Smoked Trout and Shrimp Pate´

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Although I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, I probably would have balked at the idea of smoked trout, until I actually had it. And it’s spectacular.

Our younger daughter went to summer camp outside of Estes Park, Colorado two years in a row, and one time when we dropped her off, we stayed in cabins on a large, beautiful property. There were hiking trails and a large fish pond. They sold their own trout they smoked themselves on property.

The smoked trout was so good that we brought a bunch home in the ice chest. I just ate the smoked trout like one would enjoy kipper snacks – on crackers.

When I discover the paté recipe, shown below, I’m glad I didn’t hesitate to make it. It’s wonderful, in an unexpected way. I’m guessing this was cut out of Gourmet magazine, but I can’t find it online anywhere to confirm.

As the recipe states, cutouts of pumpernickel bread are fabulous, but so are any hearty crackers.

The recipe uses both smoked trout and baby shrimp, both of which I found canned.



The recipe is so easy because it utilizes a food processor for the room temperature cream cheese, lemon zest, trout, and shrimp.

Then it’s just a matter of folding in the green onion; I saved the capers to serve separately.

Serve the paté at room temperature.

Serve it with breads, crackers, and veggie sticks.

If you make individual canapes with the paté, buy an extra can of shrimp and put one baby shrimp on top of each canapé.

And don’t overprocess the mixture in the food processor. You want some texture.

You can serve the paté in a serving bowl with a server, or mold it in a bowl the day before serving and unmold onto a platter.

Crispy Beet Risotto

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My husband and I were dining with friends in Colorado recently, at a restaurant called Justice Snow’s in Aspen. It was quite bustling and busy, which means that for me, it was loud and everyone had to yell to be heard.

I was very excited about the menu, however, and without hesitation I ordered trout. Our friend ordered the roasted chicken served with crispy beet risotto, english peas, charred turnips, carrots, spiced yogurt, and ver jus.

While enjoying our cocktails, we talked at length about how the beets were prepared “crispy” in the risotto, but all of our profound thoughts were put to rest when he got his meal. The beet risotto was made crispy by frying it like a cake. Fortunately I got to taste it, and I knew then I wanted to make it at home.

It was especially tempting to recreate because I’ve never used beets in a risotto, and I thought I’d used about all vegetables, from carrots to pumpkin to zucchini and tomato. It’s probably because my husband doesn’t eat beets, and he’s the big risotto eater in our family.
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So here’s what I did. If you need a more complete risotto tutorial, check our my mushroom risotto. It’s similar to this one because it uses bits of things as well as special liquid – in this case – beet juice.
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Crispy Beet Risotto

Whole beets from a can, about 5-6 small
Reserved beet juice, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely choppped
1 1/4 cup risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White or red wine, about 1/3 cup
Chicken Broth, about 1 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Drain the whole beets and save the juice.

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Then finely chop the beets into bits and set aside.

Begin the risotto by heating the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes, then add the rice.

Stir well until all of the rice grains are coated with oil. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Adjust the heat so there’s simmmering but no burning. Then gradually add 1/4 cup or so of chicken broth and stir until it’s absorbed, and repeat with the remaining broth.

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At this point, add amount of beet juice that suits you; I used about 1/4 cup.

After a few minutes, add the beet bits.

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Continue to stir gently. Once just about alll of the liquid is absorbed, add the cream and cheese. Stir to combine, then set the risotto to cool slightly.

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The cakes can be made free-form, but I used a 3 1/2″ ring. Smaller cakes would be really pretty for a dinner party, because they could be re-heated.

Heat a little olive oil (or butter) to a flat skillet. Add some risotto to fill the ring and cook over fairly high heat to get the risotto crispy.

Gently turn over the risotto cake and brown/crisp the other side. This was much more difficult than I anticipated. Although I used a small amount of cheese in this risotto, it was probably still too much and created some sticking in the skillet.

I served the risotto cake with a filet of salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts, just for the spectacular colors!

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Just for fun I added a little Mexican crema to the risotto cake, and sprinkled some chopped chives on top.


In spite of my problems cooking the cakes, they cut into bite-sized pieces nicely, and were delicious.
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If you don’t want to bother making the cakes, I can honestly state that this is one of the best risottos I’ve ever made! And it’s not overwhelmingly beety.

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note: In my memory of our friend’s crispy beet risotto, I think the risotto “cake” was white, with bits of beets. What the chef probably did was omit the beet juice, and add the beet bits at the very last minute before crispig the cakes. Personally, I don’t mind the bright magenta color, and the beet juice probably added more flavor. But if you don’t want hot fuschia risotto cakes, do leave out the beet juice and use some more broth instead.

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Baked Tomatillo Brie

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I wish I’d come up with this recipe myself. And I should have. I mean, I love baked brie, and I love tomatillos. But typically, brie is topped with a pear chutney, a cranberry sauce, or even honey. The sweetness pairs so well with the creamy, warm brie.

But when I think of it, tomatillos are sweet also! Which is probably why cookbook author Eugenia Bone swooned when she first ate a baked tomatillo brie. She credits her friend, a proclaimed tomatillo “queen,” with the original recipe.

