A Seasonal Risotto

53 Comments

I love making dishes that I can add stuff to, like pancakes, yeasted breads, risottos, mashed potatoes… well I guess just about any home-cooked dish! It’s one thing I enjoy and am good at. I didn’t learn creativity in culinary school, since I didn’t attend any cooking school ever. It actually comes from being financially strapped and never wanting to waste anything. Got a carrot? Juice it and put it in a soup, grate it and put it in a meat loaf, purée it and add to potato mash… and so forth.

But also, since I grew up experiencing various cuisines, I figured out that it’s easy to be creative by turning any random dish into an inspired-by cuisine. Take a potato soup, for example. Add chorizo, chipotle, and fresh cilantro and you’ve got a Southwestern-inspired soup. Use ricotta in the potato soup and top it with a spoonful of basil pesto, and you’ve got an Italian-inspired soup. And so forth. Every week you can make a “different” potato soup!

So that’s how I have fun in my kitchen, when I’m not following specific recipes.

Which brings me to risotto. I was looking over old blog posts a while back, and I came upon my Paprika Cream Risotto. It’s just a “plain” risotto with the addition of paprika cream. Simple, yet fabulous. The photos could be updated, of course, but what caught my attention were my own notes on suggestions of seasonal risottos.

Spring: Lemony goat cheese risotto with salmon, peas, and basil

Summer: Tomato and tomatillo risotto with chorizo and cilantro

Fall: Brussels sprouts risotto topped with grilled sausages

Winter: Smoked gouda risotto topped with short ribs and pickled onions

Damn. Those are great ideas! The Italian purists wouldn’t appreciate these recipes, but I have no problem with this kind of inspired cooking. Especially when the outcome is so wonderful!

I decided to start with the spring version, cause it’s spring! Now, this combination isn’t unique for springtime flavors, but they are really good together! Begin with the salmon, then keep the filets warm while you prepare the risotto, then put the final dish together.

After receiving a gift of a variety of fish from my daughter at Christmas from Sitka Salmon Shares, it has become my source for fish; their salmon is perfection.

Easy Sautéed Salmon Filets
Serves 2

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 salmon filets, not steaks
Salt
Finely ground pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it brown slightly.

Season the flesh sides of the filets, then place the filets in the skillet, flesh side up. Cook for about 2 minutes, then gently flip over.

Lower the heat slightly and cook the skin-up filets for a about 4 minutes. At this point you can easily remove the skins using a thin spatula.

Turn them over for one last time so the fish cooks under the skin more, about 2-3 minutes over the lowest heat. Place them on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm, then prepare risotto.

Lemon and Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas
Generously serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Riesling or other non-dry white
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 or 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup prepared green peas (or sliced steamed asparagus if you prefer)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let melt. Add the shallots and sauté for about 4-5 minutes; don’t allow much caramelization.

Add the rice to the pot and stir it around in the butter and shallots until all the grains are coated. Pour in the white wine. Stir as the rice cooks in the wine and it gradually gets absorbed.

Without letting the pot go completely dry, add some of the broth, about 1/3 cup at a time, and repeat the stirring process, without allowing any burning or sticking. Turn down the heat if you think the rice is cooking too fast; it’s always best to go slower. You can see the risotto is cooking but not ready quite yet.

When you’re down to the end of the broth, turn off the heat and gradually fold in 3 ounces of goat cheese until well distributed.

Add the salt and white pepper and taste for seasoning. If you’re satisfied, gently add the peas, lemon juice and zest, cover the pot, and set it aside.

Lemony Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas Served with Salmon

2 tablespoons goat cheese, at room temperature
Lemon zest from 1 lemon
A chiffonade of basil leaves

Strain the reserved butter in the skillet into a small bowl. There should be at least 1 tablespoon of melted browned butter. Add the 2 tablespoons of goat cheese into the butter by gently whisking until smooth. If you don’t like this idea, just put a small dollop of soft goat cheese on each filet before serving.

To serve, divide the risotto into two pasta bowls. Top each serving with a salmon filet. Divide the goat cheese-butter mixture between the filets.

Divide the lemon zest between both servings, and finish with the basil chiffonade.

