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Risotto with Fresh Asparagus & Peas

Fresh asparagus has been popping up at tons of places we have been shopping this last week. I grabbed the best looking bundle from the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store the other day, as a hankering for risotto had set in. Little did I know that the day I was going to make It world be close to 90 degrees. The process of stirring was a bit like being in a sauna, but by the time the sun set, the back screened porch had started to cool down and we enjoyed our meal out there while the crickets serenaded us. Was not finding fresh peas yet, so went with my old stand-by of a really high quality frozen bag. Opt for the larger, non-petit size. They really work pretty wonderfully in risotto. If you can find fresh, by all means use them. For the asparagus, chose the thicker the better. They hold up nicely when mixed into the hot rice. I cut them up first and roasted on a sheet pan at 400 degrees mixed with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Pull out while still a bit firm, as they will continue to cook later in the risotto. I took out all the tops and reserved in a separate bowl, as they look nice on top of the individual risotto servings at the very end.

Heat up the 8 cups of stock to not quite a boil, then turn down the heat a bit, but the stock should remain hot thru the entire risotto cooking process. Next, and here is where I like to use a good sized Le Creuset pot for cooking the risotto in, add a liberal dose of butter and cook a diced onion and shallot till they are not quite brown. Then add a good amount of olive oil to that, along with 2 cups of Arborio rice. Coat the rice with the butter and oil mixture, and sauté for a minute or two to cook through, but don’t brown the rice. All of the above is done over medium heat, but stove tops vary greatly, so adjust accordingly.

Now the liquids begin. Add one cup of white wine to the mixture. I like to use a white that we will be serving with the meal. Stir rice till the wine is absorbed. The depth of flavor the wine adds to the finished product is really noticeable.

Now the waiting hot stock takes center stage. Add one cup of stock to the mixture, stirring till the stock is fully absorbed. What holds many folks back about making risotto is there is a good amount of stirring involved. A constant stir is not necessary, but pretty close. This is where the white wine you opened comes in quite nicely. Sipping a little white wine during the risotto making process is a personal favorite–it is my break from stirring. Continue adding the hot stock one cup at a time, and the rice will become creamier as you go, as it releases the natural starches. Add the 7th cup of stock. At this point, you will be about 20 to 25 minutes into the rice cooking process. You are almost there.

Now add the bag of peas. It does not need to be completely unfrozen as the peas will defrost the moment they hit the hot rice. Stir. Now add the waiting asparagus pieces on the waiting sheet pan. Add a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir. Turn off the heat. Add another cup of stock. Stir. Add a dusting of salt & fresh ground black pepper. Stir. Put on the lid. Let sit for 5 minutes, have another sip of your white wine, as we are almost done. Once that 5 minutes has passed, give it one last stir, adding a bit more stock so it is nice and creamy. In a bowl add the risotto mixture, then add the asparagus tops to each bowl and finally a few sprinkles of the grated Parmesan. A bit of work, but that will all fade away when you have your first bite.



 

 

Ottolenghi Inspired Potato Salad

Often a photo of something can spark my imagination. I follow Yotam Ottolenghi on Instagram and he posted a photo of what looked to be coarse grain mustard studded potato salad with fresh peas strewn throughout. I did a quick Google search and could not for the life of me locate any such recipe of his. So I improvised. I do love a good recipe but it is also fun and gets my creative juices flowing to just try making something as you go. Our friend CoCo was up from Portland visiting us this week-end so we grocery shopped & cooked dinner together. I roasted a chicken and this potato salad nestled right up to it perfectly. 

Hard boiled eggs and bacon were added to this to really bump up the heartiness of all this.  Plus we used some of the bacon fat to create the vinaigrette that the warm potatoes soaked up to create the dressing. We had leftovers, as we always cook for an army, and we are having them tonight. I can hardly wait and I just finished breakfast.

Cut up a bunch of green onions, put them in a bowl and cover the onions with rice wine vinegar. This does one of two things. It mellows the onions considerably, and the vinegar takes on some of the onion flavor. The rice wine vinegar will be used later to make the dressing. Set bowl aside. This should sit for at least a half hour. Longer is fine too.

In a large pot, add medium to large sized Yukon gold potatoes (I used 10 medium sized) to the water and bring to a boil. You want the potatoes whole with the skin still on. Using a sharp knife to insert into the potatoes as they cook to check when they are done. You want them a tad firm and not falling apart.

