From Scratch, With Love

Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Something for the Kids

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If I had children, I’d send them to school with this every friggin day.

Beats a squished bpj, don’t you think?

I don’t have kids.  I have John.  Guess what he’s been eating all week lately.  He loves it.

Baked Ziti is a new discovery of mine.  I guess because it’s less work than lasagna and it’s fun, I’ve been making it on Sundays for the sole purpose of sending it with John for lunch during the week.  See my thoughts on leftovers, if you’re confused.  It’s involved enough that I enjoy making it, but not so involved that I can’t do it every week.  AND there are so many ways to change it to suit your needs.  Hell, you can even buy sauce instead of making it.  You can use meat instead of mushrooms.  You have friggin quadruple the cheese if you want.  Deliciousness.

Baked Ziti (Inspired in part by Cooks Illustrated)

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly grease a 13″ x 9″ lasagna-type pan.  Fill a large stockpot with enough water for a pound of pasta and put it on the stovetop to boil.

Sauce:

Roughly slice 2 onions and 4 carrots and peal 4 cloves of garlic.  Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and put the onions, carrots, and garlic in the pan. Cook until soft.

Meanwhile, put in a blender: 1 green pepper, 1 medium hot pepper (like a jalapeno or serrano pepper), 4 stalks of celery, including leaves, and 1 28 oz can of tomatoes.  Add a teaspoon each of dried oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.  Add a few grinds of black pepper.  Add the now-softened onions, carrots, and garlic.  Blend.

Thinly slice as many small mushrooms as you’d like.  Brown them in batches over medium heat with a little olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven.  Alternatively, brown some ground beef if you’d like and drain the fat.  Add the blended sauce and bring to a simmer.  Once it’s simmering, add a bay leaf, about 1/4 cup of red wine, and salt, to taste.  Bring back to a simmer and reduce the heat and cover (but make sure it’s still simmering).  Simmer for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your patience.  Taste and salt as needed.

[This makes about 8 cups of sauce, which is also great served over pasta.  If you don’t have the time of patience, get a couple of jars of premade sauce and don’t tell anyone!]

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1-2 oz of mozzarella cheese (or more, if you wish.  I added some parmesan too.), and one egg.

Once the sauce is almost done and the pasta water is boiling, add a box of any shape pasta you’d like (doesn’t need to be ziti, just make it a shape.  Maybe not so much with the bowties.).  Cook until al dente and drain.  In the still-hot pot, add 2 cups of the lovely, aromatic sauce you have simmering, and the cheese mixture.  Stir and add the pasta to the mixture.  If you’d like, add some spinach as well (I did!) and stir well.

Add a couple of cups of sauce to the prepared pan, followed by the pasta mixture. Cover with the remaining sauce and grate some more mozzarella cheese on top.  Smile to yourself and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the cheese has browned and the sauce is bubbling.

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Written by poperatzii

May 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Pizza: Some Updates

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I’ve been making pizza for a few years now, basically since I acquired a kitchen of my own, senior year of college.  I started out using the method my dad used all throughout my childhood, and it has evolved since then.  Lately, largely due to reading articles on the Cook’s Illustrated website (you have to subscribe to be able to read them fully, but it’s well worth it), I’ve deviated from my original method.  A couple things remain, however.  1) Always make the dough by hand.  This rule is part snobbishness and part wanting to get a feel for when the dough is the right consistency. 2) Use some whole wheat flour.  Well, are you surprised? I love me some whole wheat.  3) Use lots of garlic.

Here are the tips I want to pass on.

1) Unlike commercial pizzas, which are baked in 800 degree ovens, homemade pizza dough does not benefit from high-gluten bread flour or long kneading times.  As a result, I’ve switched to using part pastry flour or cake flour, and kneading it just until it forms a smooth ball.

2) In order to make a thick sauce that is not overly watery, you can blend canned tomatoes in a blender and let it drain in a fine mesh sieve for about a half hour until a lot of the water is released.  I like to mix in some canned tomato sauce and minced garlic as well.  A little salt and sugar and herbs improves the sauce.