I loved the goat cheese, lemon, and basil flavors together!

If you’re not familiar with the term salmon “filet,” here are photos of the two most common individual cuts – the thinner filet, and the thicker steak. Filets can be trimmed so their thickness is uniform. Save the scraps!

Thanks to Cooks Illustrated for these photos!

Arancini

62 Comments

Deep frying isn’t something I do routinely, but I’ve always wanted to make arancini, as well as deep-fried Spanish olives. Because of that, I purchased a small electric deep fryer many moons ago. I finally made arancini; the olives are next.

Arancini are savory Sicilian snacks, made from a little ball of risotto, sometimes filled with cheese, and deep fried.

One good thing about making arancini is that leftover risotto can be used, and in fact, is encouraged. But keep it a “plainer” risotto. Risotto with chunks of butternut squash obviously wouldn’t work well.

Classic risotto is perfect. I included some mushroom powder for a bit more flavor.

For the cheese, caciocavallo is recommended. There is a smoked variety of this cheese, but I used non-smoked. Mozzarella is a good substitute.

If used seen photos of traditional arancini, they typically have a smoother breadcrumb coating. Because I used a combination of panko and some fresh breadcrumbs, the coating looks a bit more lumpy. But it still worked!

For  the  Arancini:

1 recipe of risotto, made with about 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
2 beaten eggs
1 cup flour
2 cups breadcrumbs – I used a mixture of fresh bread crumbs and panko
Enough plain oil in which to deep fry the arancini

Start by making the risotto the previous day before serving. I added mushroom powder, some cream, and some Parmesan. Chill the risotto overnight.

To prepare the Arancini, cut up the cheese into small cubes. The size really depends on how big your arancini will be. I used a small cookie scoop, pushed in the cheese, then covered it with more risotto. With the cold risotto, it was easy to mold them into spheres.

Have the bowl with the eggs, flour, and breadcrumbs ready. Take the arancini and dip them in flour, then eggs, then the breadcrumbs. Place on a cookie sheet. When you’re done, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator.

Set up your electric deep fryer and heat the oil to 350 degrees F. Fry about 3 at a time in the basket, and when sufficiently browned, place them on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet. Continue with the remaining arancini.

Serve still hot.

I served these with a truffle aioli.

But you could use a marinara for dipping as well, or a curry ketchup.

My arancini are a little large. I have trouble with fiddly little things, which is why I’m not a cake decorator. But, then you get to bite into a lot of melted cheese….

Risotto with Pork Shanks

41 Comments

On the last season of Masterchef US, season 10, the 4th runner up went home. His name is Noah Sims and he was a favorite. What sent him home was a risotto topped with venison loin. The venison was overcooked, unfortunately for him, but what sent him home was a profound learning experience to me.

Risotto is a dish. It is a meal. It can be enhanced with an endless number of ingredients, from mushrooms to tomatoes and squash, and seasoned accordingly. It also can be served with protein of just about any kind, for a more involved meal. However, the protein is a separate dish from the risotto.

So, you have risotto, and the added protein, and according to Joe Bastianich, the son of Italian cuisine expert Lidia Bastianich, something has to tie them together. Otherwise it’s like serving a chili dog on a plate of cacio de pepe. (not his quote.) Two completely different dishes.

What Mr. Bastianich suggested was that if Noah had been able to prepare a venison stock to use in the risotto, the overall meal would have worked.

I found this to be quite revelatory. Because although my husband doesn’t mind, I’ve put just about any kind of meat or seafood over his risotto. Now, they have to “go” together. Now I know.

So I created this risotto dish topped with braised pork chops in order to use pork broth in the risotto. Start in the morning, and don’t plan on serving the dish until the next day.

Braised Pork Shanks
4 servings

4 – 1 1/2 pound Berkshire pork shanks
Salt
Pepper
Grapeseed oil, about 1/4 cup total
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
3 cups white wine
3 cups chicken broth
Parsley
Bay leaves
Rosemary branch
Thyme branch
Sprig of sage

Begin by coating the pork with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a heavy cast-iron pot over high heat. Brown the tops and bottoms of all four shanks, one at a time.

