Sunday March 28, 2010
Early Spring Asparagus Risotto
Risotto is one of the simplest and versatile of dishes. And while I provide this recipe as a guide, keep in mind you can make risotto without the white wine, with just onions if you don’t have shallots, with just butter, just olive oil and with many different “add-ins.” To celebrate spring, however, nothing beats the great asparagus.
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cups water
2-2 1/2 T of butter or olive oil (I use both, 1 T butter, 1+ T of olive oil)
1/2 - 3/4 cups of a mix of shallots and onions, chopped
(I used 2 shallots and one small onion)
2 cups of Arborio Rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
3-4 cups of the asparagus water
1 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Clean and cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces. I like to cut them on the diagonal. Blanch the asparagus for a minute or so and remove from water. Keeping the warm water to add to the risotto. Heat the chicken stock and asparagus water to a near boil and keep warm.
Heat your butter and oil in a large saucepan or risotto pot. When butter is melted, add your chopped shallots and onions. Saute for 2-4 minutes until translucent. Then add your arborio rice and stir to coat thoroughly with your butter and oil and then continue to saute for another minute or so. Add your white wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Next we begin the process that makes risotto creamy. Add a ladle of your hot chicken broth and stir constantly until is is absorbed. Repeat until you have used all your broth and most, if not all, of your asparagus water. And when your rice is tender but not mushy. At this time, remove from heat, add asparagus, then add parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Makes 4 generous dinner servings or 6 side servings.
Some fun facts about asparagus:
- Asparagus is a member of the Lily family.
Asparagus spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils.
Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10" in a 24-hour period.
Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer.
The outdoor temperature determines how much time will be between each picking...early in the season, there may be 4-5 days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, a particular field may have to be picked every 24 hours.
After harvesting is done the spears grow into ferns, which produce red berries and the food and nutrients necessary for a healthy and productive crop the next season.
Source: Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board
Sunday February 21, 2010
This is one of the dishes my Mom spoke about on Heirloom Meals Radio. Made with the simplest ingredients, this dish provides an ample dose of comfort and is filling enough for dinner with a big green salad.
This is not a recipe - it falls into my category of “concoction guidelines.” This dish works because all different shaped macaroni is used which allows the egg mixture to easily ooze into the crevices. And we recommend that you use those opened semi-full boxes of pasta that are sitting in your pantry. If you don’t then you’ll have to open a few and make this dish more than once!!
Grated Pecorino Romano
Cubed dry sausage (optional)
Milk (if necessary)
1-1.5 lbs of remnant macaroni - must be a mix of several shapes such as ziti, rotini, spaghetti, lasagna, elbow, shells etc.
Beat the eggs and mix with 1/4 - 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano and fresh pepper. Set aside. Boil water and throw in about a pound - pound and a half of mixed pasta shapes. When al dente, drain water and return pasta to pot. Add the egg mixture and mozzarella. If it seems too stiff, add a little milk to loosen (this is really a “feel” call - it should seem more liquidy than stiff.) You may also decide you want to add more Pecorino Romano too! Add the dry sausage and pour into a lasagna pan.
Refrigerate over night so flavors meld.
Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.
If the pan cannot go from fridge to oven, bring to room temp before putting in oven.
Generously sprinkle Pecorino Romano, salt and pepper on top before you place it in oven. Bake covered for about 45 minutes, then remove foil and allow top to become browned and crispy.
Let set, cut into squares and enjoy!!
My favorite are the crispy top and bottom - YUM!! I eat it piping hot, cold and reheated in the microwave.
Sunday February 14, 2010
Time Thief - Part II
I’ll admit it, in a pinch I make caramel apples with Kraft caramel candy!! But, I am somewhat of a purist and food snob and I take pride in using real ingredients and making things from scratch. So here is a winner that is so simple that uses 3 real ingredients.
The only caveat is you need a candy thermometer but it’s worth having in your cooking gear arsenal!!
6 - 8 small apples, unwaxed, cold and craft sticks
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Push the stick deep into each apple at the stem area.
Fill a large bowl 1/2 full with ice water and set aside.
In a medium, saucepan heat the cream and salt until tiny bubbles start forming where the cream touches the pan. Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Now reduce the heat to an active simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes minutes or until the mixture reaches about 255-260 degrees on your candy thermometer.
To stop the caramel from cooking, set the bottom of the saucepan in the bowl of cold water. Stir until caramel begins to thicken up. Here is where there is a little bit of “art” - the caramel has to me thin enough to coat the apples but thick enough to stick. If the caramel thickens too much simply put the pot back over the burner for 10 seconds or so to heat it up a bit.
