Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Vegetable Risotto: An Hour Well Spent

Cooking keeps me sane.  So making this slow, intense risotto for dinner tonight was just perfect. 

Risotto is one of those dishes that takes forever to make, and, unfortunately, there is no shortcut around the method.  While I personally equate this to a kind of yoga, I completely understand that not everyone wants to stand in the kitchen pouring and stirring constantly, for thirty minutes straight. However, if you ask me, the end result is worth it!  So, if you're going to make any risotto at all, let it be one that has intense flavors, and is creamy to the last this one.  Earthy farmer's market flavors abound in this Summer Vegetable Risotto.  We didn't hesitate one bit in lapping up our dinner. Enjoy!

Summer Vegetable Risotto

Serves 6

You will need:

1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1 lb fresh zucchini, halved and sliced 1/4" thick
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup finely chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup arborio rice (in a pinch, short-grained rice will do!)
1/4 cup good dry white wine
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup shaved fresh parmesan
optional - chopped fresh parsley
optional - fresh cracked black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the asparagus and zucchini for about 3 minutes, just until crisp tender. Drain into a colander and run cold water over the veggies immediately to stop them from continuing to cook. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat up the vegetable stock in a saucepan and keep simmering nearby.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat, then saute the onions and garlic for about 2-3 minutes, just until onions are translucent. Add arborio rice, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Then add the white wine and stir until it has fully evaporated, about 2 minutes. Then ladle in about 1 cup of the simmering vegetable stock. Stir the rice constantly until the stock has been fully absorbed, about 5 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup more of the stock, stirring until fully absorbed. Repeat this process, adding about 1/2 or 3/4 cup of stock at a time, until all but 1/4 cup of the stock has been added and absorbed into the rice, about 25 minutes total. Add in the asparagus and zucchini and stir for about 1 minute, just until warmed through. Remove risotto from heat, and stir in the butter and parmesan. Last, add the remaining 1/4 cup of vegetable stock and give it a gentle stir. Serve warm, garnished with parsley and freshly cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

Note: I don't add salt, because there usually seems to be enough salt from the cheese and vegetable stock. However, if you must add salt, about 1/2 teaspoon added to the saucepan should do it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hariyali Chicken (Green Chicken Curry)

This one is a very popular North Indian dish that has become a favorite in our house for two reasons: 1) because we love anything green, and 2) because it packs terrific flavor and has the perfect level of spicy-ness! It cooks up easily in a big batch and reheats wonderfully. Do try it.

 Hariyali Chicken (Green Chicken Curry)

Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro
12-14 large mint leaves
2 jalapeno peppers
1/2 of a medium-sized red onion
1 1/2 " piece of ginger root
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup water, plus additional 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2" piece cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
2 cups of boneless chicken breast or thigh, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream, OR 1/4 cup plain yogurt whisked into a smooth consistency
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a food processor, grind together cilantro, mint leaves, jalapeno peppers, red onion, ginger, and garlic, until it forms a fine paste, gradually adding the 1/4 cup of water to it in between mixing. Set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the dry spices and fry for 30 seconds. Then add the green paste and fry for about 2 minutes, until the paste becomes thick and fragrant. Then, add the chicken pieces and mix thoroughly to ensure all pieces are coated well with the green mixture. Add the 1/2 cup of water, and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, let cook uncovered on low for about 20 minutes until the chicken has cooked through and curry has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and stir in the yogurt or heavy cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves if desired, and serve hot with rice or any flatbread. Enjoy! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Avocado Margaritas

An Avocado Margarita. Quite possibly the only thing better than a regular Margarita. Perfect on a warm summer evening. Or pretty much at any time of day or year. I skipped dinner altogether last night, in favor of this easy and deliciously hearty frozen green drink!

Avocado Margaritas

Serves 4

You will need:

1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup margarita mix
2 cups ice
1 avocado
1/2 tablespoon red chili powder
1/2 tablespoon coarse salt

Mix salt and chili powder. Rim four margarita glasses with lime and coat with salt mix. Blend together ice, tequila, margarita mix, and avocado. Pour into glasses. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dreaming of Italy: Prosciutto e Melone (Prosciutto and Melon)

I want to go to Italy. I want to drink Italian wine. I want to eat fresh spaghetti with tomato and basil. I want to sit at a road side café and sip espresso that's as thick as melted chocolate. I want to visit Firenze and stand in awe of the art and architecture of the Renaissance. I want to go to Napoli, and eat authentic Napolitano pizza. I want to stand on a terrace and look out over Rome in all its past and present glory. In short, I want to be Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love and do nothing but eat great food and experience "the sweetness of doing nothing”.

So, until this trip to Italy happens, for now, this will do. My homemade version of a classic Italian savory treat, Prosciutto e Melone. Cantaloupe wrapped in Prosciutto. I added just a touch of basil and balsamic vinegar. We enjoyed this treat tonight, and it was so filling, it was basically dinner!