After browning, place the shanks in a large, deep and heavy pot, like a Le Creuset; set aside.

Turn down the heat under the pot to medium. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots for about 5 minutes, stirring up all of that meaty goodness.

Stir in the garlic for a minute, then add the wine and broth.

Add all of the herbs to the pot with the broth. Heat up the liquid in the pot, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes. Then cover the pot well and cook for 30 more minutes.

Let the liquid cool enough to handle the pot, then strain the liquid through a fine colander into the pot with the shanks. Add more wine or broth if necessary. The meat should just be covered.

At this point you can check the seasoning. The broth should be rich with flavor.

Place the pot over a medium-high heat and simmer the shanks for 2 1/2 hours. Turn the shanks over halfway through cooking.

When you’re ready to collect the pork broth and proceed with the risotto, remove the shanks and place in a baking dish. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Taste the broth. If it’s watery, spend at least 30-45 minutes reducing it. Store it in a pourable pot, then make the risotto (recipe below).

 

[/print_this]

 

3-Onion Tart with Taleggio

66 Comments

Everyone is familiar with Italian Parmesan, but is everyone familiar with Taleggio?!


According to “House of Cheese,” by the Di Bruno Bros, owners of the famous, “pioneering specialty food retailer and importer that began with a modest shop in the now-iconic South Philadelphia Italian Market in 1939, “Taleggio is the all-time gateway stinker.” (Which is exactly why I like it!)

Furthermore from the book, “It can be a bit whiffy, but mostly it’s just a bulging cushion of mushroomy lushness encased in a thin orange crust. The Italians have popularized this washed-rind cheese in a way that no other culture has dared. While the Germans have Limburger and the French have Epoisses, both of these robust cheeses tend to freak out the American palate; leave it to the Italians to popularize their ticks little beefcake.”

In a different book, called “A Cheesmonger’s Seasons,” Taleggio is used in both polenta and risotto recipes. But you can simply spread it on warm bread and enjoy. Warning, though, it is on the salty side.

This 3-onion tart is a foolproof recipe. How do I know? Because I didn’t read the recipe through, which is the first thing you learn about following recipes, right?!

This is actually supposed to be more like a crostata or galette, with the sautéed 3=onion mixture actually a topping, not a filling. And I’ve made this tart before!

But as it is with home cooking, it all worked.

Three-Onion Tart with Taleggio
Torta di Tre Cipolle con Taleggio
printable recipe below

Crust
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1/3 cup cold milk

Tart Filling/Topping/Whatever
3 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks, about 2 medium leeks
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced green onions
1 large egg, beaten to blend
8 ounces Taleggio, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

For the crust, mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Add egg and oil to well. Pour melted butter and milk into well. Mix ingredients in well, gradually incorporating flour until a dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Form into ball. Wrap in a kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

To prepare the onions, combine the leeks and oil in a large, non-stick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring frequently. This will take about 15 minutes.

Stir in the red onion and green onions. Sauté uncovered until all onions are very tender, about 25 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.

Cool the onion mixture, then mix in the egg and Taleggio.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, forming a 13″ round. Transfer to a large, rimless baking sheet. Fold outer 1″ of dough over, forming a double-thick rim. Like a galette?!!!

Spread the onion mixture evenly over crust. Since I hadn’t added the blobs of Taleggio to the onions, (ooops), i placed some on the pastry crust, and the rest on the top.

Bake tart 10 minutes. Sprinkle Parmesan over the tart and bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Let set for a while before slicing.

I served mine with a simple salad of tomatoes.


This tart is fabulous. It would be just as good as a galette, and probably more fun to eat! I love galettes for their rusticity.

The crust for this is a perfect recipe. And now I know why I had so much leftover! Cause this tart wasn’t supposed to be in a 9″ pie pan!

But the combination of the onions with the Taleggio and Parmesan? Out of this world. Make this however you wish. It will be perfect.

 

 

Couscous Risotto with Scallops

56 Comments

The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is crushed wheat, a staple in North African countries. Risotto is an Italian dish made with specific rice varieties, like Arborio.