3) Use a pizza stone.  No need for a pizza peel – build the pizza on parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet and use the baking sheet to slide the pizza onto the hot stone in the oven.

4) Bake the pizza for about 5 minutes at 500 degrees with just crust, sauce, and toppings, then add the cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.  This method keeps the cheese from burning.

5) Fresh mozzarella is awesome.  As is adding a parmesan-like cheese to the pizza.

6) Slice toppings very thin so that they cook evenly.  Green peppers, especially.

Those are my current tips for homemade pizza.  I’m sure I’ll discover more soon enough.

Written by poperatzii

October 27, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Something Simple

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I thought it would be appropriate to post the recipe (more like simple instructions) for the bruschetta I made to go with the lovely lasagna I made.  Bruschetta (pronounce broos-kett-uh, not brush-ett-uh) is an amazing way to combine a toasted peice of white bread with fresh tomatoes and herbs – it’s also quite elegant and versatile.  It’s also amazing.  Let’s just get right to it.

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta with Prosciutto

Preheat your broiler to high.  Thinly slice some baguette-style bread (I used a ciabatta roll from whole foods since it was just me).  Brush it with a little olive oil and place some thinly sliced garlic on top (1-2 cloves per person).  Place it under broiler for a minute or to, until toasty and fragrant.  Watch it carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Dice one large tomato and roughly chop some fresh basil.  Place it in a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste.  Right before serving, tear up some prosciutto so that it’s bite-sized and place it on a plate.

Allow your guests (or just you!) to build their own bruschetta by topping the garlic bread with the tomatoes and prosciutto.  Buon appetito!

Variations: add some red onion and chopped parsley!  Some people like it with a dash of balsamic vinegar, as well.  Try adding a slice of fresh mozzarella before piling on the tomatoes for some bruschetta caprese.

Written by poperatzii

August 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

The Hard Way Is So Worth It

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I’m going to share a secret with you.  Are you sitting down?  I love to cook.

Wow.  Shocking.  Okay, so a lot of people love to eat.  I love to eat as well.  However, most people cook as a means to an end – great food.  That’s why most people don’t make their own bread, pasta, salad dressing, etc – you can buy that stuff at the store and it’s not too expensive and the quality is there.  However, I get great pleasure from the process and while I do buy bread and pasta (but not salad dressing – cmon!), when I get a chance I make my own.  You know this.

So anyway, yesterday, John had this big race that took all day.  He left at 5am and got back at 10pm.  I did not go.  The few friends I have in the area were also out of town this weekend and I don’t have a car so I was basically stranded in my little town in New Jersey by myself.  I planned ahead.  I was really excited for my Saturday alone.  Guess what I planned?  Lasagna.  Not just any lasagna.  3.5 hour lasagna.

My coworker asked at lunch on Friday whether I had any plans for the weekend.  I said “I’m making a lasagna.  It’s going to take 4 hours.  It’s going to be awesome.”  Does that sound sad to you, weekend-plan-wise?  I’m okay with that.  It was awesome.

First, I did a little research and found a really wonderful-sounding recipe for spinach lasagna in The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse fame).  I didn’t really change it up much, except taking her advice on some variations.  I made sheets of spinach pasta for the lasagne noodles and used fresh (local – Alice would be proud) tomatoes and thinly sliced onions (my own addition) instead of sauce.  Also, Alice seemed to think the amount of paste the recipe made was enough for 7 layers.  False.  I made 4 layers.  The end result was delicious and surprisingly light for a lasagna.  It contains no meat and (surprisingly) no mozzarella, though Alice did recommend fresh mozzarella in one of her suggestions for a variation.  I also made béchamel (white sauce) for the first time and found it surprisingly easy.  I might use it in Mac and Cheese if I find myself with the time.  Lastly, I used some lightly sauteed spinach with garlic, drained, mixed with ricotta cheese.

