin of the pork belly, being sure to get all the way through the tough skin but not cutting very far into the meat. Season both sides of the pork belly liberally with salt and seasoned pepper, add chopped garlic and Italian herbs to the meat side (not the skin side) of the pork. Finish with pork belly skin side up. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and put in the 450 Degree oven. Cook for 30 minutes and then reduce oven temperature to 350 Degrees. After one hour, remove pork belly from the oven and flip it so skin side is down – the meat side should be nicely browned – if not, leave meat side down for a little longer. If bottom of baking dish has become browned, add about 1/2 of the wine or chicken broth to deglaze. Re-cover with aluminium foil and return to oven for another hour – checking occasionally to see if you need more wine. You could make this without the wine or chicken stock, but I think it adds a nice flavor (would make a good sauce) and it makes cleaning the baking dish easier. After an hour, remove from oven, but keep covered until ready to use.

In a medium saucepan, heat chicken broth. In another medium saucepan, heat olive oil and butter, add chopped onion and saute until transparent. Add the risotto and saute – stirring to incorporate oil and butter-for a minute or two. Add one cup of the hot chicken stock, and stir constantly until almost all broth is incorporated. Repeat this process until risotto is soft and creamy. Remove risotto from heat, cover, and set aside.

Remove pork belly from baking dish and place on a cutting board. separate the meat and fat from the skin of the pork belly (and discard some of the fat if you want), cut into pieces about 3/4 of an inch. Cover the cut pork belly to keep warm.

Add canola oil (should cover bottom of pan by about an 1/8 of an inch) to a medium sized saute pan. Heat oil over medium flame and crack eggs into pan with hot oil. Use a large spoon to spoon hot oil over the white part of the eggs only (if you want pretty sunny-side up, do not “baste” the yolks). Cook until whites of eggs are completely cooked.

Place risotto on a plate or shallow bowl. (If risotto has dried up a bit, add a touch more broth). Add pork belly to the risotto and top each plate with an egg. Serve immediately.

Ramp and Fiddlehead Risotto

Fiddlehead and Ramp Risotto

My apologies for the lack of blogging over the last week; my Dad passed away just over a week ago. For those of you who have read through some of my other posts, you will know that after my Dad became ill with cancer, he became a fan of the Food Network. He was never very interested in cooking, probably because my mother was such a good cook, but when he would go through a “phase” like his panini phase, homemade pasta phase, homemade bread phase, or risotto phase, he would achieve absolute mastery in whatever phase he was in. I made this risotto a couple of weeks ago when I was enthralled with the spring bounty available. I’m posting it today because my Dad taught me how to make risotto. I don’t think he ever made this particular type, but I imagine he would have liked it!

If you like asparagus, you’ll like fiddleheads, and ramps are like a delicate cross between a leek and a green onion. Both are only available for a short while in the spring. Fiddleheads are actually emerging ferns (or “fronds”), but edible fiddleheads only come from the ostrich fern. So, while it’s tempting to go out and forage for your own food (particularly when he see the price of fiddleheads), I don’t recommend this unless you have a background in botany. Not all fern fronds are edible and some are carcinogenic. It is also important to cook the fiddleheads thoroughly as they have been known to carry food borne illness. In this recipe the fiddleheads are boiled and then sauteed; sauteing alone is not recommended. Sometimes the fiddleheads have a bit of their brown papery skin still on them; you want to remove all of this as it makes the fiddleheads taste bitter. I’ve heard of different techniques for cleaning them (shake in a brown paper bag), but I find it easiest to just wash them thoroughly in a colander and take care to remove any brown bits.

One final note, I used bacon in my risotto (if you follow my blog you know about the amazing bacon I buy from a local farm); I think it would be great with pancetta. For a vegetarian option just leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
  • 1/2 Cup Ramps (cleaned and chopped – both white and green portions)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Fiddleheads (cleaned)
  • 2-3 Slices Bacon or Pancetta
  • 2 TBS. Unsalted Butter
  • 6-8 Cups Chicken Stock or Broth
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium saucepan, bring 4-6 cups (enough to cover fiddleheads) of water to a boil. Boil fiddelheads for 15 minutes and drain. In the meantime, chop the bacon and add to a medium sized saute pan. Cook the bacon thoroughly. Add the ramps and fiddleheads and saute until ramps are wilted. Add chicken stock to medium saucepan and heat to just below boiling- keep on stove at a simmer. In a separate saucepan (medium to large) heat butter; add risotto to pan and saute for a few minutes until rice is well coated. Add wine, and then,using a ladle, add about 1 cup of the simmering chicken stock to the risotto. Stirring constantly, cook until broth is absorbed and repeat process of adding stock and cooking to absorption. Continue this until risotto is creamy and tender with just a little firmness to the bite. Add bacon, ramp, and fiddlehead mixture, along with parmesan cheese, to the risotto and serve immediately.