simple tomato risotto

December 2, 2013 § 64 Comments

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The recipe for this risotto comes from Tessa Kiros and her wonderful book Apples for Jam.  I often feature recipes from Tessa and it is only because every recipe she writes is outstanding and very simple to prepare.   My only problem is every time I prepare this risotto I never seem to make enough.  I have been wanting to make fried risotto balls with the leftovers, however,  this is well liked by all and we manage to finish off the entire pot every time.  Doubling the recipe is highly recommended, or quadruple if you are planning to have leftovers (which is what I am going to do next time!).   This recipe serves three.  I titled it simple because you do not have to stand over the pot continually stirring and adding broth.   You can just allow it to cook and stir occasionally.

It is suggested to serve this with little cubes of mozzarella stirred through near the end.  We have had it both ways, however, I prefer to leave it out.   If you like stringy melted mozzarella by all means add it at the end of cooking,  just before serving.

I n g r e d i e n t s:

Broth

  • 1/2 onion, peeled
  • 1 small carrot, peeled
  • 1 leafy celery stalk
  • 3 parsley sprigs
  • 1/2 small tomato
  • 5 cups water
  • salt

Risotto

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, left whole
  • pinch or two chile flakes
  • 1 cup risotto (arborio or carnaroli rice)
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes, pureed
  • 2 large basil leaves, torn
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, to serve
  • grated parmesan, to serve
  • freshly grated black pepper, to serve

For the broth, put the onion, carrot, celery, parsley and tomato in a pan with 5 cups of water.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, then turn down the heat as low as it will go and leave the pan over the heat.

Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy bottomed pot.  Sauté the onion and garlic over low-medium heat for 5 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Stir in the chile flakes and risotto, and cook for another minute.  Add half the tomato purée, half the basil and 1 1/2 cups of the hot broth.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.  stirring now and then.  Add the rest of the tomato purée and the remaining broth, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the risotto is cooked (if it needs another few minutes or a little more liquid, just use hot water).  Tessa recommends you remove the garlic cloves and throw them away.  We keep them in and eat them!  Stir in the Parmensan and remaining basil.  Serve drizzled with olive oil and a good grating of black pepper and pass around the extra Parmesan.

asparagus and potato frittata

November 19, 2013 § 57 Comments

With only two breakfast posts on this blog (dutch baby! and finnish strawberry pancake) I decided to post some of our favorite weekend morning meals.  I had asparagus in the refrigerator, however,  as you can imagine just about any vegetable may be used.  Keep in mind this recipe is for a very large frittata, enough to serve six people.   Good choice if you are expecting guests for breakfast during the holidays…

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  • 3 russet potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups stock of your choice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bundle of asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1 inch length
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the potatoes and broth in a large ovenproof skillet. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, until almost all of the stock has evaporated and the potatoes are tender.

Add olive oil, asparagus and onion to the potatoes and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, turning to to coat well with oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan, cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, or until the asparagus has become tender.

Turn on your broiler…

Beat eggs with half the parmesan, a little salt and pepper and pour it over the vegetables. Cover and cook over medium until the eggs stiffen on the bottom.  Sprinkle remaining parmesan over frittata and place under the broiler.  Keep an eye on it and remove when the top is golden and the eggs are set throughout, approximately 5 minutes.

Let cool slightly before slicing.

roasted brussels sprouts

November 15, 2013 § 43 Comments

Roasting is my new favorite way of cooking vegetables.  We roasted brussels sprouts the other day and they were a showstopper.  I think this is an excellent idea as a  T h a n k s g i v i n g  side dish.  It takes 30 minutes of (almost) hands free cooking.  No need to have a spatula in your hand while trying to mash the potatoes.

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We all know timing in the last 30 minutes is crucial when cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  The turkey comes out of the oven and suddenly a state of pandemonium ensues.  The buns go into the oven, potatoes are mashed, the gravy requires your undivided attention,  and don’t forget the vegetables!   This can be very challenging.

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Simply slice the brussels sprouts in half, toss in salted olive oil, spread them out on a parchment lined cooking sheet and set aside until the turkey is removed from the oven.   Place in a 400°F oven for 30 minutes.  Give them a good toss every 10 minutes.

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Roasting them alone is wonderful or add diced bacon, whole garlic cloves and chopped walnuts before placing in the oven.  This is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

fettuccine ai funghi

November 4, 2013 § 56 Comments

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The sauce for this recipe is silky smooth and deliciously creamy.   It is surprisingly light because only 1/2 cup of half & half is used. This is when using the stock from the pasta plays a huge role in keeping your pasta moist.  Along with a little butter and grana padano cheese (or Parmesan) the stock helps to create a creaminess without using too much cream (or in this recipe, half & half).  Keeping it light…

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Simple cooking, minimal ingredients and vibrant flavor.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 12 ounces good quality fettuccine (not quite a pound)
  • large pinch of coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, any color, chopped
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated (or Parmesan)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to desired taste

M e t h o d

Fill a large pot with cold water and bring to a roaring boil over high heat, toss in a large pinch of coarse salt and add the spaghetti.  Cook for 9 minutes stirring occasionally until al dente.  Prior to draining pasta reserve at least two cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add oil and butter, swirl to coat the skillet.  Add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper;  sauté 20 minutes until mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid.  Add wine and thyme and cook for a few minutes until liquid has evaporated.  Remove pan from heat.  Add hot cooked pasta another sprinkling of salt, half & half and Grana Padano to the skillet, tossing to combine.  Add cooking pasta cooking liquid until desired moistness and continue to toss.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away.

