Spring Green Risotto

As I’ve probably mentioned before (and if not, it might be apparent from this post, or this one), we love risotto. It’s a great “work for your food” kind of meal. It’s not difficult to make, per se, it just requires a lot of attention and love. But in the end, it’s more than worth it. Possibly one of my favorite things about risotto (besides the creamy deliciousness) is that it can take on so many different variations. It’s easy to create different flavors and add different meats or veggies to make it different every time.

That’s exactly what we did with this spring green risotto that came across on my Google Reader from Annie’s Eats. Risotto is typically a pretty heavy dish, but this spring version made it seem light as a feather.

Spring Green Risotto

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Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4
– about 5 cups chicken broth/stock
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 2 shallots, minced
– 2 leeks, chopped
– 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
– 2/3 cup white wine
– 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
– 10 oz. frozen peas, thawed
– 1 tbsp lemon zest
– salt and pepper
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
– 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
– 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
Like all risotto, you want to start by heating the broth — bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and let it hang out while you’re cooking. This will ensure that all liquid additions during the cooking process are already hot so the rice cooks correctly.

In a pot large enough to cook all the rice (remember, it’s going to grow as you cook it), heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute the shallots and leeks with a little salt and pepper until tender, about five minutes. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat all the grains with butter, cook for about one minute. Next, begin adding liquid, starting with the wine. Stirring constantly, let the wine simmer until it has evaporated almost completely, about three minutes. After the wine has evaporated, begin adding the broth, a half cup at a time, letting it evaporate almost completely before each addition (this should take three to five minutes per addition). Make sure to stir constantly throughout the cooking process.

After the third liquid addition, add the asparagus and continue cooking like normal. Once the rice has been cooking for 15 minutes, stir in the peas, lemon zest and more salt and pepper. Continue adding liquid and stirring until the rice is tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes after the first liquid addition.

Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and stir in the lemon juice, mascarpone and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve.

This was really a great variation of one of our favorite dishes. It was light and fresh and reminded me of spring with each bite (I guess that’s why it’s called spring green risotto, huh?). There were a ton of vegetables, so each bite was full of something green — which I loved. The lemon zest really came through throughout, which added another element of fresh, light flavor. And finally, the mascarpone. It really added a whole other level of creamyess to this already creamy dish, which we both really liked. Come to think of it, I don’t think there was anything about this risotto that we didn’t like.

I found out after the fact that the original recipe also called for fennel, which is an ingredient that I’ve become very fond of recently. Next time we make this, I’ll definitely try it with the fennel and see how that changes it up. If you’re a risotto fan, I strongly recommend that you give this one a try…it’s something totally different and really tasty. I guarantee you’ll love it. 🙂

Green Chili Risotto

I’ve lived in New Mexico all my life, so green chili is pretty much a staple to me. Since Billy is a transplant, he seems to think that New Mexican’s use green chili for way too many things (like pizza and beer). Never the less, when we were out to eat a few weeks ago and he saw Parmesan risotto with a green chili white wine sauce, he had to order it. He cleaned his plate and was determined to recreate the dish at home…I think it’s probably safe to say that he’s turning in to a true New Mexican.

We pretty much made just a basic risotto and created a sauce to put on top, and it was amazing. It was one of the easiest risottos I’ve done in a while, but also one of the most flavorful.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Risotto
– 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
– 3 tablespoons butter
– olive oil
– 1 onion, chopped
– salt and pepper
– 1 cup Arborio rice
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1/4 Parmesan cheese
Sauce
– olive oil
– 1/2 of an onion, chopped
– 3 to 4 ounces green chili, chopped (2 or 3 fresh green chilies or 1 small can)
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup white wine

Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer and let it sit throughout the cooking process — the idea here is that all liquid additions to the rice are warm. In a separate pot (or high-sided pan large enough to hold the rice once it’s cooked), heat two tablespoons of the butter and a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion until translucent, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper (and a few red pepper flakes, if you like). Add the rice and stir to coat each grain with butter. Next, begin adding liquid, one half cup at a time, starting with the wine. Stirring constantly, let the liquid simmer until it has evaporated almost completely, about three minutes per addition. Continue adding liquid, stirring and evaporating until thre rice is cooked through and creamy, about 20 minutes after the first addition of liquid.

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for the green chili sauce. Saute the onion until translucent, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the green chili and continue to saute for another two or three minutes. Add the white wine and let simmer until reduced by half, or until there is a good amount of liquid to create a sauce for the rice.

Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and remaining tablespoon of butter and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon onto a plate and cover with the green chili and white wine sauce.

