Yes, I know, you hear the word “risotto” and you immediately think “endless stirring” or “too difficult” or “not worth the effort.” I am here to be you to tell you that none of these things is true.
You can believe me, because I used to feel exactly the same way. That was until I was living in South London and had a flatmate who thought nothing of using whatever happened to be in the cupboard or refrigerator to cook up a pot of the tasty stuff, usually while coming and going from the kitchen, and generally doing other things. Of course, my competitive side emerged; if she can do it, so can I. And I discovered, I could. And you can too.
While I have a couple of favorites (shrimp with fennel, and mushroom), there was a cooking segment on this morning’s Today Show which got me on the risotto theme, so I’ll stick with their suggestion for today. It sounds amazing, it’s healthy, and it’s seasonal to boot: Pumpkin Risotto, courtesy of Beau MacMillan, executive chef of Sanctuary on Arizona’s Camelback Mountain. The recipe is included below.
The one piece of advice I will give – picked up while watching a video of Mario Batali preparing risotto – is, as you add the stock (the liquid) to the arborio rice, do not let it absorb all the way before adding more; leave a little excess liquid when you add the next ladle. I don’t know why it works, but it does. Your risotto will be al dente (as it should be).
Recipe: Pumpkin risotto
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups hot chicken stock
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin juice
- 1 each medium pumpkin, peeled, roasted and pureed (reserve one cup)
- 1 cup diced pumpkin
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 ounces fried sage
- 2 ounces sage pesto
In a medium-size heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onion and bay leaf and saute, stirring continuously, just until softened, which takes about three to four minutes.
Add the rice and continue to stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat the rice with the oil.
Add the white wine and continue cooking, stirring often, until it has been absorbed by the rice.
Add the diced pumpkin and pour in small amount chicken stock and pumpkin juice and stir.
Cook and allow rice to absorb. Repeat until all the liquid has been used.
Stir in the pumpkin puree and the diced pumpkin and reduce the heat to very low so that the risotto doesn’t simmer anymore.
Stir in the parmesan, mascarpone and butter to give the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Spoon it immediately into heated shallow serving bowls.
Garnish with fried sage and a dollop of sage pesto.
A couple of weeks ago, April Bloomfield made a visit to the Today Show. I meant to write a post back then, but for some reason that to-do fell to the bottom of the list. As interest in her new, eagerly-anticipated eatery, The John Dory Oyster Bar in the Ace Hotel, heats up, I was reminded of her appearance on the show. Her food offering that day? A twist on the classic Greek Salad. Think chickpeas, lentils, feta cheese, cilantro, and some fabulous spices.
As you patiently await the arrival of the new John Dory, you might want to give this recipe a try.
Recipe: Chickpea, lentil and feta salad with cilantro and grilled chili
- 2 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, carefully rinsed so as not to displace husks
- 2 cups cooked French lentils, chilled and carefully rinsed
- 1 bunch cilantro, picked; preserve delicate stems
- 4 ounces of goat’s milk feta
- 1.5 tablespoons toasted freshly ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 Holland chilis
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the chickpeas and lentils:
In a bowl, combine cooked lentils, chickpeas, salt, two tablespoons of lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and cumin.
Fold ingredients together carefully so as not to break up the chickpeas. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. The chickpeas and lentils should be creamy and evenly seasoned.
Grill the Holland chilis until charred on all sides. Place in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap. Once cool, remove seeds and skin. Place in a bowl drizzled with a bit of olive oil.
In a separate bowl, combine cilantro and red onion. Dress with remaining lemon juice, a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil.
To assemble salad:
Just before serving, gently stir chickpeas and lentils, spoon onto serving platter or bowl.
Carefully place dressed cilantro and onions on top, crumble feta evenly over cilantro, dot with grilled chilis and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Makes four servings
If you did not get to the 1st Annual Back to Basis Good Food Festival, you missed a deliciously good time. The weather was beautiful (80 degrees and sunny), everyone was out and in a fantastic mood, and there was food, lots of fresh, local food prepared by some of the best restaurants and farms in the area.
I purchased four tasting tickets which I used to indulge in:
* A refreshing beet and cheese salad from Dirty Bird to-go
* Flavorful fluke ceviche from The Farm On Adderley
* To-die-for crispy, thin-crusted pizza with tomato, sopressata and mozzarella from Collichio & Sons
* An insanely rich Salted Crack Caramel ice cream cone from Ample Hills Creamery.
And there were so many other fantastic vendors serving mouth-watering dishes. Every person I spoke with commented on what an absolutely great idea this was, and that they should do it again. I, for one, couldn’t agree more.
Because we all, most definitely, ate well.
This year, The FEED Foundation, established in 2008 by Lauren Bush and Ellen Gustafson to raise funds for the United Nations World Food Program‘s school feeding initiative, turned its attention to school food in the United States with the launch of FEED USA:
FEED USA is a new campaign to improve school food all across America as well as a new brand of FEED products. … The cornerstone of FEED USA is the funding of teacher-led, school-based interventions; which will allow local activists to see the challenges to improving nutrition in their own schools and ask for specific projects and supplies to address those challenges.