Recommendations: I found it helpful to write out the whole recipe ahead of time so that I am familiar with all the steps.  The only part I had to actually look at the recipe for was the béchamel sauce.  Plan your time in advance or it will end up being a rather stressful 5-hour lasagna.  Keep in mind that you should let the ricotta drain before mixing it with the spinach, and that béchamel sauce is best used just after it is made, and that spinach will need to cool before it is mixed in with the pasta and with the ricotta.  Also keep in mind that the water will have to have time to come to a full boil before you cook the pasta in it, and that the pasta only needs a minute or two to cook al dente.  I find it helpful, while making a meal that uses a lot of dishes, to take some time in between steps to wash dishes and put away dry dishes so I’m not left with a sink full of dishes at the end, when I’m tired.  For this meal, when I finished eating, all I needed to wash were the dishes I used to serve and eat, for which I was very grateful.  I incorporated dish-washing into the recipe below.

I served the lasagna with some homemade bruschetta topped with garlic, fresh tomatoes, basil, and thinly sliced domestic prosciutto.  It was a very lovely meal.  It would have been nice to share it with someone, but it was also kind of satisfying to have a meal like that on my own, with a glass of wine and a nice table setting.  John has enjoyed some of the leftovers, which I haven’t tried yet.  He says it reheats well.

3.5 hour Spinach Lasagna (From The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)

Place 1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese in a fine mesh sieve, perhaps lined with a layer of cheese cloth, over a medium bowl to drain in the fridge.  Cover with plastic wrap so it doesn’t absorb any funky smells your fridge may have.

Next, make the spinach pasta.  [Note: to make plain pasta, omit the spinach and use 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks.]  In a medium sauteé pan, heat up 1/4 cup of water over medium heat.  Once it starts to simmer, add 4 oz spinach (fresh or frozen).  Cook, stirring, until wilted.  Remove to a bowl to cool.  Once cool, squeeze dry and place in a blender with one egg and one egg yolk.  Puree.

In a large bowl, sift 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour (I used about 1/4 cup of whole-wheat flour in the place of some of the white flour because I’m like that.) with 1 teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the spinach puree.  With a fork, stir the puree as if you’re whisking eggs for an omelet, slowly drawing the flour into the mixture.  Once the mixture becomes more dough-like, use your hands to incorporate the flour, adding water, if needed.  Once the dough cannot take anymore flour, pour any remaining flour onto a work surface and gently knead the dough until smooth.  Divide the dough into four pieces and let rest, covered with a damp paper towel.  Sift the remaining flour back onto the work surface to get rid of any dry pieces of dough that may have escaped.

Wash dishes.

While the pasta dough rests, prepare the spinach for the filling. Mince a clove of garlic.  Heat the same pan you used before over medium heat and add about a teaspoon of olive oil.  Add 8 oz of spinach (fresh or frozen) and a pinch of salt and cook, using tongs to make sure it cooks evenly, until ALMOST wilted.  Add the minced garlic and sauteé for another minute or so until the spinach is fully cooked.  Remove to a bowl to cool.  Once cooled, squeeze to drain the water and mince until uniform.  Add to the drained ricotta cheese and set aside.  You can taste it to see if it’s delicious – after all, this is a main flavor for your lasagna.  You can add herbs, pepper, salt, nutmeg, or whatever your heart desires.

Okay, so the pasta has rested.  Now it’s time to roll it out.  You can do this with a rolling pin or with a hand-crank pasta machine.  There are also stand-mixer attachments, but I don’t know anything about them.  I’ve never used a rolling pin either because John’s parents gave me a pasta machine for my birthday, right around when pasta making started to intrigue me.

I’ve described pasta making in the past, but allow me to do so again.  You want to start out with the rollers in the largest setting (number 7 on my machine).  In this setting you are basically kneading the dough until it becomes smooth.  First, flour the mound of dough in that bit of flour you had left, sifted, on the counter.  Next, pass it through the machine by turning the crank.  It will be rough and possibly sticky.  That’s ok.  If it’s sticky, add some more flour.  Fold the dough in half length-wise and pass it through again with the crease on one side.  Continue this process until the dough is smooth and satiny.