Considering we had really no idea what we were doing when going into this, it turned out awesome. Billy was in charge of make the sauce since he was the one that devoured the version we had at the restaurant. It was spot on, let me tell you. The flavors from both the green chili and the wine really went well together and added a ton of flavor to the risotto. The green chili wasn’t overpowering, but it added so much flavor to the dish as a whole. I think the sauce would go great on any type of plain rice (or other grain, like quinoa) as a flavor enhancer. Plus…if you live in New Mexico, green chili has to be a part of every meal and this is certainly a new way to do it!

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

One of the things I’ve loved most since becoming a part of the blogging community is meeting other foodies and getting great ideas from all you wonderful cooks out there. Carrie over at Our Life in Food posted a few weeks ago about an Indian dish her and her husband tried. Her picture literally made my mouth water and I put it on our menu the very next week. Chicken Tikka Masala will most definitely be a frequent rotation in our weekly menu from now on…thanks Carrie!

Before trying this, I don’t think I had ever had “real” Indian food. I pretty much knew what kind of spices go into Indian dishes, and this tasted pretty much exactly like what I would imagine an Indian curry dish tasting like — only minus curry powder. It was thick and creamy and made for a perfect sauce to serve over rice.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
– 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (this is for garnish only, we left it out)
Marinade
– 6 oz. yogurt
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
– salt and pepper
Sauce
– Olive Oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 2 tsp paprika
– salt and pepper
– 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
– 3/4 cup heavy cream

Keep in mind that the chicken should marinade for about an hour, so keep that in mind when you’re thinking about preparing this dish.

In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken, combine the yogurt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ginger and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and mix well, making sure to coat each piece of chicken with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or high sided skillet and saute, over medium-high heat, the garlic and jalapeno for about one minute. Add the cumin, paprika and salt and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute. Next, add the tomato sauce and cream. Stir well to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade, heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken until browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken to the simmering sauce and stir to coat. Serve over rice.

This was amazingly delicious. Although, it was pretty dang spicy (yes, even for two New Mexican’s), but so, so good. It was creamy, spicy and extremely flavorful. It was perfect over rice and paired really well with cauliflower. All the different spices and flavors came out in every bite, but didn’t overpower the flavor of the tomato-based sauce. This will for sure be something we make often…and will hopefully inspire us to try other Indian dishes.

For the original recipe, visit Carrie’s blog (and while you’re there, make sure to check out her other recipes!).

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto

We love risotto. It’s a lot of work for a typical meal, but the results are always well worth it. One of the great things about risotto is that there are so many flavor options and Giada de Laurentiis’ variation is a perfect example. The natural sweetness of the squash combined with the vanilla gives the risotto a whole new flavor base that you wouldn’t expect for a normally (very) savory dish.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
– 1 large vanilla bean
– 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 cup Arborio rice
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1/2 Parmesan cheese
– salt and pepper

This recipe is ultra easy because there’s no extra pots for cooking meat or anything else that you add to the actual rice. Like all risotto, you want to start by heating the broth — bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and let it hang out while you’re cooking.

You’ll want to add the vanilla bean to the broth right away. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds and put everything in the broth. The big difference here is that you’ll cook the squash in the broth, so once it comes to a boil add the squash and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the squash is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the squash from the liquid and set aside. Leave the heat on the broth in order to keep it at a warm temperature.

Meanwhile, in a pot (or pan) large enough to cook all the rice in, heat two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Saute the onion with salt and pepper until tender and see-through, about three minutes. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat all the grains with butter. Next, add the first batch of liquid — the wine. Stirring constantly, let the wine simmer until it has evaporated almost completely, about three minutes. After the liquid has evaporated, begin adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, letting it evaporate almost completely before each addition. Make sure to continue stirring throughout the cooking process. Continue adding liquid and letting it evaporate until the rice is tender, but still a little firm, and creamy, about 20 minutes after adding the wine.

Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and stir in the Parmesan cheese, cubed squash and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

I absolutely loved this variation on risotto. Billy…not so much. The sweetness of the squash and vanilla added a hint of sweet to this normally savory dish, but Billy seemed to think it was overpowering. I thought it was perfect. It was a great meal for a fall day — not to mention that it made the house smell delicious. The one thing I didn’t like about the dish were the cubes of squash. I would have rather pureed them or just left them out completely because the flavor that was left in the broth was enough for the whole dish. An alternative to the over-sweetness that Billy tasted could be to leave out the vanilla…maybe that’s a test for the future.

This recipe can be found in Giada’s latest book, Giada’s Kitchen, or on the Food Network Web site. Even though Billy wasn’t a huge fan of the dish, I highly recommend it for anyone who loves risotto!

