Summer Risotto

Quick – think of the flavors of summer. What foods do you identify with summer? For me it will always be tomato, corn and peach and I would guess most people have at least one of those, if not all three in their mind. So what better way to celebrate summer than have a risotto (cause it is actually easy to make and very filling and generally has leftover) with the flavors of summer. Okay, there are no peaches in this, but a nice peach salad would not be out of place here.

Recipe*:

  • 1 cup aboro rice
  • ~ 4 cups vegetable broth (you may not need it all)
  • 1 ear fresh sweet corn
  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup hard grating cheese (I like pecorino)
  • 1 stalk basil
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

In a small to medium pot, heat vegetable broth. While the broth heats, cut the corn kernels from the cob, then cut the cob to fit into the pot. Simmer the vegetable broth and corn cobs.

Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Pick the basil leaves and cut into small ribbons. Grate the cheese. Using the same grater, grate the tomatoes.

In a large pan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until the are soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook about one minute. Add rice and toss to coat. Cook about 1-2 minutes until rice is toasty. Add tomatoes and mix well. If using, add wine and cook over medium heat until evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove corn cobs from broth. Add 1/2 – 2/3 cup broth and mix with rice/tomato mixture. Cook, stirring often, until broth is absorbed. Add broth ~1/2 cup at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Stir with each addition. Continue adding broth until rice is cooked – it should take between three and four cups of broth. As you add the last 1/2 cup of broth, add the corn. When rice is cooked and corn is heated through, remove from heat and add 1/2 of the basil and about 1/3 cup of cheese. Mix everything together well and adjust seasoning as needed.

Plate and top with more cheese and the remaining basil.

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This is an Alinea (the cat) approved dish. She even joined us at the table in hopes of getting a bit for herself.

*This was adapted from a New York Times Cooking recipe.

Breakfast for Dinner

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on all of those projects around the house that need attention, but get neglected during the school year. These projects (cleaning out closets and cabinets, weeding the yard, cleaning the patio and patio furniture, cleaning out the garage etc.) leave me tired, yet oddly energized. On the days where I did more work than normal, it’s easy dinner and one of my favorite easy dinners is breakfast.

The original intent on this was a casserole, but I decided to do more of a hash. Potatoes, roasted vegetables, cheese and eggs – you kind of can’t go wrong. The potatoes could be roasted in the oven for crisper potatoes, but since I wanted to roast the vegetables, I boiled them first, then pan fried them in butter with a little onion and garlic. The vegetables are pretty simple – asparagus, tomato and yellow squash. The best part of this dinner is that is just uses what is on hand and can be changed based on that. I also used pre-shredded cheese for this in part because I had it on hand, and in part because I thought it fit the dish. I didn’t really want fancy cheese for this.

Recipe:

  • 1/2 pint potato
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 handful asparagus
  • 1/4 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 eggs
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 handful shredded mozzarella
  • 1 handful shredded cheddar

Heat oven to 400. Dice tomato, onion, and garlic. Cut asparagus and potatoes into bite size pieces. toss tomato, asparagus and squash in a little olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and bake in oven for about 20 minutes, tossing half way through.

Boil potatoes for about 15 minutes, until just cooked. In a large pan, heat butter and when foamy, add onion and garlic. Season with salt and cook over medium heat until onion softens, about five minutes, then add potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing a few times, to crisp – about ten minutes. Once vegetables are cooked, mix together and toss the potatoes with the vegetables on baking sheet.

Mix eggs well with a fork and then cook in the same pan as the potatoes (after transferring the potatoes) making sure to season with salt and pepper. Eggs cook quickly, so cook unit just beginning to set, the take off the heat – they will finish cooking.

To plate – put a base of potato/vegetable mixture on the pate and top with a handful of mixed cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Add half the egg to the top.

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Peach Cupcakes

I love peaches, especially fresh from the grove peaches. Growing up we waited for the peach harvest to start and picked up peaches by the dozen from the road side stands near the house. Fresh Jersey peaches (yes, Jersey – they really have the best peaches, sorry Georgia) just whispered “it’s summer” from the smell alone.