I’ve written about two of Ms. Bone’s books now, one a cookbook entitled Well Preserved, which contains this brie recipe, and the other, more of a memoir with recipes, entitled at Mesa’s Edge.

So back to this baked tomatillo brie recipe, I happened to have a brie in the freezer, left over from the holidays. I thought it was a good time to see if brie can maintain its quality once thawed. It’s been 6 months. So this was a perfect time to try out this recipe! Even though I really don’t need any reason to bake a brie….

Baked Tomatillo Brie
adapted from Well Preserved

1 onion
2 Poblano peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
4 cloves garlic
2 pounds fresh tomatillos
A few sprigs of fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to a “roast” setting, or at least 400 degrees Farenheit.

Peel the onion and slice it into wedges. Place them in a large roasting pan.
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Remove the stems from the chile peppers and chop them up into uniform pieces. Place those over the onions.
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Remove the peels from the tomatillos.
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Give them a gentle warm water rinse to remove any stickiness. Dry them, then cut them into equal pieces and place in the pan. Mine were on the average size, so I cut them into sixths.
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Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, and give them a sprinkle of salt.

Roast everything until nice and browned. Let cool.
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Once cool, place everything from the roasting pan into a blender jar or food processor. Add a little cilantro.
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Blend until it’s the consistency you like; I prefer to have some texture.

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To be fair, there is no oil in Ms. Bone’s recipe, and no cilantro. I just can’t use tomatillos without at least a little bit a fresh cilantro. I kept it to a small amount, so this sauce stayed a sauce, and didn’t turn into a salsa.

What I did omit from Ms. Bone’s tomatillo sauce recipe was lemon juice. I just didn’t think it was necessary. Tomatillos, to me, are already lemony.

In Ms. Bone’s recipe, she simply let a ripe Brie come to room temperature. Then she poured the tomatillo sauce over the top. She didn’t specify if the sauce was hot or at room temperature.

My brie won’t be that runny, I know, because it’s not extremely ripe. Plus, it was frozen at one time. So I’ll be heating mine up to get that runniness that so typefies a baked brie. And the sauce will be hot as well. And instead of baking? I’m using my microwave.

Place the room temperature brie on a microwave-safe serving platter. Pour over the desired amount of tomatillo sauce. Heat in the microwave. I did this gradually, taking advantage of the power controls, because I didn’t want to “cook” the brie.

Serve with chips – I used a fun roasted red bell pepper-flavored variety.


And then, break open the brie and watch magic happen.
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The mix of the warm brie and tomatillo sauce was absolutely perfect. You’ll just have to make your own to discover this fabulous flavor combination.

And the brie? I would never have guessed that it had previously been frozen. Which is really good to know. Don’t ever throw brie away!!!

Pine Nuts

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Pine nuts are a very interesting little nut, that actually do grow on pine trees. They’re also known as pignolias, and are common in Italian cuisine, especially for being a major player in basil pesto.

Oddly enough, pine nuts are also common in Mexican and Southwestern cuisines, which is how I first heard about them. And this is only because the piñon pine from which these nuts are harvested, are common in parts of Mexico as well as the Southwestern part of the United States. And, these pines grow in Italy, too, which explains everything. It’s all about what grows locally, isn’t it?!!

I used to live in Utah many years ago, and there’s a variety of piñon pine that grows in the mountains there, as well as in Colorado, that produces pine nuts. If you’re ever in that part of the country, take advantage of the lower prices for their freshly picked pine nuts. When they’re that fresh, they smell of pine. It’s fabulously stimulating to eat the fresh piney pine nuts.

Lots of people use pine nuts as is, but I like to toast mine. In fact, I use toasted nuts when I make pesto, although I have the impression that this is looked down upon by the Italians. I just prefer the flavor that toasting provides; it enhances the nut flavor. This is true with all nut varieties. If you leave them untoasted when adding them to pestos, they’re simply a thickener, and not an addition to the overall flavor profile. It’s a personal preference.

I love to use toasted pine nuts on top of salads and pastas. If you’ve never toasted pine nuts before, it’s extremely easy. It doesn’t take any time at all, which is why you have to be vigilant during the process.

Here’s what you do:

Place a single layer of pine nuts in a skillet.
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Heat the skillet to medium-high heat. The skillet must be hot, but you don’t want the nuts to burn. You know your stove best. Adjust the heat accordingly. I’m using a skillet that takes a while to pre-heat. So there will be a little time, maybe about 4 minutes, before I can smell some toasting happening.

Alternatively, pre-heat your skillet and then add the nuts. It makes no difference in the long run.

As soon as you smell the toasting, stand at your stove and do not leave. Begin moving the pine nuts around. You can flip them, using the skillet, if you’re good at that. If not, just move the skillet around vigorously, or use a tool of some kind to get the nuts moving around on all sides. You don’t just want one side of the nuts to toast.
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As soon as the nuts are toasted to your satisfaction, remove them to a plate to cool. And don’t touch them until you are sure they are cooled off. Hot nuts burn.

After they’re toasted and cooled, store them in a sealable bag in the refrigerator. They will keep for quite a while. But always smell the nuts before using. Because of the oily content of pine nuts, they can become rancid quite quickly.

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