Koussa

For those of you who don’t already know…Billy is half Arabic. As he got older and started taking an interest in cooking, he made a point to learn how to cook his great-grandma’s and grandma’s famous Arabic dishes. Let me tell you…it’s a good thing he did! This particular recipe probably isn’t something you would think of when you think of middle eastern cooking (if you really even think of it at all), but it’s worth trying and it dos have all of the traditional flavors of middle eastern dishes.

Koussa is basically squash stuffed with rice and lamb cooked in boiling water and tomato sauce.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 to 4 Mexican squash (depending on how many people you’re serving — allow for one squash per person)
– 1 12 oz. can of tomato sauce
– 1 cup rice
– 1/2 lb. lamb, cut into small cubes (you can use any cut of lamb you prefer, but we find that the meat from the chop is the most tender)
– salt and pepper to taste
– A pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg
– 1 tbsp. butter, melted

This is a simple recipe actually, but not something you find every day. The first thing you want to do is hollow out the squash. Billy has a really old “tool” that his great-grandma used to use, but any type of zucchini corer (or even a knife or small spoon) will work fine. First, cut off the tip of the squash, but make sure to save it. Take out all the meat that’s inside, but make sure to keep enough flesh so the squash is stable and you won’t poke a hole through it, and discard. Next, rinse the rice with cold water and mix with lamb, butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stuff the mixture into the squash until it’s about 3/4 of the way full. Make sure not to over-stuff or the rice won’t cook all the way. “Plug” the opening with the tip you cut off using two toothpicks to hold it in place and poke several holes in the body of the squash.

Place the stuffed squash (aka, koussa) in a large pot and cover with tomato sauce and water until completely submerged. Using a glass plate (or something else heavy), cover the squash in order to keep them completely submerged during cooking. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, the squash, rice and lamb will all be cooked to perfection! That’s it! Simple, right?

Koussa, like many middle eastern dishes, is traditionally served with plain yogurt as a sort of “dressing.” It took me a long time to try this — it just sounded kind of weird to me — but I was sorry I did. Using yogurt give everything a different texture and really helps it all come together. And contrary to what you might be thinking, you can’t even taste it. So, go ahead, give it a try…I promise you’ll like it!

Rolled Tacos with Mexican Rice

Sunday morning we were going about our weekend morning tradition of relaxing, cooking breakfast and watching Food Network when Paula Dean came on. I’m not usually a fan of Paula Dean (sorry Southerners), but Sunday was an exception. Well, sort of. Paula had a “guest chef,” that I had never heard of, on her show for some odd reason and she couldn’t stop mimicking her Mexican accent. Anyway, I digress. The guest, Patricia Jinich, made rolled tacos, salsa verde and Mexican white rice. Her taco filling was cooked in a red sauce, something I had never had before, and her rice was cooked with onions, celery, chili and lime juice. It all looked so delicious that we made our own that night.

The filling for the tacos called for boiled chicken, tomatoes, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, onions, cream, and bread crumbs. Easy enough. While the chicken was boiling, we combined the tomatoes, cloves, peppercorns, and onion and pureed until smooth. Once the chicken was cooked through, we shredded it then combined it with the puree in a pan. The mixture simmered for about 10 minutes before we added the cream and breadcrumbs. Once the cream and breadcrumbs combined with the mixture, it was time to start rolling. Yum!

We heated the corn tortillas in a dry pan for about a minute until they were warm (this prevented them from cracking and falling apart when we rolled them together). We then put some of the chicken mixture (a few tablespoons) in the center of the tortilla, rolled it up, and fastened it with a toothpick. The tacos fried for about three to five minutes each (we did two at a time in our little fryer). And…that’s it! The tacos drained on a paper towel and were best while they were still hot.

The flavor of the sauce that the chicken cooks in is…different. Not bad different — really good different, actually. I’m not sure how to describe it really. It was tomato-y, but also had a lot of flavor from the cloves, bay leaves and peppercorns. It didn’t remind me at all of Mexican food at all, but it was so much better than any other taquitos I’ve ever tasted. We had three dipping “sauces” for them: regular red salsa, queso and guacamole. My personal favorite was the guac.

The rice cooked just like normal white rice except that we sauteed onions and the rice in the pan before adding liquid. Once the onions turned translucent and the rice turned bright white, we added the liquid, celery, chili, lime juice, and parsley. The rice simmered away and cooked to a lovely, fluffy, limy bowl of deliciousness.

Note: Sorry for my not so informative post. I feel odd writing about a recipe that’s not mine or at least a variation on something we learned from someone else. Nevertheless, the tacos was yummy and I hope you try them too!

Recipe Links: Click here for the rolled taco recipe and here for the Mexican rice recipe. (We didn’t do the fried plantains that the rice recipe calls for.)