Tilt the sauce pan so all the caramel forms a pool on one side, then dunk and twirl each apple until it is thoroughly coated with caramel. Place each apple on the baking sheets and allow the caramel to cool and set. Enjoy!!
Sunday February 14, 2010
Today is Valentine's Day and I am one that loves homemade gifts from the heart. My sweetheart, Jim, has Celiacs Disease, which is an autoimmune disease triggered by eating wheat or foods with gluten. So in keeping with all the buzz about the aphrodisiac effect of chocolate, I decided a flourless (hence, no gluten) chocolate cake would be my gift.
This Recipe is from my amazing friend, Deb Mackey's family archives with her note as follows:
"Here’s an absolutely FAB recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that is to die for, and can be très elegante, depending on how you gussy it up. I frequently plate it on a swirl of raspberry coulee for especially discerning friends.
Every one I’ve ever made it for has raved, and it became the birthday cake of choice for every man in my life. And for some of their subsequent wives’ too, I might add.
I know Jim will enjoy it."
Jackie Burnham’s Flourless Chocolate Cake
10” springform pan, greased (or wax/parchment paper will do)
1 12 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ c. unsalted butter
6 eggs – separated, room temperature
1 c. sugar
½ c chopped pecans
1 Tbs. Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ tsp. vanilla
1 pinch cream of tartar
2 c. whipping cream
¼ c. powdered sugar
2 Tbls. Bailey’s Irish Cream
2 oz. chocolate curls
1. Melt chips, with butter, over hot water
2. Beat yolks in large bowl ( 5 mins., or until thick)
3. Beat in ½ c. sugar, 1 Tbls. at a time
4. Stir in chocolate, pecans, vanilla and Bailey’s
5. Beat whites with cream of tartar to soft peak
6. Gradually add remaining ½.c. remaining sugar. Beat stiff, not dry
7. Fold ¼ of whites into the chocolate cake mix
8. Fold the mix into the remaining whites
9. Pour into pan and bake 30 minutes @ 350 d.
10. Reduce oven to 275. Continue to bake 30 minutes
11. Turn off oven. Let cake stand in oven with door slightly ajar. About 30 minutes
12. Remove from oven. Dampen towel and place on top of cake for 5 minutes. Remove
13. Top of cake will crack and fall. Cool cake in pan
14. Remove springform when cool. Transfer cake to platter
15. Beat cream to soft peak
16. Beat in powdered sugar and remaining Bailey’s. Spoon over top of cake and smooth
17. Sprinkle with chocolate curls
19. Refrigerate 6 hours. Let stand at room temp for 30 minutes before serving
I hope he does enjoy it!!
Sunday January 24, 2010
My friend Joanna recently told me that she wanted an immersion blender for her birthday but she didn't know which one to buy. And as you might imagine, I immediately told her which one I purchased, and why. But I know there are a few great models out there - so Joanna - this review is for you!!
Breville BCS500XL 9.6 Volt Cordless Immersion Blender with Recharging Base
This is the immersion blender that I use. One of the main considerations for me was the convenience of a cordless immersion blender. I have limited counter space near my stove where I predominantly use it. It does the trick for me but its controls are sensitive and finicky, and sometimes stalls out. I, of course, have figured how to outwit it but it may frustrate others. I think if you can live with a corded model, I would get a different one. You can buy this model at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Breville-BCS500XL-Cordless-Immersion-Recharging/dp/B000MDASFC
SmartStick Brushed Chrome Hand Blender
I figure when a model is back-ordered due to overwhelming demand and the majority of the reviews are raves, AND if the price is compelling, look no further....Here are the features according to the manufacturer:
Powerful 200-watt motor handles more blending tasks
Stick design reaches into pots, pitchers and bowls to extend blending options
Ergonomically designed grip offers comfortable hold and more control while blending
Operates with a one-touch control for easy, one-handed blending
KitchenAid® Immersion Blender
Here are the benefits according to the manufacturer:
Variable speeds provide greater processing control that adjusts to handle a variety of foods, beverages and soups.
The premium stainless steel blending attachment reaches an 8-inch immersion depth.
The stainless steel splashguard covers the blending blade to prevent splattering of ingredients.
The stainless steel whisk maximizes air in mixtures for fluffier egg whites and whipped cream.
The 4-piece chopper attachment quickly chops herbs, vegetables, fruits, cooked meats, nuts and cheese.
5-ft. power cord provides exceptional freedom to move around the kitchen.
Most of the Kitchenaid reviews were extremely positive. I think these new models have a lot going for them - the 8" immersion depth, for one. And they have made the power cords longer if you can live without the cordless. Some of the Kitchenaid models come in fun colors like red. The one I would have on my wish list, if price were not a concern can be purchased at www.surlatable.com http://www.surlatable.com/product/id/131824.do#