I discovered a beautiful, tri-color couscous, and decided to turn it into a creamy risotto-of-sorts topped with seared and spicy scallops, just for fun. I assume from the size of the couscous “pearls,” that this is an Israeli couscous.

For the spiciness on the scallops, I’m using a favorite product by Penzey’s called Red and Black. It’s a mixture of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Couscous Risotto with Scallops

1 pound scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black and Red Pepper
Bacon grease, or grape seed oil, about 3 tablespoons total
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups broth, approximately
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

First rinse and dry the scallops. Season with salt and the red and black pepper; if you don’t want them spicy, use sweet paprika.

Heat bacon grease in a large, cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. You’ll have to sear the scallops in two batches.

When your grease is hot, add half of the scallops. Cook them about 2 minutes on the first side, till they’re well browned.

Turn the scallops over and reduce the heat at the same time. This will help cook the scallops through.

After another 3 minutes or so, test them with your tongs. As soon as there’s some firmness, remove them to a paper towel. Continue with the remaining scallops, first heating grease (adding more if necessary) over the highest heat.

When cooked properly, scallops should be soft and glistening.

To make the risotto, heat the grape seed oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft.

Pour in the couscous and stir it around until all of the pearls are glistening.

Then, just as with risotto, add some broth and stir it in well, continuing with the broth until it’s all done. This should only take about 15 minutes.

Pour in the cream and salt. Give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then cover the pot and remove it from the heat.

Remove the lid after 10 minutes and let the couscous cool slightly.

Place the risotto in a shallow serving bowl, then add the scallops, tucking them into the risotto.

Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, cause I like spicy.

The couscous risotto really came out superb. Creamy and soft, but the pearls hold their shape.

I really love my concocted dish!


And then imagine this dish with borage flowers sprinkled on top, because they were meant to be there 😬.

Tomato Mushroom Risotto

72 Comments

Risotto is one of those dishes that I love to make because I never make it the same way. It’s what I love to do as a cook – improvise!

Typically I use butter, aromatics, wine, broth, and finish with cream and/or cheese.

But the add-in options are practically endless. I’ve used chopped tomatoes, grated zucchini, pesto, canned pumpkin, and carrot juice. It all works. I’ve even made risotto with Thai flavors. Who says risotto must only have Italian flavors? Well, some people might, but I’m 63% Italian, so I stand my ground.

There are two reasons that this risotto is unique. One reason is that I’m using tomato powder.

I posted a while back on the book Spice Companion, where I learned to make tomato powder simply from oven-dried tomatoes.

The other special ingredient is mushroom powder, which is a seasoned mixture of ground dried mushrooms. I found the recipe on Tandy Sinclair’s blog called Lavender and Lime.

I didn’t follow her recipe exactly, shown below, only because Tandy included rosemary and thyme and I wanted the mushroom powder more generic in flavor.

My version had garlic pepper, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper plus salt in a variety of wild dried mushrooms that I ground using a dry blender jar.

So here’s how I made this risotto.

Tomato Mushroom Risotto

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1 1/4 cup Arborio rice
Big splash of Riesling or Pinot Gris or Graves
Chicken broth, mildly flavored, approx. 2 1/2 cups
1 heaping tablespoon tomato powder
1 tablespoon mushroom powder
Salt, to taste
Grated Parmesan, optional

Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots and sauté slowly; don’t allow much browning.

Add the rice and stir well for a minute. All of the grains should be coated with butter.

Add some wine and stir in well.

Then begin adding the broth, a little at a time and stir well after each addition. Stirring is an important part to the resulting creaminess of the risotto.

As you’re continuing to add broth and stir the rice, find that special position on the stove where the liquid isn’t cooking off too fast, but the fire isn’t so low that cooking stops.

When the rice has absorbed just about all of the liquid it can, add the tomato and mushroom powders and stir well.


Continue adding broth, water, or even some cream, until the rice is fully cooked. Taste for salt.

I personally love white pepper in risottos, but I didn’t want it to overpower the tomato and mushroom flavors.

To serve, I added a bit of grated Parmesan. Feta cheese would be good as well.