As part of their solution, FEED USA recently kicked-off their first FEED USA Project: funding for teacher-led nutrition initiatives in schools across the country. In a Kiva-like format, teachers’ project requests are displayed (description and photos), along with the “dollars-to-go” until a project is fully funded. On the list, which can be sorted by state, you’ll find everything from outdoor and container gardens, to cooking classes and composting lessons. An individual can help with as little as $5. “Once the project is fully funded, DonorsChoose.org will deliver the materials to the school, then send you photos and thank-you letters from the classroom you helped.”
To help raise funds, FEED USA has a line of FEED USA bags co-designed with the Gap. With each bag you buy, $5 is donated to the teacher/project of your choice.
Further, there is a Funding Opportunity for Teachers. Through their partnership with DonorsChoose.org, for a limited time, FEED USA is offering “Double Your Impact” matching funding for projects submitted by teachers from a list of 8 suggested food-related projects. The list includes initiatives such as Gardening at School, Cooking in the Classroom, and a Class Trip to a Farmers Market. Teachers can submit projects for funding at www.donorschoose.org/teachers.
And then there’s Whole Foods Market, who recently launched their Back to School program, the cornerstone of which is a fund raising effort to put salad bars in 300 schools by January 1, 2011. The school nutrition problem as they see it?
Highly processed foods are standard fare in many school lunchrooms, and more than two-thirds of public schools serve lunches that exceed recommended limits for fat content. And, we’re paying for it with our kids’ health. At least 30 percent of children are overweight, childhood obesity has more than doubled, and it is predicted that one in three will develop diabetes.
The Whole Foods Market solution?
Whole Foods Market is proudly partnering with Chef Ann Cooper, a.k.a. “The Renegade Lunch Lady,” to help schools make a change. … With your donations Chef Ann Cooper will install a salad bar in at least one school near each of our U.S. stores. That’s almost 300 salad bars! Help start the conversation about salad bars in every U.S. school.
Make a donation at any Whole Foods Market store in the U.S.to help us Put Salad Bars in Schools, or donate online at The Salad Bar Project.
Feed our children well.
I am a fan of Giada De Laurentiis. She clearly loves food, loves to eat, and always makes everything look easy. And, without fail, her recipes are delicious.
This morning, on the Today Show, she prepared three simple pasta sauces: Thyme butter sauce (served with any kind of ravioli); Vodka sauce (great with spaghetti or penne); and Spicy pesto sauce (with rigatoni, served cold as a side, or add cooked shrimp or chicken to hearty it up). Here are the recipes.
Recipe: Thyme butter sauce
Giada De Laurentiis
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter with the thyme leaves in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted, about 2 minutes.
Recipe: Vodka sauce
Giada De Laurentiis
- 3 cups marinara sauce
- 1 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup heavy cream at room temperature
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
In a heavy, large skillet, simmer the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat, stirring often, until the mixture reduces by one fourth, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.
Recipe: Spicy pesto sauce
Giada De Laurentiis
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 (2- inch) red or green jalapeno pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups grated asiago cheese
- 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon pepper, or more to taste
- 2 cups (3 ounces) baby spinach
- 3 cups (3 ounces) arugula
- 1/4 cup olive oil
In a food processor, combine the walnuts, garlic, jalapeno, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the spinach and arugula and process until blended. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil.
The harvest is kicking into high gear. I was at the Union Square Greenmarket here in New York on Saturday, and it was literally bursting with fruits, vegetables, and flowers (not to mention artisinal jams and cheeses). There are so many good things. The tomatoes are fantastic, so sweet they’re almost like eating candy. Here’s what’s delicious at the moment.
Eggplant, Lettuce, Pumpkin, Spinach, Tomatoes
Grapes, Pears, Pomegranite
First, I’ve got to try Smitten Kitchen’s Eggplant Salad Toasts (think bruschetta with eggplant, feta, onion, and garlic).
Then, the next time I’m craving a burger, I’m going to try this super simple, healthy version courtesy of Joy Bauer, Spinach Turkey Burgers. This recipe calls for frozen spinach, but I think it’s a good habit to get into. For the fresh-from-the-farmer’s-market variety, I love to saute it with extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.
And this month, I’m reaching north of the border, to the LCBO Food & Drink website, for the last two suggestions. The first is Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce – not as difficult as it sounds, as the recipe calls for pre-made dumpling or wonton wrappers, and, if you’ve ever had this dish at a restaurant, you’ll know it’s well worth the effort. The second is Poached Pears in Rosemary Lemon Syrup. It serves two. Think of it as the perfect date night dessert. I’ve include it below.
If you want to a detailed list of what’s specifically in season in your part of the country, check out the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map.
When you feel like having a lighter dessert but still want something sweet, these pears fit the bill.