If making spinach pasta, the dough will be more uniformly green than it was when you started.

Now that it’s satiny, change the roller setting so that it’s slightly narrower (“6” on my machine).  Without folding the dough, pass it through the machine.  Continue to narrow the settings and pass it through until it is the thickness you desire.  I used the “3” setting.  You want the pasta smooth and without holes.  If you accidentally put a hole in it, just roll it up and start from the widest setting again.  When the pasta is the thickness you desire, coat it in flour and lay it on a drying rack.  I cut my pasta sheets in half so that they were about the length of the pan I was using.  Repeat the process for the rest of the dough.  If the sheets are well-floured, they won’t stick if you lay them of top of one another.  Fill a large pot halfway with water and put it over high heat.

Wash dishes and clean up the counter.

Okay, so you have the pasta and the ricotta cheese.  The only other components of the lasagna are the béchamel sauce and the sliced tomatoes and onion.  Now, the béchamel sauce takes about 30-40 minutes, but for the last 20-30 minutes, it just simmers and needs to be stirred every so often, so you can slice the vegetables during this time.

Measure out 3 tablespoons of white flour into a small bowl and 2 cups of milk into a measuring cup.  In a medium (not nonstick) saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and continue whisking for about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the milk.  It will thicken very quickly at first but don’t worry.  Add the milk in small batches and it will eventually thin out and become a slightly thick sauce.  If it is lumpy, pass it through a mesh strainer to remove lumps and put back in the heat.  Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then lower the heat until it is at a bare simmer.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  A skin will develop on the top.  That’s okay, just stir it.

The pot of water should have come to a boil by now.  Add some salt.  Before you add the pasta, fill a large bowl with cold water.  If your water isn’t very cold, add a couple ice cubes.  Add the sheets of pasta carefully, one at a time, to the vigorously boiling water.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, until al dente.  The pasta should be undercooked – remember, it will be cooked further in the lasagna.  You just want it firm.  Drain the pasta and place it into the cold water to stop the cooking process.  Once chilled, drain it again and remove to a bowl.  Drizzle it with olive oil to prevent sticking.  It will probably stick anyway, so just be careful when you handle it.

(Remember to stir the sauce)

Wash any dishes you have incurred and slice 2 large tomatoes and 1 large yellow onion very thinly.  Grate about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.  Preheat the oven to 400 and lightly grease a 13 x 17 inch dish.  You could probably also make this in an 8 x 8 dish with more layers.  I’m not sure how cooking time would be affected.  If the béchamel sauce is almost done (taste it), add a pinch of salt and a grating of fresh nutmeg.  You can also add about a tablespoon of dry sherry.  Taste it to make sure the salt is right and it’s delicious.  Remove it from the heat and add the grated parmesan cheese.  Drizzle some of the freshly made sauce over the bottom of the dish.

Gently remove two strips of pasta from the bowl in which they have been resting and lay them on the bottom of the dish, trimming them to fit.  Spread a third of the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta and lay half the tomatoes and onions on top of that.  Lay down another layer of pasta. Spread half the remaining béchamel sauce on top of the pasta.  Lay down another layer (I recommend using the scraps you have cut from the other pasta for a layer, because you might not be left with enough whole strips and you want the top layer to be the prettiest).  Spread with half the remaining ricotta and the rest of the tomatoes and onions.  Lay down another layer of pasta and spread with the remaining white sauce and ricotta.  Lay down a final layer of pasta and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the upper half of the oven to bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan on top and bake for another 15 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

I found that the time it took for the lasagna to cook was exactly the right amount of time to prepare my bruschetta, wash any dishes, take the wine out of the fridge to warm up a little, and clean up.  I also set the table nicely for my dinner for one.  By the time the lasagna was ready for me, I was also ready for it.

