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Posts Tagged ‘rice’

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

I am so ready for it to just be spring already. This chilly, dreary weather is getting a tad bit old and we’ve gotten a taste of the warm weather already, so I just wish it would stay. It was near 80º when we were in NYC last weekend and apparently it was in the 70s here in Buffalo at the same time. Today it is in the low 30s and it’s snowing again. Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow and the change of seasons, but this has been one of the longest and nastiest winters I can ever recall here.

I guess since the weather isn’t cooperating the only thing to do is to bring the spring to our bellies via delicious spring inspired dishes like this one! Once again this risotto, like the pasta recipe I posted yesterday, was inspired by what looked best in the produce section when we went to the market. I had actually hoped to find fresh sweet peas, but I guess it is still a bit early, so I went with frozen organic sweet peas. You can certainly substitute fresh peas here, you’d just want to quickly blanch them first.

This risotto is so creamy and satisfying it is hard to believe it is healthy. There is very little cheese and really since arborio rice creates such a creamy risotto, if you wanted to make this vegan you could simply leave out the cheese and it would still be incredible. The leeks bring a nice fresh but subtle onion flavor, the mushrooms a nice rustic earthy aroma and taste and the peas are a nice burst of brightness to finish it all off. The fresh tarragon was the perfect unique compliment to all of these flavors, bringing subtle scent and taste reminiscent of anise. You can play with adding in some white wine or vermouth as well as different cheeses, mascarpone or heavy cream, different herbs, lemon zest, etc. There are so many variations on classic risotto and you really can’t go wrong.

I had a dozen local farm fresh eggs that I picked up and want to use while they are at their freshest so I decided to fry up an egg for each of us to serve on top of the risotto. I had never done this before, but I knew it would be incredible and I was right. Such a nice way to finish it off. The yolk was a tad runny and it was just perfect.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas
serves 4-6

5-6 cups of organic mushroom broth
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas
2 leeks, rinsed very well, slice thinly white and green parts only*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 cups frozen organic sweet peas (I would have preferred fresh, but they weren’t yet at the market)
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt, sauté until tender and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, sprinkle with salt. Sauté until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and increase the heat to medium. Stir until the edges begin to look transparent, careful not to brown the rice or leeks. Add the mushroom broth, 2 ladles at a time (or approximately 3/4 cup); stirring constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. Always adding enough just to cover the rice. Continue stirring and adding broth, waiting for it to absorb and then adding more. Cook about halfway, which should be about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the sautéed mushrooms. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender but has a bit of a firm bite and the risotto is creamy, another 10-15 minutes. Add the frozen peas and fresh tarragon with just a few minutes remaining, stir to combine. The peas will cook very quickly. Once cooked, turn off the heat. Taste the risotto and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in approximately 1/4 cup of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving the remaining for serving. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl, top with fresh ground black pepper and a pinch or two of freshly chopped tarragon. Serve with the remaining grated parmigiano-raggiano. This risotto is incredible with a fried farm-fresh egg served on top. If the yolk is just a tad bit runny, it is absolute perfection! Trust me, try it.

* a quick note on cleaning leeks: leeks tend to have a lot of dirt and grit in them. If you aren’t careful when cleaning them, you may think they are totally clean, start cooking with them and find your entire dish has a nasty grittiness to it. This can ruin a dish After trimming off the ends (called the beards) and the dark green tops (save these for stocks). You can run them under cold water at this point, or even better, you can submerge the leeks in a large pot of cold water. Swirl them around to really remove all the grit and dirt. Drain well and then cut.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Oh and one last thing to mention, this is what was going on outside my kitchen window while I crafted up this beautiful spring dinner. Ironic, isn’t it?

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Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio

After a few months with our butts parked here in wintry Buffalo, it’s that time again, we are hitting the road. We leave Saturday morning for Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest Music Festival and Flatstock 29! I love this trip not only because we drive down, and I love a good road trip, but we also get a great dose of some much-needed sunshine and warmer weather plus great music, hang outs with our good friends, good food and so much more. As with all of our trips, though they are an escape from the every day and a bit of a vacation in that sense, they are very much about work and business, so the weeks leading up require a lot of long days and nights of prep. We have to wrap up any client projects we have on deck and we also have to pack and restock all of our handmade goodies, print stuff, sew stuff, etc. I have been trying in these two weeks before, to make meals that require one day of prep and cooking but gives us many meals. I have made pasta Bolognese, vegetarian shepherd’s pie, italian sausage, white bean and escarole soup, slow cooked black beans for tacos and this risotto. It’s been great because we have a ton of leftovers and we’ve been able to just focus on work and when need be, take breaks, heat up some dinner and then get back to work. I love it. Home cooked meals are most important to me when life gets busy and stressful.