Serves 4, generously…

sweet and sour red cabbage

October 28, 2013 § 46 Comments

I have been preparing this German-style cabbage recipe for years.  The combination of vinegars helps the cabbage keep its bright color.  Baking melds the flavors of the cabbage, onions and apples.   Wonderful served with small crispy roasted potatoes.

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Red cabbage, yellow sweet onion, two sweet apples and a splash or two of vinegar…exquisite combination.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head red cabbage (6 cups finely shredded)
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 sweet apples, peeled, cored and slivered
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • parsley, chopped, for garnish

M e t h o d

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large ovenproof skillet over medium high,  heat the olive oil and sauté the cabbage and onion until cabbage has wilted and onions are soft, 15-20 minutes.  Add the apples and sauté 5 minutes, add the vinegars and allow to evaporate.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes stirring occasionally.  Garnish with parsley and serve.

risotto with butternut squash and basil

October 21, 2013 § 52 Comments

Autumn is here and what a perfect evening for a steamy bowl of butternut squash risotto and a glass (or two) of Sauvignon Blanc.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 medium large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 large purple onion
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 quarts of stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 3/4 cup of Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped

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M e t h o d

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Add squash and sauté until beginning to soften and brown around edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer squash to medium bowl and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add remaining tablespoon of oil, purple onion and thyme.  Stir until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes.   Add risotto and stir to coat for one minute.   Add 1 large ladle of  broth and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes.  Continue adding remaining broth by ladle, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, stirring often, about 15 minutes.  Return butternut squash to the pot.  Continue to cook until rice is just tender but still very creamy, stirring gently and often, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in basil and 3/4 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl and serve with additional Grana Padano cheese.

Serves 4.

homemade tomato soup

October 14, 2013 § 53 Comments

For this particular recipe a medley of tomatoes straight from the vine went into this garden tomato soup.  A very sweet and firm fleshed tomato called “Plum Lemon”, which is a russian yellow tomato that looks like a lemon!  An heirloom striped tomato which looks like a bell pepper and also harvested were several plum tomatoes to add to the mix.  Straight from the vine and into the soup pot.

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The yellow ones are not lemons…they are yellow plum tomatoes!

This soup had a slight tanginess to it as well as an herbal infused flavor which came from sprigs of fresh cut greek basil and thyme.  I chose to keep the sprigs whole and remove at the end in order to keep the soup texture silky smooth.   Both the thyme and greek basil seem to have a toughness about the leaves and I was looking for a nice smooth finish.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • a few fresh thyme sprigs
  • a few basil sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • sprinkling of pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • a pinch of sugar (optional)

M e t h o d

Place the oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot and heat until butter melts.  Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until soft, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, thyme, basil, salt and pepper and stir to mix.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have collapsed, 6 – 8 minutes.

While the tomatoes cook, heat the stock until beginning to boil.  Using 1/2 cup stock in a cup, whisk the flour to make a smooth paste.  Add the flour paste and the remaining broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for several minutes on very low heat, stirring frequently.  Turn off heat and cool enough to handle.

Using a hand blender (or blender) purée the soup until well mixed.   On several occasions I have read by adding a pinch of sugar to tomatoes rather it be a sauce or soup, helps to soften the acidity of the fruit and boost the tomato flavor.  I did add a pinch of sugar and I can not say if this had an effect on the soup or not.  It was so delicious and it seems using fresh tomatoes right off the vine you can not go wrong.

At this point I passed the soup through a sieve to catch the skins and bits to achieve a silky smooth texture.  I think this step is optional, it was wonderful even left a bit rustic and chunky.

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Topped with oven toasted croutons, fresh grated pecorino cheese and a few greek basil leaves.

Serves 4.

roasted tomatoes and herbs

October 2, 2013 § 54 Comments

We are finally enjoying red, ripe and juicy roma tomatoes from the garden.  I am still so puzzled as to why my tomatoes have taken so long when friends of mine living in the same city are at least 30 days on the other side of their harvest.  All I can say is I am happy to have them!

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And still more to come!

I have been wanting to slow roast tomatoes for weeks and after bringing in a dozen or so roma’s I knew exactly what I was going to do.  No doubt these were going to be good, however, after the first bite I was completely smitten.  I had to stop myself because I was going to finish off the whole lot and never mention a word to my family I had roasted them.  The aroma in the house was a dead give away and coming to my senses I knew I had to share.