In a small pan add 4 eggs and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let cook for a minutes or two. Then turn the heat off and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10 minutes. Take them out and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. Freshen the water, bring to a boil again, and blanch the peas for just a minute. Take them out, adding running cold water over the colander. Fresh peas cook so quickly, plus they will cook a bit once the warm potatoes hit them. Set aside.

As the potatoes boil away, put a few slices of really good quality bacon in a dry sauce pan on medium heat. I use a kitchen scissor and cut the raw bacon right into the pan. Cook until bacon is done, putting the now nice and browned bacon on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

In a really good sized bowl, add 2 super generous spoonful of course ground mustard and 1 of Dijon mustard. Add a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of pepper. I know, it is quite a bit, but potatoes need it. Then add the rice wine vinegar that the green onions have been sitting in, letting the onions still sit in the bowl. They have not been called into duty quite yet. Then add some of the bacon fat that the bacon created along with extra virgin olive oil. With a fork or whisk, mix until you are happy with the consistency. This is the dressing for the potatoes, so you want a good amount as they really soak it up. If it is too thick, add more vinegar. If it is too thin, add a bit more bacon fat or more mustard. Try a taste as you go. 

Once the potatoes are done, take them out of the hot water and strain. They will still be pretty hot, but carefully cut them in quarters or slices, whichever you prefer, adding them to the vinaigrette as you cut them. The warm potatoes will soak up quite a bit of the dressing, which is what you want. Then add the bacon, peas, green onions and chopped up eggs. Toss. Have a taste. Does it need more salt or pepper? Maybe yes or maybe no. Then add a few handful of chopped Italian parsley. Toss again. One final taste. There, you did it! You just made one very hearty potato salad. Because this is not made with the traditional mayo, this potato salad can sit out a good long while, making it a lovely addition for a picnic or outside gathering this Summer. 



 

 

Chive & Pea Risotto with Garlicky Shrimp

Our time out at WestWard last week was all about comfort. And very few foods speak to me of comfort as a big bowl of risotto. I have used shrimp a bunch in the past but thought they lacked a bit of flavor adding them into cook along with the rice, so this time I roasted them in the oven while I cooked the risotto so they had tons more flavor. Here is what I did, which was super simple.

Take shrimp and pile them onto a sheet pan. Chop up a few cloves of garlic quite fine. Add that to the pile of shrimp. Then a big glug of extra virgin olive oil. Plus a few big pinches of salt & pepper. With your hands, mix it all together, gently working it all amongst the shrimp. Then spread them out on the baking sheet. Add to a 400 degree oven for 7 to 9 minutes.  Be careful to not overcook, as they will cook a bit more in the risotto in the last 5 minutes of that cooking process. Take off the baking sheet when done and put onto a plate to cool. If they stay on the hot sheet, they will continue to cook more. Set plate of shrimp aside. You can either cook the shrimp before you start the risotto or while, your call. Either is fine.  

OK, here we go. Risotto. Cooking it scares some people, other people say how easy it is. I fall in the middle. I have made risotto for many years, and it was a bit of trial & error at first. This is what I have learned works. My biggest error at first is I did not have the chicken stock that you add ladle by ladle as the risotto cooks, hot enough. You will need 8 cups of chicken stock, homemade is preferred, but stock in a box is also completely fine. Heat up the stock to not quite a boil, then turn down the heat a bit, but the stock should remain hot thru the entire risotto cooking process.

Next, and here is where I like to use a good sized Le Creuset pot for cooking the risotto in, add a liberal dose of butter and cook a diced onion and shallot till they are not quite brown. Then add a good amount of olive oil to that, along with 2 cups of arborio rice. It is essential that you use arborio rice for this. Coat the rice with the butter and oil mixture, and sauté for a minute or two to cook thru, but don’t brown the rice. All of the above is done over medium heat, but stove tops vary greatly, so adjust accordingly. 