This risotto is a nice, hearty winter dish that is comforting, while being light. I love all the different flavors, a good quality vegetable broth in itself has so many layers of flavors, the sweetness from the squash really compliments the sharp bitterness from the little bit of radicchio and the creaminess from the milk and the cheese finish it all off, perfectly. The rich, creaminess from the squash really makes this risotto feel sinful, but you can enjoy it, guilt-free. We served it as our main dish but it is light enough to be a side-dish. If you don’t care for radicchio you could add in baby spinach instead.

Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio
serves 6
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

1 butternut squash (about 4 pounds)
6 cups organic low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups sliced radicchio
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons organic butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2  cups uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
1/4  cup dry white wine (I didn’t have any so I used dry vermouth)
3 tablespoons organic half-and-half or whole milk
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt
3/4 cup  (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard the seeds and membrane. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet; bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until squash is tender. Cool. Peel squash; mash pulp. Set aside 1 1/2 cups pulp, reserving remaining pulp for another use.

Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a large saucepan. Keep warm over low heat. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot in a large pan or dutch oven. Add radicchio; sauté 2 minutes or until wilted. Place radicchio in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each of pepper and salt, set aside. Melt butter in Dutch oven. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add rice; sauté 1 minute. Stir in wine and 1/2 cup broth mixture; cook 3 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of liquid is absorbed before adding the next (about 15 minutes total). Stir in squash pulp. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/4 cups broth mixture (about 9 minutes total). Stir in radicchio mixture and half-and-half. Season to taste with black pepper and kosher salt. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Sprinkle with a bit more cheese and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

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Avgolemono Soup

This classic Greek soup reminds me of both my Mom and my late Yia Yia (Grandma), this is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. The perfect dinner on a cool night or when you have the sniffles. My husband, Mark, swears this is an acquired taste, I have been trying for 7 years to get him to like it, but he just isn’t a fan of the lemon. I personally think the lemon is what makes this soup and the more the better. Growing up in a Greek family, this soup was a winter staple and definitely something I would beg my Mom for when I was feeling under the weather.

I find some soups taste good enough made with store-bought stock, if you don’t have time to make your own, this soup isn’t one of those. It needs homemade stock, made from scratch, cooked for a few hours. It’s the only way. Whenever we make a whole roast chicken, I freeze the bones for stock, I love being able to make my own stock. I usually go very simple with the spices on my roast chicken so whatever is leftover is perfect for making stock with. I personally prefer to make each stock specific for each soup I make, since most times the ingredients that I add to the stock varies to each recipe. 

This soup is a very simple to make, only a few ingredients. I like mine with a lot of fresh ground pepper and the perfect amount of rice. Too much rice and it isn’t brothy enough, too little rice and it’s just not quite right. Some people prefer orzo to rice, but I like the classic white rice much better. If it were possible, I would always have a fresh pot of this soup in the fridge, ready to be warmed up whenever I wanted it. Thickened with eggs and brightened with the lemon, there is really nothing like this. This is my family’s recipe and honestly, have tried other people’s Avgolemeno before and it just isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion.

Chicken Stock

2-3 quarts of water
Bones from a whole roast chicken 3-4 lbs (I prefer organic, free range and without hormones or antibiotics)
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface. I added a bit more water as it was cooking to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve, any meat on the bones can be separated and added back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup. You will probably end up with about 48 ounces of stock when making it homemade (give or take). Use all of it.

Avgolemono Soup
serves 4-6

6 cups homemade chicken stock*
1/2 cup rice
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs
juice from 2 lemons

Bring the stock to a boil, stir in rice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until peaks form. Add in the egg yolks, stir until well blended. Add lemon juice, barely mix, just enough to combine (you don’t want to break the whites).

Slowly ladle the hot soup into your egg mixture until the mixture is warm, stir constantly. You want to do this slowly so as not to cook the eggs to fast. Pour the mixture back into the pot of soup very gently. Taste the soup, salt and pepper to your liking. Ladle into large soup bowls with a lemon wedge on the side, top with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you absolutely must use store-bought chicken stock, you most definitely can. The soup is still very good.