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Crispy sage is such a lovely delicacy.  I added several large sage leaves to the roasting pan, along with thyme, greek basil and thinly sliced garlic.  We enjoyed the tomatoes alone as a side, however,  I can imagine how perfect they would be tossed in spaghetti.  Of course I thought that, how many pasta recipes can one blog have?  I’m up to 18 and I have only had this blog for 7 months!

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 6 or 7 tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • several whole sage leaves
  • 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • large sprig of basil, chopped
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • sea salt

M e t h o d

Preheat oven 325°F.  Drizzle olive oil onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the herbs about and toss around with a spatula.  Add the sliced tomatoes and garlic and continue to toss around until well coated.  Evenly space the tomatoes about the pan, cut side down, sprinkle with salt and roast for one hour.

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risotto with sun gold tomato sauce

September 11, 2013 § 65 Comments

We are experiencing an interesting tomato season here in Seattle.  I planted five varietals late June (once our temperatures stayed above 50°F overnight) and we are just now reaping the rewards of our harvest.  Four months!  Is that normal?  All the saplings I put into the ground were approximately 12″ in height.  The Sun Gold continued to grow until it reached at least 8 feet tall!  I was staking, tying and propping every other day.  The Sweet 100’s did not get quite as tall, however it’s circumference is at least 4 feet.    I also planted 3 heirloom varietals and they seem to be a bit more “normal” and are presently crowded with green tomatoes (and they are not a green varietal).  We are suppose to have temperatures in the low 90’s this week so hopefully we’ll get some color tomatoes.

I brought in a fair amount of Sun Gold’s and a few Sweet 100’s today and decided to make a risotto for dinner.  This was sensational.  The tomatoes along with the red wine vinegar gave the dish a subtle tang and the Grana Padano cheese was a perfect match for bringing out the flavor and adding a bit of creaminess to it’s texture.  A very lovely Tuesday night dinner.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 6 cups Sun Gold or Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 basil sprigs (I used Greek basil) + a little extra for garnish
  • 1 thyme sprigs
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

For the risotto:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups risotto
  • 6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock, on a steady simmer
  • 1/4 cup Grana Padano cheese or Parmesan,  freshly grated

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M e t h o d

The sauce.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, stirring often, until soft and translucent, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic, basil and thyme sprigs and cook stirring often, until fragrant.  Add tomatoes and vinegar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes release their juices and a sauce forms, approximately 15 minutes.  Discard the basil and thyme sprigs.  Add a sprinkling of salt to taste (and do taste it) set aside.

The risotto.  Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for two minutes until soft.  Add the risotto and stir for one minute making sure all of the grains are well coated.  Begin to add the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently.  Wait until each addition of stock is almost absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Reserve 1/4 cup of stock to add at the end.  After approximately 25-30 minutes, when the risotto is tender but not soft, add the reserved stock, tomato sauce and Grana Padano.   Serve right away with an additional sprinkling of Grana Padano and basil.

Serves 4.

blue cupcakes

September 5, 2013 § 52 Comments

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We used to make these cupcakes quite often several years ago when my son was 9 or 10.  It was always his delight to mix the “color” for the frosting.  And you can imagine with a 9 year old mixing colors we had some interesting looking cupcakes back then, to say the least.  Although I am not a fan of using “food coloring” in cooking, I do make an exception for these because they are so festive and exuberant.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks “Apples for Jam” by Tessa Kiros.  I love  how she organized her recipes in the book according to color of the food.  She offers some very good cooking advice as well as subtle attention to preparing meals with children in mind.  Tessa’s cupcakes are “tiny and pink”, and as you can imagine pink was always out of the question for the young man.

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An encaustic painting by “little T”, he was only 9 years old…

I had a little leftover mascarpone and decided to whisk up a small batch of frosting too.  The mascarpone frosting was so creamy and fluffy, delicious and buttery rich!

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 2  1/4 sticks of butter, softened (1/4 pound plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk

I c i n g

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • food coloring….of your choice
  • 4 tablespoons water

M a s c a r p o n e    F r o s t i n g

  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

M e t h o d 

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well.  Add the vanilla, then sift in the flour and baking powder.  Mix well while adding the milk a little at a time.  You should have a thick and creamy batter.

Spoon the batter into paper cupcake liners.  Make sure to only spoon in enough so the cake does not puff up above the liner top when baked.  The icing sits on the top nicely when the finished cake is level with the top of the liner.  Place the liners into a muffin tin and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the icing, put the confectioners sugar in a mixing bowl with a few drops of food coloring.  Gradually stir in approximately 4 tablespoons of cold water and stir until your have a smooth, yet thick consistency.   Drop about one teaspoon of icing on top of each cake and smooth around with the back of the spoon.  (If the icing starts to thicken too much add a little more water to thin it out.)  Sprinkle any decorations on before the icing dries.

For the mascarpone frosting, using a mixer fitted with a whisk, mix Mascarpone cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla and continue to whisk until well mixed.

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Makes about 18.

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