Plus I sprinkled on a few parsley leaves just for color.

The tomato and mushroom flavors in this risotto really sing. Grilled steak or chicken could be added, or maybe some braised short ribs. But I will always have tomato powder and mushroom powder in my seasoning arsenal.

Risotto-Stuffed Tomatoes

42 Comments

Recently I was browsing through a little cookbook I’d been gifted, Risotto, published by Williams-Sonoma.

It’s a sweet, unassuming cookbook, only 119 pages, published in 2002. The first chapter covers classic risottos, and following chapters discuss vegetable, meat, seafood, and even dessert risottos. It’s a great cookbook, especially if you’re a risotto virgin.

For me, risotto has never been a big deal. The main reason is that I’ve never been fearful of cooking. It’s not because I’m fearless, it’s because I was naïve!

When I began cooking regularly 40 years ago, I had no idea that certain recipes might be complicated or challenging. I just dove in head first and started learning and cooking.

Not to say that risotto is hard to make, because it isn’t. But yes, you have to give it some attention. And it involves standing at the stove for about an hour.

I know “quick and easy” meals will always be popular, but anyone can make an outstanding and satisfying dish like this mushroom risotto.

In this W-S cookbook I saw a recipe for baked risotto-stuffed tomatoes, and with my ripe garden tomatoes and herbs, I knew that this would be a really nice side dish for some grilled chicken, white fish, or even steak.

And, you can even use leftover risotto for this dish, instead of making risotto first.

Risotto-Stuffed Tomatoes
Slightly Adapted

6 ripe but firm tomatoes, about 8 ounces each
Salt
Risotto, freshly prepared or leftover
1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
Chopped fresh parsley
Chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8″ baking dish.

Cut the top off each tomato. With a small spoon, carefully scoop out the insides, leaving walls thick enough for the tomato to hold its shape.

Reserve the pulp.

Salt the inside of each tomato and turn them upside down on paper towels to drain for 5 minutes.

In a food processor, purée the tomato pulp until smooth. I used the processed pulp as part of my risotto liquid, and seasoned the risotto with dried sweet basil, salt, and white pepper.

The tomato purée added a lovely peachy hue to the risotto.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and garlic; set aside.

Put the tomatoes in the prepared dish and fill the tomatoes with the risotto, patting it down.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the tomatoes are softened, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the foil, and top the tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture.

Turn on the broiler and place the tomatoes 4″ from the heat source. Broil until the tops are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

Serve at once.

I sprinkled chopped parsley and a chiffonade of basil over the top of these stuffed tomatoes.

Cutting open a tomato was a delight, with the risotto’s fragrance emanating from inside.

Just a little salt and some cayenne pepper… or not.

This was perfection. And just to make sure the risotto-stuffed tomato was really good, I had a second one. But they would make a lovely side dish!

Crispy Beet Risotto Cakes

58 Comments

Crispy Beet Risotto

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.

beet-ris-20-of-28

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.

beet-ris-27-of-28

Crispy Beet Risotto Cakes

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.

beet-ris-1-of-28

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 simmmring 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.

beet-ris-6-of-28

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.

beet-ris-9-of-28

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

beet-ris-10-of-28

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!

beet-ris-15-of-28

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.

beet-ris-18-of-28

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.

beet-ris-28-of-28

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 crisping 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.

beet-ris-25-of-28

Risotto with Bacon and Peas

61 Comments

When I prepare meat, it’s usually for my husband.  I don’t dislike meat, I just prefer avocados, and fish.  I even eat tofu.  On a special occasion I will certainly enjoy a good filet with my guy, but it’s just too heavy for me.

So this lovely spring risotto with peas and a little bacon is a perfect meal for me.  For my husband it’s a side dish!

But however you eat it, it’s  a great risotto.  Make sure you use a really good bacon.

IMG_7425

Risotto with Bacon and Peas

8 ounces bacon, diced
3 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Heavy cream
8 ounces frozen petite peas, thawed
5-6 ounces grated Parmesan

Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet.

When it’s cooked, spoon it out of the bacon grease using a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the hot grease into a pot to make the risotto. Add the shallots and sauté them in the bacon grease until soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice until every grain is coated with the grease. Stir for about a minute.

