Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dare to Prepare - Risotto

Do you think Risotto is hard to make?  Have you only ordered it in a restaurant because you’ve heard how “time consuming” it is. Do you read a recipe, or look at it and think, “there is no way I can make this”…  If you’ve never had it, Risotto is a creamy delicious rice dish made usually from Superfino Arborio rice, but it can also be made with Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rices.  Basically it’s a short, fat, oval-shaped rice that has a higher starch content than most rices.  You could try to use a short grain rice, and would get a semi-risotto result, but as always, it’s best to use the right ingredient to get the right results.
So why do people think it’s so mysterious and difficult.  Well, first you have to get the right rice, the best one to use is Superfino (which is just the largest grain size) Arborio rice.  Originally all Arborio rice was cultivated in Italy but now it is also grown in California and Texas.  Anyway, not hard anymore to find Arborio rice in you supermarket,  no need to go to a specialty store, or you can easily buy it on-line.  A number of sites sell it including  Rice problem solved.

Then there is this part of all the recipes that say to bring the stock to a simmer and keep it warm on the stove,  then you add the stock just a bit at a time to get each addition to be absorbed into the rice before adding more.  Well, I learned a trick from my boarders.  Each year we host riders from Italy who, as a part of a professional racing team sponsored by Colavita USA and Sutter Home Winery, ride in the Amgen Tour of California.  They love to cook with me, and for me and my family as a way of saying thank you.  One of the things they love to make is, (want to take a guess?) yes, risotto.  And guess what?  They don’t heat the broth.  They cook the risotto over a higher heat and add the broth, just at room temperature, straight from the box.  When I make it, I do heat the broth, but I’m using homemade chicken stock, and I don’t like to leave that at room temperature.  But the boxed stuff works just fine in a risotto.   Also when I make it, I add half of all of the broth right at the start, and let it simmer away, stirring only occasionally. giving me time to do other stuff.

Then there’s that expensive pinch of saffron in the recipe for Risotto Milanese.  Well, if you look for them, you can find deals on saffron that WON”T break the bank.  And it is only a pinch.  I get mine at Trader Joes, for about $2.99.

Risotto is very versatile and I make many different variations.  Some, such as my Green Thai Seafood Risotto, are a meal by themselves.  So LindySez, come on, break out that wide deep saute pan and let’s make some risotto.

Here’s the basic recipe to get you started:

Risotto Milanese

  • 6 to 8 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken stock (preferably homemade) you may not need all of the broth
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 large pinch saffron (put this in a small bowl with about 2 tablespoons of the wine)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat the broth in a small saucepan and keep warm.
  2. In a large high sided saute pan or risotto pan, heat the oil over medium heat; add the onions and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, mix well to coat; saute until the edges turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cook, stirring until evaporated. Add 2 cups of the broth (about 4 ladles full); simmer, stirring occasionally, until absorbed. Add the saffron and a pinch of salt, then start adding the liquid 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well and adding more broth only when the last addition has been absorbed. Continue to add liquid until the rice is tender (although a little firm to the tooth); about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the butter and cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings; add a little more liquid if you like a looser risotto.
  3. Per Serving: 355 Calories; 11g Fat (3g Sat, 6g Mono, 1g Poly); 10g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 825mg Sodium.
Risotto with Asparagus

OK…that’s the basic recipe.  Now think about what you could add.  How about some peas?  Add them about the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Or some Asparagus, that’s how Davide Frattini loved it.  Blanch them and add them also about the last 5 minutes of cooking.  During the summer months when corn is fresh and delish, I love to take it off the cob and add it to the risotto.  Sear some scallops or shrimp and put it on the top and voila, dinner.

Here’s one that I love to serve with my Indonesian Pork Tenderloin

Carrot-Ginger Risotto

  • For the stock:
  • 4 cups vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, chopped, green and white parts kept separate
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • For the Risotto:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup sake, mirin (a sweet rice wine) or white wine
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt cheese (to make yogurt cheese, take non-fat or low-fat plain yogurt and put it into a fine colander with either paper towels or a coffee filter. Set it over a container to collect the moisture and allow it to drain for 6 hours or overnight, but I have done this in as short as an hour, while not “cheese” it’s still lost a lot of liquid. Scoop the “cheese” out of the filter) or use Greek style yogurt or heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Put the broth, sliced ginger, scallion greens and orange juice into a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat; turn the heat to medium low and simmer gently for 15 minutes then turn off the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve; discarding the solids. Return the broth to the pan and keep warm.
  2. In a 3 – 4 quart wide sided pan or risotto pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the whites of the scallion along with the carrot, grated ginger and orange zest, until the scallion is limp, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until well coated; saute until it turns translucent around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sake (or mirin or white wine) and cook and stir until it evaporates.
  4. Using a ladle, add 1 cup of broth (a standard ladle holds about 1/2 cup liquid); cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add another ladle of liquid and repeat, stirring in each addition of liquid before adding the next. Once the rice is creamy and tender, add the yogurt (or cream) stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, adding a little more liquid if you like your risotto looser.
Slow-Braised Short Ribs and this Red Wine and Rosemary Risotto are a perfect pair.