Now the liquids begin. Add one cup of white wine to the mixture. I like to use a white that we will be serving with the meal. Stir rice till the wine is absorbed. The depth of flavor the wine adds to the finished product is really noticeable. Now the waiting hot stock takes center stage. Add one cup of stock to the mixture, stirring till the stock is fully absorbed. What holds many folks back about making risotto is there is a good amount of stirring involved. A constant stir is not necessary, but pretty close. This is where the white wine you opened comes in quite nicely. Sipping a little white wine during the risotto making process is a personal favorite–it is my break from stirring. Continue adding the hot stock one cup at a time, and the rice will become creamier as you go, as it releases the natural starches. Add the 7th cup of stock. At this point, you will be about 20 to 25 minutes into the rice cooking process. You are almost there. Now add the package of frozen peas and the chives you have chopped up. Stir. Add a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir. Turn off the heat. Add most of the cooked shrimp, holding back a few to adorn the top of the bowls you are about to serve. Add your last cup of stock. Stir. Add a dusting of salt & fresh ground black pepper. Stir. Put on the lid. Let sit for 5 minutes, have another sip of your white wine, as we are almost done.

Once that 5 minutes has passed, give it one last stir. In a bowl add the risotto mixture, then add a few pieces of the garlicky shrimp to the top of each bowl and finally a few sprinkles of the grated Parmesan. A bit of work, but that will all fade away when you have your first bite.



 

 

Spring Has Sprung!

Ahhhhh, it has arrived! Officially today. Spring has sprung. The air starts feeling different. You hear the birds singing. You even sometimes hear folks let out a little song in Spring glee.

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Fresh Peas & Mint with Ricotta Crostini

20150601-090449.jpg The sugar snap peas just looked so fresh at the Market on Saturday, you could just tell how much love & care the woman selling the peas had put into growing them. They would be the start of something to have with rosé when our guests arrived on Sunday. Our herb pot is just going crazy with mint, so that would be the herb. Now we are rolling. Here is such a simple, simple app to try when you can get your hands on fresh peas.

Blanch the naked peas in a pot of boiling water for a minute. Then take them out and put in a bowl with ice and water to shock them to stop the cooking process. Then take them out of the cold bath and put in a colander to get them nice and dry. This really is a one bowl treat. Add the peas, chop a few leaves of mint quite finely, add a small splash of extra virgin olive oil, a big dollop of ricotta cheese along with a pinch of salt and pepper. With a fork, mash all together, being sure to not mash all the peas as you are mixing it together. I like about half of the peas pretty whole, so you really see them when you are eating them. Plus I like the variety of consistency of the peas. Once all mixed, set aside. Then slice up a baguette, put pieces on a baking sheet, brush on a bit of EVOO on each piece and bake in a 350 degree oven until just slightly browned. Take those out, put a spoonful of the pea mixture onto each piece. Voila, done! Serve. Enjoy.

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Spaghetti Carbonara

20140725-042111.jpg I almost always know or at least have an idea of what I am going to write about/post in the morning before my head hits the pillow the night before. But not always. Last night was such a night that I was just wrapping my head around ideas and TPS said “I made that Spaghetti Carbonara and wrote about it for you, why not use that?” Which he did in January, which was so delicious and so lovely that he wrote out the recipe to be used on the blog and shared with you all. Which I stored away and promptly forgot about. Easily as tasty in July. Today’s post, courtesy of Mister Sive.

Spaghetti Carbonara is a core comfort food in the Watson Sive household. I think this may have been one of the dishes that “sealed the deal” with my husband. Simple, tasty, and hearty, it has a terrific combination of smoky bacon (need we say more?), the sweetness of peas, and the warmth of pasta and eggs.

1 pound bacon
1 pound spaghetti
4 eggs
1 regular sized package frozen peas
1/2 cup loosely grated Parmesan
lots of fresh pepper
salt to taste

Dice the bacon small and cook in a skillet over medium heat. Drain off the fat as you go along, and try to time the cooking so the bacon is still warm for assembly.

Break the eggs into a large pasta or mixing bowl and loosely mix with a fork.

Empty the frozen peas into a colander.

Cook the pasta to just a tad over al dente. Ideally, in a two stage pasta pot with an integral strainer, so you can drain the pasta and save the hot pasta water. Dip the frozen peas into the pasta water to flash cook (this is all they’ll need; if cooked longer, they become too soft.)

Immediately toss the hot pasta in the eggs, cooking them, and quickly add the other ingredients. Let sit for a minute for the eggs to complete cook and the flavors to merge.

Serve in pasta bowls, top with a touch more pepper, grab a glass of hearty red, and all will be well in the world.