Excellent by the handful, or sprinkled over a salad or tender fish filet.
Rice & Grains
The latest issue of Bon Appétit Magazine had a feature on how to make all sorts of different energy bars from scratch, and of the half-dozen or so that they shared, this one struck me as the one to give a try. I think it mostly had to do with the binder made from tart cherries, rice syrup and salt (YUM!), but it also could have been that I have 3 different bags of quinoa in my pantry just screaming for redemption. Whatever the reason, I’m quite happy to have made these.
For me, risotto ranks right up there with frittatas as a perfect dish with which to use up a fridge full of leftovers. As long as you have some carnaroli or arborio rice in your pantry, a wedge of parmesan in the fridge, and a good quality chicken or vegetable stock on hand, a hearty and delicious risotto is just a few minutes away.
A few days ago, Muppet and I found a lonely leek, some leftover roasted chicken and some peas that needed to be used up in our fridge. To these goodies we decided to add some lovely dried (and rehydrated) porcini mushrooms that my wife and I bought in the village of Asolo, Italy when we travelled there last year on a fabulous culinary bike tour with Chef Jody Adams, and our friends at ItaliaOutdoors. I'm kicking myself that I didn't buy more while we were there, because these shrooms are big, meaty and loaded with flavor, a world apart from the crumbled scraps of mushrooms that often pass for dried wild ones here.
Oh yeah….”you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and if by some lucky chance you do, you better be prepared to see him do the same stupid trick over and over and over, until he just about drives you to the nut house”.
You see, I AM an old dog, and ever since discovering a new egg poaching trick (first learned here), I’m staying up nights thinking of all the different ways I can use the lovely things. This dish, the second in as many weeks to highlight the eggs is, I’m afraid, just the start of my old dog doing a stupid new trick routine, ad-nauseum.
My apologies in advance.
This was one of the fabulous dishes we learned to cook on our recent trip to Italy with Chef Jody Adams, and the gang from ItaliaOutdoors. This risotto is packed with flavor, but is relatively “light” as risottos go, there is NO cream, and not a lot of butter and cheese to speak of. I know…I know, it’s hard for you to believe that I can like it so much given that it isn’t just swimming in fat, to be honest, as someone that’s used to lots of cream, butter or cheese in my risotto, I was a little shocked myself.
What makes this dish so exciting is the classic juxtaposition of sweet (from the figs) and bitter (from the radicchio), toss in a little saltiness from the cheese, and the earthy richness of the rice and red wine, and you have a dish in perfect balance, without unnecessary fat and calories. As you all know, I’m not exactly afraid of fat, but if I don’t NEED it in a dish, I don’t WANT it in a dish.
I must admit that I felt a little like Heidi Swanson the other day when working up this recipe. No, it wasn’t ’cause of how I looked in the stylish skirt I was wearing ;-), but rather this quinoa and veggie treat is exactly the kind of thing that Heidi presents so beautifully on her blog, 101 Cookbooks every week.
Growing up in Vermont, with an Italian mother manning the stove, I didn’t grow up eating anything quite so exotic as middle-eastern cooking. In fact, it wasn’t until I married my wife, who is of Lebanese descent, that I was finally exposed to more than just the very basics of middle-eastern cuisine. Since then, I have come to love not just the ubiquitous hommus, falafel, and baba ghannouj, but also dishes like fatayer, kibbe and tabbouleh.
This is a recipe that was inspired by a Pineapple Rice dish that I recently found featured on the fabulous 101 Cookbooks blog. I took Heidi’s recipe and adapted it to what I had on-hand at the time when I first made this a few weeks ago. It came out so well, that I thought I’d reproduce (and document) it for all of you.
Fried rice is absolutely one of those everything but the kitchen sink dishes, that lends itself well to any leftovers you have laying about. You will find some combinations you like better than others, but as long as you start with a few cups of cold, cooked rice, and the makings of a tasty dressing, almost anything else you throw into the mix is sure to yield a satisfying meal.
Arthas put in some time working on his knife skills to pull this meal together, tailing and cutting the shrimp, mincing the garlic, and prepping the clementines. This is one of those meals that is really all about prep, so if you have the space in your kitchen, pull a few of the kids into duty to speed along the slicing, dicing, and mincing process. Once your “mise” is ready, only about five minutes of high heat stand between you and a healthy, delicious meal.