Red Wine and Rosemary Risotto

  • 1 quart low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallot (or finely chopped onion)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (if the stems are tender you can chop them as well, but if woody, remove the leaves and use only them)
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter, to finish
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

  1. In a sauce pan combine the stock with 1 cup water; heat until hot – keep warm.
  2. In a deep wide pan or risotto pan, heat the olive oil and butter together until the butter is melted; add the shallot and saute for a few minutes; add the rosemary and rice; saute until the rice is slightly translucent around the edges,, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the wine; simmer briskly, stirring, until the wine is absorbed. Add 2 cups of the stock; simmer briskly (not a boil, just a very fast simmer), stirring occasionally until the stock has been absorbed. Add a pinch of salt along with about 1/2 cup liquid (1 standard ladle); simmer and stir until the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding liquid I/2 cup at a time, allowing each to absorb into the rice before adding more; until the rice is just tender and creamy looking (you may not have to use all the liquid). Taste the risotto, the rice should be tender but still firm. Add the butter and salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Add a little more broth if you like your risotto looser.
Getting the idea?  Good.  Now here’s one that’s a meal on it’s own.

Red Curry Seafood Risotto

  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (or if frozen thawed)
  • 1/2 pound large sea scallop, cut into quarters, or bay scallops (do not cut if using bay scallops)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 2 cups reduced sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk (light coconut milk is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste (such as Thai Kitchen) or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons premium fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup sweet white wine (a Gewurztraminer is perfect and also drinks nicely when you serve this)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (if frozen, do not thaw)
  • 1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces and blanched (blanching, if you don’t know, if throwing the veggie or whatever into boiling water and then removing it and running cold water over it to stop it from cooking anymore – it helps retain the veggies natural color) for 2 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

  1. Reserve 4 shrimp for the top. Slice the rest into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Saute the whole shrimps in 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small fry pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth, coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar and fish sauce. Put over low heat and bring just to a simmer, do NOT boil. Keep warm.
  3. In a 2 quart high sided saute pan or risotto pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic, saute 30 seconds. Add the rice and saute until the rice becomes toasty and slightly translucent around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Add 2 cups of the broth and simmer, stirring occasionally until absorbed, continue adding liquid, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until it has been absorbed; until the rice is al dente, about 20 – 25 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp pieces, scallop, peas and green beans. Stir and cook until seafood is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add a little liquid if necessary to keep the rice creamy. All the liquid may not be used. Place in warm bowls, top with reserved shrimps and sprinkle with cilantro and mint. Serve immediately.
LindySez: See nothing to be afraid of.  Now raise your hand if you’re going to give risotto a try.  Good for you!  Cheers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crabby Ideas

Cristina asked:  “Dungeness crab season is here. I don’t like to eat them whole, so I buy the meat right here off the boat in Ilwaca, never frozen. Do you have a suggestion for a gratin, in individual one portion dishes? I have a dinner coming up and thought to serve that as an appetizer. Have eaten so much of it in salads and crab roles, need a change. Thanks”

LindySez: Dungeness crab is so sweet, I love it when it’s in season.  I have a couple of suggestions; these can be made with Dungeness or any nice lump meat crab.  Use whatever is local to you…

I invented this one for a dinner party.  While you could serve it without the caviar, I highly recommend you use it.  It adds a nice depth of flavor and special occasion feel to it.  This goes beautifully with a nice off dry Rose Brut Champagne or Sparkling Wine.

Smoked Salmon and Crab Cakes with Caviar

  • 2 ounces smoked salmon, lightly flaked (not Norwegian style lox, but the Alaskan cold smoked kind)
  • 6 ounces lump crab meat (I use Dungeness crab) , checked for shells*
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced fine
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced fine
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dill weed, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups panko, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream, or creme fraiche
  • 1 ounce fine quality caviar