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I have been making some variation of this risotto for years, changing the ingredients around by the season and to what I have on hand, sometimes adding shrimp, scallops or crab meat, sometimes with chicken stock, others with vegetable broth. White wine, peas, mushrooms, squash, there are so many possibilities. Looking at the list of ingredients and directions may seem daunting, but it really is fairly simple. You just need the time to dedicate and a good parking spot in front of your stove. The perfect recipe for a Sunday night.

This particular version of my risotto showcases some of the lovely ingredients in season right now, asparagus, fennel and chives. I thought about adding peas, but I didn’t want to over do it. I recently saw a recipe, on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, where Ina Garten added mascarpone cheese at the end of her risotto to add creaminess. This was the first time I tried it and wow, what a delicious finishing move it is. This will remain a part of my recipe moving forward.

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Springtime Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
Serves 6

1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup fennel, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
6 to 7 cups simmering mushroom broth (I like Pacific Foods Organic Mushroom Broth)
1/2 pound of asparagus
1 cup of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
.5 oz package of dried porcini mushrooms (equals 2 ounces fresh)
1/2 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra for serving
1 small bunch of fresh chives, chopped

Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with warm water. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes or until all the mushrooms are soft and pliable.

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic and a pinch of salt, saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for about 3 to 5 minutes to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter or until the rice is transparent around the edges. Careful not to brown the rice or the vegetables. Add the mushroom broth, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more liquid, just enough to cover the rice and continue stirring or moving as before. This process should take 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1-inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water.

When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto with both the baby bella and the dried mushrooms, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper and the fresh thyme. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.

Whisk the lemon juice and mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture and the Parmigiano Reggiano. Taste and season, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmigiano Reggiano.

And here is the best part – LEFTOVERS!

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When I made the decision to start this blog, I wanted to make sure that I was not only cooking and sharing my recipes that I have been making for years, but to also try new things and new recipes. I came across a wonderful site a few weeks ago, Fresh365, and quickly realized that I would definitely be trying out a lot of her recipes. The site features a collection of fresh, vegetarian recipes as well as beautiful photography.

When I read this recipe I couldn’t wait to make it. I had never had black rice before and I love rice and all of it’s varieties. I wasn’t able to find just plain black rice, but I found something called “Black Japonica” – a blend of Japanese short grain black rice and medium grain mahogany. Between a brand new grain and all of these delicious and beautiful in-season items, I knew that I couldn’t go wrong.

The asparagus was the best I have seen it yet at the market and my chives have been growing like crazy in the yard. The taste of the black and mahogany rice was nutty, mushroom-like and even a little bit sweet. That paired with the bright hints of orange, the crunch of the fresh herbs and pine nuts, made my mouth and mind just explode with thoughts of “fresh” and “spring”. This dish actually made me insanely excited for the upcoming months and for even more fresh vegetables and herbs. I am counting down the days till I can start my veggie and herb gardens again and that time can’t seem to come soon enough. For now delicious dishes like this, taking advantage of the in-season items I can get at the grocery store and at farmers markets, will definitely hold me over.

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Spring Black & Mahogany Rice
Adapted from Fresh365
serves 4

14 oz extra firm tofu, drained and pressed, then cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 1/2 c fresh orange juice (I had 3 oranges and was only able to get 1 c of juice so that’s what I used)
1 T honey
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t salt
1 c Japanese black and mahogany rice
2 c water
4 T olive oil
20 stems asparagus, tough stems discarded, cut into 1” pieces
1 small bunch chives, finely chopped
1 c packed basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
1 T vinegar (I used red wine)
salt & pepper, to taste

Combine pressed tofu, orange juice, honey, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Gently toss to coat tofu. Let sit at least 15 minutes.

In a medium sauce pan, combine black rice and water, over high heat. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer, 40 minutes. Set aside. (I found that I needed to keep adding more water to my rice as it was just soaking it up)

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 T olive oil, over high heat. Add marinated tofu cubes, and cook 8-10 minutes, until golden brown, shaking pan often to avoid sticking. It was taking a bit for the tofu to start browning so I spooned out some of the marinade and allowed the tofu to brown up a bit then added it back in. Add asparagus, and cook 5 minutes, until tender (again shaking pan often).

In a large serving bowl, gently combine tofu and asparagus with rice. Add chives, basil and pine nuts. Drizzle with 2 T olive oil and vinegar. Gently toss and season to taste with salt, pepper and more olive oil, vinegar, citrus or honey, if desired.

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