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American Cooking

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In March, I went to New Orleans and had my first Southern experience, though you could argue that New Orleans has its own unique culture and is not representative of the South as a whole.  In any case, it was a good time.  Obviously, I spent most of it eating.  Jambalaya, in particular, impressed me.  Jambalaya is a Creole rice dish that incorporates seasonal vegetables and andouille sausage.  Not the deep-fried food you would expect in Louisiana.

So, I went home with a book called The Little New Orleans Cookbook, which holds recipes for classic New Orleans recipes, like gumbo, beignets, and, of course, jambalaya.

After playing with the recipe some and making it nearly every week for John’s lunches, I think I’ve got [my version of] jambalaya down pat.  I love how the andouille sausage flavors the rice and how comforting it is to slowly spoon steaming servings of it into a bowl and eat it while reading on the couch.  The changes I made are typical Andrea changes: using brown rice, upping the amount of vegetables in the dish, etc.  I think you’ll like it.

Jambalaya (Adapted from The Little New Orleans Cookbook) Makes 4-6 servings

If using brown rice, start the rice cooking.  The reason is that brown rice takes 40-50 minutes to cook and you don’t want to simmer the jambalaya for that long or it’ll get cooked to death.  Bring a quart of chicken stock or water to a boil, turn the heat to low, and add two cups of brown rice.  I usually set a timer for 50  minutes.

Dice 2 green peppers, one jalapeño pepper or other medium-hot pepper, and a large onion.  Mince 2 cloves or garlic.  Set vegetables aside.

Thinly slice some mushrooms.  It doesn’t really matter what kind – I usually use about a cup of portobello or cremini mushrooms.

Slice some andouille sausage.  I use turkey and chicken sausage that I find at Whole Foods.  I usually use the whole package.

In a skillet, start sauteeing the vegetables.  I usually start with the onions and sautee them over medium heat in a tablespoon of olive oil until they soften, then I add the peppers.  Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the mushrooms and sausage.

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the mushrooms in butter.  I usually brown them in batches so they don’t crowd.  Heat the pot over medium-high heat and add butter and mushrooms.  Cook for about a minute, stirring a couple of times.  Once brown, add to the pepper and onion mixture that is still simmering.

Once all the mushrooms are browned, use the same large pot to brown the andouille sausage.  Again, heat the pot and met some butter.  Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned and fragrant.  Add the vegetables to the pot and add 1 tablespoon each of worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.  Add about a teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and a grind of black pepper.  Stir together and add the rice, which should be about 30 minutes into its cooking.  Cook the whole concoction covered, over very low heat, until the rice is done (it should be gently boiling).  Taste it and add salt as needed.  It should still be a little liquidy, which will be absorbed as it cools.  Note: resist the tempation to stir the rice too much, which will make it gummy.


Written by poperatzii

August 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Rice


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Meals that make good leftovers are a windfall in my house.  John loves hot lunches and I shudder at the idea of spending money on food while at work.  Leftovers are the ultimate solution.

Along comes shrimp and vegetable pilaf.  Pilaf, the way my dad makes it, is so delicious.  It’s a combination of onions, butter, rosemary, and rice that creates an aroma that seeps into your clothes.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.  Of course, I can’t live off pilaf.  At least, not in that form.  So one day, I looked at the ingredients I had on hand and decided to make pilaf into a complete (healthy) meal… and to make enough for leftovers.

The great thing about this dish is that most of the ingredients are either shelf stable or freezer-friendly.  It’s the kind of meal that you can put together quickly and just leave in the oven and watch West Wing while you wait.  For those of you who are into “easy,” look no further.  Also, it’s healthy.  Lots of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat.  Can you ask for more?

Note that you can make this dish with white rice instead of brown rice, but the cooking time will have to be reduced.  You might want to cook the shrimp separately and add it at the end.

Shrimp and Vegetable Pilaf (Serves 4-6)

Preheat the oven to 375.

Thinly slice 2 onions.  Over medium heat, melt about a tablespoon of butter and saute the onions in a dutch oven or a large saute pan until soft.  You want to use a pan that can hold about 2 quarts and is oven safe.  If you don’t have one, have a casserole dish ready.

Once the onions are soft, add about a teaspoon each of rosemary and thyme.  Use more if you have fresh herbs available.  Add a few grinds of black pepper.  Add 2 cups of brown rice, substituting some wild rice for the brown rice if you have it on hand.  Stir the rice into the onions and after about a minute, add a quart of chicken stock.  Stop stirring.  Bring to a simmer and lightly salt.  Cover with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil and put in the oven.  Set a timer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel about a pound of shrimp.  I like to use frozen shrimp because I can always have it on hand and I don’t have truly fresh shrimp available.  I usually defrost it by putting it in a colander and running it under cold water for about 5 minutes.

Cut up a crown of broccoli or asparagus or whatever vegetable you like best and set aside.

After the rice has been in the oven for 30 minutes, remove the lid and scatter the vegetables on top.  Most of the liquid should have already been absorbed.  Put in the oven for 5 more minutes, then scatter the shrimp on top.  Salt and pepper it and put it back in the oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, the shrimp should be pink and the dish should be aromatic.  Let it cool for about 5 minutes, then use a big ole spoon to mix it all together.  Eat.

Written by poperatzii

April 9, 2011 at 9:41 am

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)


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.


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


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In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been… I moved.  And during the move I did not cook.  I did however eat… a lot… of junk food.  And then shortly after the move I realized I misplaced my camera.  I’m hoping that at some point during the unpacking process I find it because I can’t really update a blog post without pictures, can I?

However, I do have pictures from one meal I made before the move.  One day, I was all set to make a “Carolina Casserole” recipe from a healthy cookbook I have called Healthy Eating for Two (Or Just You), which I like because it uses real ingredients and real cooking skills.  It has some good stuff.  Anyway, I was going to make this recipe.  However, the recipe calls for cooking the the microwave, which I do not approve of, and mushrooms, which I did not have.  So, I made a few modifications and the dish ended up somewhat different.  The result was sort of a pilaf-y risotto-y rice dish.  It was also delish.  I call it pilaf-y because I sort of used the same method I usually use for pilaf, and it’s risotto-y because it ended up very creamy, much like risotto.  It’s also a great weeknight meal because it’s quick, not too involved, and low in calories (about 400 per serving, in case you were wondering).

Andrea’s Pilaf-Risotto (serves 2)

Preheat the oven to 375.

Thinly slice 1/2 an onion.  In a medium pot, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and about a teaspoon of dried, or a tablespoon of fresh, minced rosemary.  Stir until the onions have softened and become translucent, but not quite brown.  Add 1/2 cup of white rice and 2/3 cup of diced cooked chicken or turkey.  Cook, stirring, for about a minute, then add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth or stock.  Add a few grinds of black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme.  Stop stirring, bring to a simmer, add salt (to taste) and 2/3 cup milk.  If your pot is not oven-proof, transfer to a casserole dish, cover, and put in the oven.

After 20 minutes, uncover the pot/ dish and add 1/2 cup of frozen green peas.  Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.  The rice should be tender and most of the liquid should have been absorbed.  DONE.  After you take it out of the oven, you can add sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on top.  Serve hot.

Written by poperatzii

June 10, 2010 at 7:18 pm