I hope that some day in the near future you find yourself with the time and the desire to prepare a meal like this.  It’s incredibly satisfying to put the time and effort into a delicious meal, even if it’s just for yourself.  It really reminded me what it is I love about food and it was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Written by poperatzii

August 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm

A New Pizza Adventure For Me

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In yet another attempt to use up all that chicken I bought, I made Pesto Chicken Pizza.

“Wow Andrea,” you’re saying, “that pizza looks like it might be round and not square.”  Truth, reader.  Truth.  I found a pizza stone on sale and bought it on a whim.  No regrets.  My pizza is now round with nicely crisp crust.  I still need to figure out the ways the stone can be used, but I’m very excited.  I think I’m also going to have to play around with temperature, because I think the stone can take a hotter oven than my old pans (read: cookie sheets).

So, in an effort to use up a chicken breast, and because pizza’s my favoritist thing ever to make, and because I now grow basil, I decided a pesto chicken pizza would be just lovely this Friday evening.  It’s not too hard – it takes about an hour and a half, including making the dough (remember when I shared my method of making dough?).  The ingredients are simple and summery, especially if you have some leftover chicken lying around (in the fridge, please, not the bed).  If you don’t have leftover chicken, you can roast a chicken breast in the oven for about 20 minutes at 425, basted with some olive oil.  It will be somewhat juicy because it’s fresh, and you’ll have to wait a few minutes before you can cut it.  I used both mozzerella and Robusto cheese.  I found Robusto at Whole Foods when I asked the lady behind the cheese counter for a parmesan-like cheese that’s a little sharper, for the Corn Risotto that I made a couple of weeks ago.  You can also use parmesan, or just more mozzerella.  Cheese, however, is not the main event in this pizza, so use it sparingly.

Pesto Chicken Pizza (Makes 2 generous servings or 3-4 moderate servings)

Prepare enough pizza dough for one 14 inch pizza.  You can also make this on pita bread, for individual pizza snacks.

While the dough is rising, make the pesto.  It’s simple.

In a 350 degree oven, toast about a tablespoon of chopped walnuts or pine nuts for 5 minutes, or until fragrant.  Let cool.

Mince a clove or two of garlic, depending on how big you are on garlic.  Of this garlic, place about a teaspoon in a small bowl.  Reserve the rest for the pizza.  Roughly chop about 1/4 cup of basil leaves and a sprig of parsley (optional).  Add to the bowl.  Grate a tablespoon of parmesan or robusto cheese.  Add to the bowl.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Finely chop the toasted nuts and add to the bowl.  Add a pinch of salt.  Stir the mixture together with a spoon until well blended.  I tried to blend it with an immersion blender, but I think there was too little of it to really be blended.  You can try, or just try to chop everything nice and small and mix well.

Slice 1 cooked chicken breast into thin slices, then slice those slices so that you have bite-sized 1/2 inch squares.  It’s important to have the pieces bite-sized so the pizza’s easy to eat.  You don’t want to drag all the toppings off the pizza by biting into a piece of chicken that’s too big!  Add the chicken to the bowl and stir so that the chicken is coated in the pesto mixture.  Let it marinate, covered, in the fridge until you’re ready to make the pizzas.

Note: this pesto chicken, I suspect, would be really good in a sandwich or with pasta, so feel free to make double or triple the amount I have here and reserve some for later.

Okay.  Dough is rising.  Chicken is marinating.  You can marinate as well, since you probably have some time to spare.  Drool over this ice cream recipe (that’s what I did).  Or you can start preparing the rest of the toppings.  Very thinly slice one medium tomato.  If I had had an onion, I would have thinly sliced part of it as well.  That probably would have been delicious.  Oh well.  Try it and let me know if it is.  Grate 1/4 cup of robusto or parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of mozzerella cheese (or used the pre-grated mozzerella.  That’s what I did.)

Preheat the oven to 450.  Grease a cookie sheet, pizza pan, or place a pizza stone in the oven.