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
3 sprigs rosemary, about 3-inches (8-cm) each
3 wide strips lemon peel
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
½ vanilla bean
2 whole ripe but firm pears
Crème Fraîche or whipped cream (optional) (recipe follows)
1. Fill a medium saucepan with 1½ cups (375 mL) water. Add sugar, rosemary sprigs, lemon peel and juice. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into saucepan along with bean. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.
2. Meanwhile, peel pears, leaving them whole and stem intact. Using a melon baller or small spoon, from base of pear, scoop out core. Place pears in saucepan. Bring mixture back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, turning pears occasionally, until fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from saucepan using a slotted spoon.
3. Boil syrup uncovered until reduced and thickened (it will thicken more upon cooling), 7 to 9 minutes. Cool. If it’s not thick enough, boil about 1 more minute. Place each pear on a plate. Drizzle with a spoonful or so of syrup. Sweeten crème fraîche or whipped cream with syrup to taste. Place a dollop beside pear.
¼ cup (50 mL) buttermilk
2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
1. Whisk together buttermilk and whipping cream in a glass measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on counter for 24 to 48 hours or until thickened. Refrigerate. The mixture keeps for 2 weeks.
I am not Jewish, but I’ve always had a real appreciation for the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The meaning of the holiday is compelling: to repent and atone for any missteps in the previous year, thus “closing the book,” and to open a new book for the coming year. The 10-day Holy Day period ends with a “25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur.”
There are several symbolic foods served at a Rosh Hashanah meal and when breaking the fast. My favorite is dipping pieces of apple in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. When I came across this recipe for Honey Cake, part of Lucy Waverman’s “A honey of a High Holiday menu,” published in The Globe and Mail, I thought I’d share it. It looks delicious, as does the rest of her Rosh Hashanah menu, no matter your religious orientation or the time of year.
This is a traditional dessert at Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing sweetness in the coming year. If you have never made a honey cake before or if you are used to dry, disappointing honey cakes, this moist and flavorful version should appeal.
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup strong coffee
1¼ cups honey
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup golden raisins or chopped dates
1 apple, grated
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 300 F. Heavily grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in large bowl. Set aside. Stir together coffee and honey in a separate bowl. Set aside.
Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in brown sugar. Stir in vegetable oil until just combined.
Beat together half of flour mixture and all of honey mixture into egg mixture. Stir in remaining flour mixture, raisins and apples.
Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes or until cake is springy to the touch, has begun to come away from the edge of the pan and releases a cake tester cleanly. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes. Run the point of a flexible knife around the edge, unmould onto a rack, cool fully and leave in a cool place, covered, for 24 hours to allow flavors to mellow. Dust with icing sugar just before serving. Serves 10 to 12, but lasts for 2 weeks well covered.
I caught bits of the Today Show this morning, the important bits that is, the food bits. There were two cooking segments, the first of which was all about grilled meat. I don’t eat red meat often, so when I do, it’s got to be great. This recipe for Marinated skirt steak by the Food Network’s Alex Guarnaschelli fits the bill, or at least it looked like it did, and Natalie Morales and Lester Holt appeared to concur. I love the marinade (Worcestershire sauce, toasted fennel seeds, fresh rosemary, and garlic) which is applied after you sear the steak for the first time. I also love the feta cheese, red wine vinegar, oregano mixture that you spoon over top of the sliced steak after searing it for a second time (perfectly medium-rare). I’ve included the recipe below.
In the same segment, Alex Guarnaschelli also prepared Roasted pork “rack” with spicy harissa, which also looked delicious.
Then, an hour later, along came Michael Lockard, executive chef for the USTA National Tennis Center (fitting, as it is currently the US Open), with his recipe for a Lobster roll with lemon aioli. Apparently, it’s a favorite with the athletes and tennis fans, alike.
Recipe: Marinated skirt steak
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 1/2 pounds of skirt steak
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and grated on a vegetable grater, micro plane or garlic press
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 “sprigs” fresh rosemary, stemmed and coarsely chopped, about 2 teaspoons
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
- Kosher salt
- 4 ounces Feta Cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Marinate the steak:
Heat a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet and add half of the oil. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, season the steak on both sides with salt and use a pair of tongs to carefully drop it into the hot oil in the skillet.
Cook it on the first side for 1 minute and then turn it on the second side for another minute.
In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, rosemary and fennel seeds. Remove the steak from the skillet. It will still be barely cooked.
Use the back of a spoon to spread the garlic mixture on both sides of the steak and allow it to “rest” for 10 minutes. Refrigerate for a few hours and allow it to marinate or simply sear it again and serve.
Prepare the vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, combine the Feta cheese with the red wine vinegar, oregano and olive oil. Stir to blend. Set aside.
Finish the steak:
When ready to serve the steak, wipe out the grease and anything sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
Heat the skillet again and add the remaining oil. Sear the steak again and cook to desired temperature.
For medium rare, cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the steak from the skillet and place it on a flat surface. Cut against the natural “grain” of the meat to tenderize.
Top with the Feta dressing. Serve immediately.