The first set of peaches I picked up at the farmer’s market this year were good – really good and tasted like sweet, juicy peaches should taste. The second batch I acquired were … less than wonderful and I had a hard time eating them. I thought about making a peach pie, but I hate the texture of cooked fruit (I know, weird, but I just can’t do it). I considered peach pudding and peach shortcake, but I decided to try peach cupcakes with peach buttercream. Oh my. Yeah. That was the way to go.

To make the peach puree, I peeled the peaches, cut them up, added a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon of maple syrup since they were not that sweet. Blend well and there you have it – peach puree.

Cupcake Recipe:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup peach pure
  • 1/4 cup cream (or whole milk)
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

With a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and continue mixing until well incorporated. Add peach puree and mix, then add 1/2 flour, baking powder and the salt. Mix well then add the cream and then the rest of the flour. Scrape the sides of the bowls and mix one last time.

Divide mixture between 12 lined muffin/cupcake tins – each tin should be about 1/2 full. Bake in 350 degree oven for 18-20 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Buttercream Recipe:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter at room temperature (could use a little less for stiffer buttercream)
  • 1/3 cup peach puree
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar (more for stiffer buttercream)

img_20180620_112329Mix butter and peach puree with a mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time and mix well to incorporate.

Cool cupcakes completely before icing. These may need to be refrigerated as the icing is a little thin. Use slightly less butter or slightly more confectioners sugar for stiffer icing, but don’t skimp on the puree – it had a fantastic flavor.

Sweet Potato Egg Rolls

I’ve never been a huge fan of egg rolls mainly because I’m don’t care for mushrooms. When I thought about making them, I considered trying traditional pork egg rolls, but that didn’t sound appealing either. So … sweet potato (in large part because I had a few sitting in my fridge that I need to use.

This was definitely one of those use-what-you-have fillings although I did pick up cabbage for this dish and a soba noodle dish I wanted to make later in the week. I loosely based my version on a recipe from The Real Food Academy which looked pretty simple. My amounts differ pretty far from the original recipe, and I added a few things. I do think I want to change the sauce for the filling and add a little hoisin to it next time, but for a first attempt, it was a success. Not as pretty as some, but still not bad.

One thing I really liked about this dish was the potential for lunches. Each roll was pretty self contained and that makes packing for lunch easier. If I change the filling and use something with more of a punch inside, I could get away with no dipping sauce and a room temperature (no refrigerating at work and no heating up in the communal microwave) meal. I need to work on this.

Recipe:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into match sticks
  • 1 handful snow peas or sugar snap peas
  • 2-3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup carrots (I used the matchstick carrots I had on hand, but shredded would be fine
  • 3 scallions, chopped with green and white parts separated
  • Egg roll wrappers
  • 1 knob ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • olive oil for pan and brushing
  • sesame seeds for topping (optional)

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce

Mix ginger, garlic, soy sauce, maple syrup and sesame oil in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Heat about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan over medium high heat until hot. Add sweet potatoes and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Add peas and continue cooking another two minutes. Add carrots and scallion whites and stir, then cover and cook over medium heat for about three minutes. Check the sweet potatoes and if they are mostly cooked, uncover, add cabbage and toss until wilted. If the potatoes are not cooked, continue cooking about 2 more minutes. Add sauce and stir to combine then remove from heat and add in the scallion greens.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place one wrapper on a clean surface and add about 2-3 tablespoons of the filling, making sure to drain the liquid from the filling before placing on the wrapper. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water to help seal the roll. Fold the bottom corner up over the filling, then fold each side towards the middle. Roll the wrapped portion of the egg roll towards the top and place on a lined baking sheet. Repeat until you have used all the filling (I made ten).

Brush the top of each roll with a little olive oil, then sprinkle sesame seeds on top for a little visual interest. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Serve hot or room temperature.