Briefly knead the dough and let it rise again while the oven preheats.  When the dough is ready, spread it onto your pizza pan, trying to get it even.  Sprinkle the minced garlic on the dough.  Evenly cover the dough with both cheeses, then scatter the tomato slices over it.  Top with the chicken.  Bake for 8-15 minutes, depending on the type of pan you used (more for the pizza stone, less for a thin cookie sheet).  It’s ready when the crust is crispy and is starting to brown if you lift it from the pan with a spatula.  Let cool for a minute or two and slice.

Written by poperatzii

July 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Who Knew Risotto Could Be So Summery?

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I took a half day today.  It was very exciting.  I went home, stopping at the store on the way, and was very productive.  I made some pita bread for my lunches (I froze it so that it could last me two weeks of lunches.  I recommend it.  When lunchtime comes around, I just put the almost-thawed pita in the toaster oven and make my sandwich.  It’s delicious.) and then I made risotto.

I love risotto.  It’s so delightfully creamy and comforting.  Usually, I just make “risotto in bianco,” which is just your basic cheese risotto.  But I was feeling adventurous.  So I looked in the White Dog Cafe Cookbook, which is filled with all sorts of interesting recipes, and found a recipe for “Tomato and Sweet Corn Risotto.”  Well, guess what?  I also stopped by our farmer’s market yesterday and bought some corn, with no clear idea in mind of what to do with it.  BAM. Idea.  It’s a great use of summer vegetables.

Another thing: I normally don’t feel like cooking anything all that spectacular when I’m eating alone.  Tonight, John went to a happy hour with his friends from work, so I decided to just make a nice meal for myself.  I’m really glad I did.  Though, I must say, risotto is not the kind of meal that is good left over, so I had to cut the recipe in fourths.  Not an easy task.  But I succeeded. Smiley face!

So, this risotto calls for you to make a simple corn-based stock, so give yourself about an hour and a half for the whole recipe, or make the stock in advance and give yourself half an hour.  Let me know if you want the recipe as it is written, for four, since I had to make some estimations and adjustments and this won’t necessarily multiply well.

Tomato and Sweet Corn Risotto (from the White Dog Cafe Cookbook) (1 main dish or 2 side dishes)

Stock

Cut the kernels off 1 ear of sweet corn.  Set the kernels aside for the risotto later.  Put the corn cob in a pot with 1 clove of garlic, 1 boiling onion (I forgot this ingredient.  It was fine.), 2 basil stems, 2 peppercorns (I didn’t have any so I just ground some pepper into it), 1 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and allow to simmer for an hour.

After it simmers, strain the stock into a smaller, clean pot and discard the solids.  Blend 1/4 cup of the stock in a blender with 1/2 cup diced fresh or canned tomato.  Return the puree to the stock and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, covered.

Risotto

It’s a good idea to assemble all your ingredients beforehand with risotto, as it requires you to be close to the stove, stirring, for the majority of the process.

So, before you start, dice 1/4 cup of leek (the white part).  Mince 1 clove of garlic and set aside about 1/4 teaspoon of it (I put the rest of it on my salad).  Measure out a little less than 1/2 cup of arborio rice and 1/8 cup of dry white wine.  Dice 1/4 cup of fresh tomato and add to those kernels of corn that you had reserved from making the stock.  Chop up 1/2 cup of fresh basil and grate a little less than 1/4 cup parmesan or parmesan-like cheese.  You can do all this while the stock is simmering.  What an efficient use of time!

In a large saucepan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until it ripples.  Add the leeks and stir for about 2 minutes until they are translucent but not browned.  Add the garlic and stir for another minute or so until aromatic.  Add the rice and stir for about 1-2 minutes.  Add the white wine.  When the wine is absorbed, add just enough simmering corn stock to cover the rice and cook, stirring, until the liquid is almost absorbed.  Keep adding stock and stirring until absorbed for about 20 minutes.  You probably won’t use up all the stock.  Once twenty minutes are up, taste the risotto and see if the rice is tender, but with a little bit of a “bite”.  If it is a little chewy or starchy, it needs a little more time.  You can still, however, add the corn and the diced tomato at this point.  Continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is the right consistency.  Turn off the flame.  Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and a grind of black pepper.  Fold in the basil, then the cheese.  Decant to a bowl and eat hot, perhaps with a small green salad.