  1. Saute the bell pepper and onion in a small amount of neutral oil until softened (I use grapeseed oil). Allow to cool.
  2. Cream together the cream cheese and mayonnaise in a medium to large bowl. Add minced green onion, dill weed, tarragon and Old Bay. Stir in cooled pepper/onion mixture. Gently fold in the crab meat and salmon, being careful not to break it too much.
  3. Add about 3/4 cup of the panko, gently fold into the mixture until it just holds together; do not add too much of the panko.
  4. Form patties with the mixture (the size will depend on if you are making these as a first course or an appetizer). Put the remaining panko in a wide bowl and coat both sides of each crab cake.
  5. Heat a neutral oil in a large skillet over medium heat and fry each cake until browned on both sides, turning once.
  6. To Serve: Place a dollop of sour cream and caviar on each cake.
  7. *LindySez - The easiest way to find shells in shelled crab is to place the crab meat into a large, oversized metal bowl. As the crab hits the bowl, if there is a shell, you will hear it hit and can find it and remove it. After all the crab is in the bowl, toss the crab around a few times by shaking the bowl, this will alert you to any shells you may have missed.
  8. Per Serving (as a first course): 155 Calories; 6g Fat; 12g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 323mg Sodium.
Or, if you want to stay with the gratin idea, you could certainly put this pasta dish in individual gratins.  Made in advance (I love to make EVERYTHING in advance);  sprinkle the top with some buttered toasted  bread crumbs (I would use Panko) and they would be ready to pop in the oven to heat up and serve once your guests arrive.  Or even fold the crab meat  into your favorite Mac n Cheese; an ultimate comfort food.  These would be great with a  Chardonnay.

Gemilli with Crab in a Light Lemon Sauce

Gemilli with Crab in a Light Lemon Sauce

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced laterally
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups light cream
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (zest first, juice second)
  • 1 pound crab meat, picked through for any lingering shells
  • 1 pound Gemilli pasta (I like the shape, but you could use shells or bow-tie pasta), cooked according to package directions, well drained, 1/2 cup pasta water reserved
  • Finely chopped fennel fronds (the feathery leaves)

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add the fennel and saute until softened. Add the ricotta and cream, stir together until just melted. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, crab and cooked pasta. Stir together until well combined (be gentle when stirring to keep the crab as intact as possible), adding some pasta water if the mixture seems to dry. Sprinkle with chopped fennel leaves and serve.

Baked Crab Mac n Cheese

LindySez: I hope that helps Aunt Cristina.
To all – my aunt is a marvelous cook and entertainer.  Her guests are in for a lovely evening.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dinner Possible - Turkey Stuffed Shells and Zucchini "Spaghetti"

Are you, like the rest of the world, determined to lose weight in 2010?  It’s certainly one of the #1 resolutions.  Between that, more exercise, more patience, more more more and quitting smoking (thank goodness I did that one, although I did it in October, but hey, everyday is the first day of your life, so it’s never to late, or too early to quit), January 1st always is that magic time we put the pressure on ourselves to perfect us.  I don’t make  resolutions on the first; generally we don’t keep them and then we feel bad about failing ourselves, and as I said, EVERYDAY is a new day in the new year of your life.  If I were to really pick a date, I guess I would choose my birthday, that’s really the beginning of my new year.
But no matter if you want to lose weight, or just want something easy and delicious to eat for dinner, this dinner meets that criteria.  The menu, with a glass of wine is only 575 calories (subtract 100 calories for a 5 ounce glass of wine if you don’t have it, although I will :-) )
with only 15 grams of fat (only 4g saturated).

Turkey Stuffed Jumbo Shells

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey (not to exceed 7% fat)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, (optional)
  • 18 cooked jumbo pasta shells*
  • 1 (28-ounce) jar Marinara Sauce, or homemade (look for the basic marinara sauce on this site)

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large skillet or saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey and saute, using a spoon to break it up into small pieces. Cook until the turkey looses its pink color, then add the onion and carrot. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  3. Combine the flour, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the turkey mixture and stir to incorporate it well. Stir in the wine; cook until thickened. Simmer over low heat for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese and the ricotta cheese. Stir until blended. Let the mixture cool.
  4. When cool enough to handle, stuff each shell with approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of the turkey mixture. Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, spreading it evenly. Arrange the shells over the sauce; spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot. Remove the cover and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Continue to bake 5 minutes longer.
  5. LindySez: when cooking jumbo pasta shells, cook more then specified in the recipe to all for breakage. You want to use as whole a shell as possible.

Zucchini “Spaghetti”

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

  1. Cut the ends from each of the zucchini. Using a mandolin, set to the smallest julienne, julienne the zucchini using long strokes until you have squash strands that resemble “spaghetti”. (Use only the outside, discard the seedy part). Heat the oil and butter in a saute pan, add the zucchini spaghetti, salt, pepper and dill weed. Quickly saute the zucchini until crisp tender (it will cook fast, in less then 5 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasonings; serve twirled onto the plate.
  2. Variation: Omit the dill, add some thyme and grated Parmesan.
  3. LindySez: If you don’t have a mandolin, you can julienne the squash with a good sharp knife, or you can make the dish with thinly sliced zucchini – it’ll still taste good, it just won’t present as well.

LindySez: There you go.  An easy tasty dinner that I think the whole family will love.  I know my family does.

Happy New Year everyone!