While the rolls are baking, combine the ingredients for the dipping sauce into a bowl and mix well.

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Lemon Cupcakes

Cupcakes. Just say the word and you almost have to smile. I love cupcakes and have been getting better about the icing, so I seem to be making them with a little more regularity these days. It also helps that I’m not swamped with school and work and whatever else always seems to come up.

With summer here, I wanted something fresh and refreshing. I thought about strawberry or peach (one of those may be next) but I went with lemon. I love lemon flavor and since I had a number of lemons in the fridge that needed to be used quickly, why not go for lemon cupcakes. Perfect portions, convenient icing delivery system and easy to make.

Recipe:

  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup self rising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Icing:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat over to 350. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light yellow in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and continue beating. Add lemon zest and juice and just combine. Add half the four and mix well, then add half the milk. Repeat. Add vanilla extract if using and mix all ingredients so they are combined but do not over-mix.

Use an ice-cream scoop (if available) and divide batter among a 12 cupcake pan, lined. Bake for about 18 minutes. Let cook completely before icing.

For the icing, combine lemon juice and butter in mixing bowl and beat on high until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, about a 1/3 cup at a time, scraping the side of the bowl about every 2-3 additions. Add the zest and combine well.

I just used a regular knife to ice the cupcakes, but you could pipe it on for a prettier effect. Candied lemon slices would also look fantastic on these, but I was going for simple and flavorful instead of really pretty. Maybe next time.

 

Quiche

I was looking through my fridge and wasn’t sure exactly what to make. I tend to shop based on what I am going to cook, so there are few days with “extra” food in the fridge but I did manage to make a quiche.

Simple was the objective. I had a Pillsbury pie crust so I used that. For the filling I used onion, garlic, tomato and spinach.  I pulled out some cheese we had from the cheese chop and I went with one I can’t remember the name of, but it had a taste similar to cheddar but with a slight parmesan note. The egg was just egg, yogurt, salt and pepper. Again – simple.

Recipe:

  • 1 pie crust
  • 1/4 onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ~2 cups baby spinach
  • cheese to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 container plain Greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper

Par bake the pie crust in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes. While this is baking, prepare the filling. Once out of the oven, reduce heat the 350.

In a pan over medium heat, cook onions, stirring frequently until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes then add spinach and toss until wilted. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, mix eggs and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Crumble cheese (cheddar would work really well here, but use what is on hand) over the bottom of the pie crust. Add vegetable mixture, then another layer of cheese. (This sounds really cheesy, but I think I used about 2 ounces of cheese total – I could have used more, maybe a quarter cup) Pour egg mixture over and shake pie plate to set.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minute, just until set. Cover part way through if crust browns to prevent burning. Remove from oven and let rest 5-7 minutes. Slice and serve.

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My favorite pizza

Every now and then I come up with a flavor combination that just works. This pizza is one of those. We have a spot in the cafeteria at work that will do to order personal pizzas and on one of those days when I forgot lunch, I grabbed a pizza and came up with this combination. I then recreated it at home and its just as good.

Usually I make my own crust using a Rick Bayless recipe for the dough. But I was going for simple here, so Pillsbury to the rescue – instant pizza dough. The Rick Bales recipe is better, but it’s been a hectic month (yes, I know it’s still early).

Sauce is pesto. I went with a classic basil pesto with almonds, garlic, cheese and lemon for the sauce. I like the really garlic-y nature of the pesto and made it a little thinner than I usually do so it would spread easily.

Toppings are simple – spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. That’s it, nothing else. Handful of spinach leaves and some chopped sun-dried tomatoes gives you a bright, yet earthy flavor. I thought about kale for the homemade version since I have so much in the garden, but really, the spinach is best.

Cheese should always be classic – mozzarella and a little Parmesan. I did try with gruyere once, but the classic pizza cheese works best.

The best compliment I got on this pizza came from a student and a coworker who each asked for a piece and then exclaimed how good it was despite having no meat on it. For die-hard meat eaters, that was high praise indeed.