I can practically hear the sounds of the street by the café. After all, in my head I’m in Italy anyway.

Prosciutto e Melone (Prosciutto and Melon)

Really simple to put together, and this can be made ahead of time. All you need is some Cantaloupe, sliced or balled, thinly sliced Prosciutto, a bit of balsamic vinegar, and some basil (optional). Assemble Prosciutto and Melon as shown, drizzle on some balsamic vinegar, and serve. Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Parsley Yogurt Dressing

Here's a "perfect for the summer" salad dressing alternative. Very quick to make and it stores well in the refrigerator. Perfect over any salad greens, or even just to eat plain (it's all I can do not to finish off the dressing before it makes to the salad bowl). Enjoy!

Summery Parsley Yogurt Dressing

Makes 8 servings

You will need:
2/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 cups plain fat free yogurt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
a pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, until ready to serve. Spoon over any salad greens. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Prosciutto, Fig, and Goat Cheese Pizza

You might already know this, but, according to research, human beings mostly crave three tastes:  salt, sweet, and fat.  Ergo, this Prosciutto, Fig, and Goat Cheese Pizza satisfies the most serious of food cravings.  I triple-dog dare you to try it!

Actually, there is nothing new or revolutionary about this combination of ingredients. However, the saltiness of the prosciutto, the sweetness of figs, and the creamy goat cheese, are simply elevated to new planes of edible joy by putting it all together on a pizza crust, and baking it to toasty, salty, sweet, creamy perfection.
So simple to put together, a three-year old could help make this (maybe not with the oven part of it!)
Do try it.

Prosciutto, Fig, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Serves 2

You will need:
2 10" flatbread or pre-baked pizza crusts
2 very thin strips of prosciutto (substitute with ham if you must), torn into smaller pieces
8 to 10 dried figs, halved
2 heaped tablespoons goat cheese
fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place flatbread or pizza crusts on a cookie sheet, sprinkle the prosciutto and figs on top, then crumble goat cheese over that. Add enough fresh cracked black pepper to suit your taste, then bake at 400 F for 12-13 minutes, or until edges of flatbread/crust turn golden brown. Enjoy!

Note: Fresh figs won't be in season for another month in Washington, so I used dried figs which tasted just as good. Either way, get some figs on it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In Season Dessert: Fresh Blueberry Ice Cream

An ice-cream experiment of epic proportions. I made this last week and served it for dessert when we had some family over. Loyal readers (by the way, thank you for reading!) know that I have sort of an obsession with homemade ice cream (click on the "Desserts" label on the right to read some of my older ice cream posts). But this one just took it to a whole new level. Fresh fruit, sugar, cream...and a few other ingredients contribute to this sweet-treat nirvana of sorts. Do try it.

Fresh Blueberry Ice Cream

You will need:
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Blend blueberries, sugar and lemon juice until pureed. Whisk blueberry puree thoroughly with heavy cream, milk, and evaporated milk, and condensed milk. Pour into shallow airtight freezer safe containers, cover, and freeze for about one and a half hours (until partially set). Remove from freezer, whisk again for at least three or four minutes, then freeze in covered containers again. Repeat this whisking-partial-freezing process at least twice – this action is what allows the ice cream to become creamy and increase in volume. When done, freeze again for at least eight hours or overnight. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pork Chops with Peach Sauce

Summer is almost here, and juicy fresh peaches beckon. One of my favorite fruits, I can enjoy them plain or use them in a sauce, or make salsa with them, and find all versions equally delicious. I love that peaches can be used in sweet or savory interpretations. Pork Chops, on the other hand, are not commonly found on our dinner table, but we will eat them every once in a while - as we did tonight - particularly if they happened to be on sale at the grocery store!
So, this was our easy and quick (I made this in under 20 minutes) dinner to wind down after a weekend of enjoying the sunshine and relaxing. I love the flavor combination of peaches and pork, and this sauce was really, really good! Do try this.

(Note: if you do not eat pork, the same peach sauce can be made and served over chicken. It is just as yummy!)

Pork Chops with Peach Sauce

Serves 4

You will need:
4 boneless pork loin chops
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 peaches, sliced into 8 pieces each
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons honey (brown sugar would be a great substitute, if you prefer that!)
1 tablespoon butter

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the pork chops, then cook them in the skillet on medium heat for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until done. Remove from pan and set aside (keep them warm). Add chopped onions, rosemary and peaches to pan, let cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Then add the white wine and scrape to loosen all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn heat up and let cook until the white wine has evaporated a bit, about one or two minutes. Then add the chicken broth, and cook for another 3 minutes. The sauce will have reduced and thickened a bit by now. Remove from heat, then stir in the butter. Spoon sauce evenly over the four pork chops, and serve warm. Enjoy!