- 1/4 cup mild olive oil, or sunflower oil
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/8 cup orange juice
- 1/8 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- pinch of kosher salt
- 2 cups cooked brown long grain rice, cold from the fridge
- 24 large, cooked, peeled and de-veined shrimp, cut into thirds
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves
- 2 ears of corn, kernels stripped from the cob
- 3 clementines, each segment cut in half cross-wise
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
- 1 cup roasted, salted cashews, roughly chopped
- 1 small chile, seeded and finely minced
- 3 eggs, scrambled, cooked into a thin omelette, and cubed.
- Fresh Cilantro
- Make the dressing by whisking the first nine ingredients together in a bowl, set aside.
- Whisk the eggs with a little salt and pepper, and pour into a pre-heated small non-stick skillet. Cook on low-medium heat, undisturbed, until totally set. Flip briefly if you wish before slipping the omelette onto a cutting board to cool. Cut into cubes and reserve.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon high-heat canola oil to almost smoking.
- Add the corn kernels and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the shallot, chile, rice, scallions, shrimp, and half the dressing, and cook till heated through.
- Add the spinach, cooked egg, clementines, and cashews, and cook until the spinach wilts.
- Taste for seasoning, adding more dressing if required.
- Serve immediately, topped with freshly minced cilantro.
I was alone this weekend.
No wife, no kids, no pets (except for Monty, Boris’ Ball Python).
So this post will be a little different from the rest. On Saturday I was not cooking to teach, or to satisfy a crowd, I was cooking for me. So….what was on the menu you ask? Let’s see….I had some fresh herbs and arugula from the garden, and some impossibly sweet corn, fresh garlic, and cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market. I had some wheat berries in the pantry that I was itchin’ to put to use, and a lovely, locally raised skirt steak for the grill. All the makings of my favorite kind of meal. Fresh, healthy and locally produced.
The steak got about 4 hours in a South American style marinade before it spent a scant 4 minutes ( 2 min. each side) on the searing hot grill. It was served with a chimichurri sauce made from my garden herbs and freshly chopped garlic. The corn stayed on the cob, simply steamed and served with plenty of butter, salt and pepper. The wheat berry salad I threw together turned out really well, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you all.
6:30 AM…..Grunt, groan, sigh….the fridge door opens, a cursory glance at the contents apparently yields nothing interesting. The ritual is repeated next at the freezer, and then at the breadbox before the inevitable question is tossed my way.
"Hey dad, what's for breakfast?"
I'm not even sure why I bother to answer, because regardless of what I say, the only response I ever get in return is; "Is that all?" "We never have anything good for breakfast anymore!" Repeat this dialogue (if you want to call it that) four more times, once for each of my kids stumbling into the kitchen, and you have a pretty accurate depiction of my morning routine lately. I suspect that the deterioration in the morning 'tude is just part of their end-of-the-school-year restlessness, but it seems an opportune time to add a new player to the breakfast rotation in any event. Something that is nutritious, easy to make, can do double duty as an afternoon snack, and most importantly, will get my kids off my @#$ about not having anything good to eat for breakfast. The choice is simple, delicious and obvious.
Slip this word into a chat you are having with anyone over the age of 30, and the image in their mind’s eye is liable to be this; granola, the breakfast of choice for birkenstock and tie-dye wearing tree-hugger hippies weaving hemp plant-hangers while listening to The Grateful Dead. You know, munchy fodder for “crunchy-granola” types.
Mention granola to a group of kids sitting around the breakfast table, and you’re likely to illicit a sea of sour faces and the following dialogue; “keep that nasty bowl of tree bark and weeds far away from me, just the smell of it is making my eyes itch….I must be allergic."
Such a bad rap for what CAN be a delicious and nutritious staple of healthy eating. Of course, the poor rep is not entirely undeserved. Most pre-made granola on the market today falls into two broad categories, it either does taste like a bowl of bark mulch and pebbles, or it has been so highly processed and “sugared” in order to appeal to the bulk of our mass market cereal eaters, that it should not even be considered a cousin, eight times removed, of real granola.
There are some terrific artisanal granolas on the market these days, but at a cost of $10-15 for a 16 oz. bag, even our hemp-weaving hippie friends (who have been known to spend great sums for weedy things sold in bags) choke at the cost.