Then add a big splash of wine and stir the rice until the wine is absorbed. Then proceed with adding a little of the broth at a time, always stirring until it gets absorbed by the rice.

IMG_7380

After adding all of the stock, add a little cream a few times and stir well.

After about 30 minutes, the risotto should be cooked and stop absorbing liquid. At this point stir in the peas, bacon and Parmesan. Stir gently to combine and let heat through.

 

Serve immediately. You can always serve extra Parmesan as well.

I used no seasoning in this risotto to let the flavors shine. But you should taste it for salt and pepper definitely.

IMG_7403

I added a tarragon sprig from my plant that has fortunately returned to my garden this spring.

If you want seasoning, I would recommend nutmeg or white pepper. Or both!

IMG_7424

Now doesn’t this look like a perfect spring meal?! With a little white wine of course!

Luxurious Short Ribs

67 Comments

Short ribs are fatty beef ribs, cut literally into short pieces. They sometimes referred to as flanken style, to differentiate them from spare ribs.

rib

When short ribs are braised, the meat becomes soft, tender, and velvet-like.

Similar to pulled pork, the tender texture of prepared short ribs is why I love this cut of meat. Plus, you serve the meat with the accompanying red wine-based reduction that is rich and flavorful. Once prepared, these ribs pair perfectly with a potato mash, polenta, or risotto, for an extra-special meal.

I chose risotto for my “side,” and decided to make it green using spinach. The combination of short ribs and risotto is a meal you could have at an upscale restaurant, for which you would pay dearly! But short ribs are truly simple to make. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive – not what you’d think from the menu price!

ribs3

Braised Short Ribs

Approximately 5 pounds of short ribs
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Flour, about 5 tablespoons
Olive oil for browning the ribs
2 onions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups beef broth
1 bottle red wine
2-3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons paprika creme
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste

Season the meat with the salt and pepper, then toss in the flour in a large bowl.

When you’re ready to start cooking, heat some oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the ribs on all sides, no more than four at a time. Turn the ribs with tongs and brown all sides.

Place the ribs in a large bowl and continue with the remaining short ribs. Add a little more oil if necessary, and make sure to bring the oil to high heat before the browning process.

rib5

Turn down the heat to medium, and add the chopped onion. Sauté the onion for a few minutes, stirring as necessary. Add the garlic and bay leaves, and stir until you smell the garlic.

Add the broth and wine and stir well. Bring the liquid to a soft boil, then reduce the heat and cook the liquid for at least 15 minutes.

rib8

Place the browned ribs in the liquid – ideally they are all submerged in the liquid.

Cover the pot, lower the heat, and simmer for about two hours, occasionally moving around the ribs in the liquid.

rib11

After cooking, the sauce has reduced slightly, and the meat should be falling off of the ribs. Let everything cool slightly.

rib22

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, place the ribs in a bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.

rib33

The next day, remove the Dutch oven from the refrigerator and remove the grease from the top of the sauce. There will be grease.

rib99

Warm the sauce a little on the stove, and then, using a hand immersion blender, blend the sauce to thicken it. If it’s still too thin, reduce for 30 minutes or so. Then blend in the paprika creme and tomato paste, and taste for saltiness.

Remove the rib meat from the bones, and place the meat in the sauce. Heat gently and slowly.

rib66

When the meat has heated through, serve the ribs with spinach risotto or your desired side dish(es).

ribs

For a bit less traditional dish of short ribs, add cumin to the spices and use a generous amount of ancho chile paste, and serve these short ribs over cheddar grits.

ribs1

Or, add hoisin sauce and chili paste for a Chinese-inspired dish served with cellophane noodles or grilled vegetables!

ribs2

Leftover short ribs are wonderful in quesadillas and sandwiches, so get creative with this luxurious meat!

ribs5

As you can see, the short rib meat is tender, and smothered in the rich sauce. A perfect meal for a winter day.

ribs4

For the accompanying risotto, I simply added chopped fresh spinach towards the end of the cooking time, before the grated Parmesan. I also used some white pepper, which is optional.