Written by poperatzii

June 25, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Something Fishy

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Allow me to begin by saying that I’m not a big seafood person.  I’ve only recently been able to eat seafood, and the seafood I will eat is very limited.  Honestly, the only reason I even want to learn to eat seafood is because I think it will make me a better cook – admirable right?  The sacrifices I make for my art.  I like squid, but only when its batter-fried.  I like shrimp.  And now I will eat salmon but I’m not quite at the point where I will get excited about it.

SO at some point in the last year, John decided he wanted to eat salmon and I said Okay, I’ll make it.  But I won’t eat it.  I looked in my dad’s cookbook and there’s a salmon recipe that he and my brother rave about so I made it and John LOVED it.  So I started making it every so often because even though I don’t eat it, it is very fun to make and tends to be a good accompaniment for pasta.

THEN, as I got more serious about running and a little less squeamish, I started reading more and more than salmon is a superfood for runners, so I tried a little the next time I made it.  It wasn’t bad.  I could handle it.  Now I can make it as a meal, have fun, eat some, and know that I’m doing good things for my body.  So here’s my salmon recipe.  I hope you enjoy making it as much as I do and enjoy eating it as much as John does.

Papa’s Seared Salmon (served 2)

Preheat the oven to 450.

Mince 2 cloves of garlic and thinly slice 2 green onions (or chop some white onion).  Set aside.

Line a broiling pan or other baking pan with foil and grease lightly with some olive oil.  Place 12 oz of your choice of salmon (I use farmed Atlantic salmon) on a plate.  Rub in, one at a time, dried or fresh dill, thyme, black pepper, the minced garlic, and green onion, in that order (from the finest to the coarsest, is the rule).  The amounts are to taste, but probably about a teaspoon of each herb and a few grinds of the pepper.

Next, heat a skillet over high heat.  Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and swirl it around so it’s evenly distributed throughout the pan.  Add the salmon, seasoned-side down (try to get as much of the green onions under the salmon as you can, even though it will tend to fall off when you flip it) and let it sear for about 3-4 minutes.  Once it has seared, and the salmon begins to turn white on the part closest to the pan, transfer to the broiling pan.  Drizzle with any remaining olive oil from the skillet and sprinkle with salt, to taste.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the center of the salmon is pale pink (as opposed to the deep pink you started out with.  Once you remove it from the oven, drizzle the juice from half a lemon on top.

Now, the salmon sort of demands a side dish, and I love making pasta using the same ingredients I used in the salmon sooooo…

Andrea’s Stir-Fried Pasta

Start water boiling for pasta.  I hope you know how much water you need to use for pasta, but if not, look on the box.  I usually stick to 2 oz of pasta per person for this side dish.

Thinly slice 2 green onions.  Mince 2 loves of garlic.  Cut 2 pints of cherry tomatoes in half.

In a large bowl, add 1 tsp dried or 1 Tbs fresh dill, 1 tsp thyme, a few grinds of black pepper, juice from half a lemon, and a pinch of salt.  Once the water starts boiling, add 4 oz of whole wheat pasta (that’s about 2 cups of shapes or 1/4 box of spaghetti).  Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil on a skillet and add the green onions and tomatoes.  After about a minute of stirring, add the garlic and about 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes.  Once the green onions start to soften and the mixture gives off a nice aroma (should only take a couple minutes), take the skillet off the heat (turn off the stove!) and add to the bowl that you’re prepared with herbs.  Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the bowl and give it a toss.  Done!  If you’ve timed everything correctly, the salmon should be ready by now too and you can sprinkle some parmesan cheese on the pasta and serve the delicious meal you’d just created (only took about a half hour, too!).

Written by poperatzii

June 12, 2010 at 11:45 am