Couscous Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes that scare home cooks. I learned to not be afraid of risotto after making a baked risotto a few years ago. It came out just fine, and actually pretty good, so I moved on to the regular stove-top version. Despite all of the warnings I heard on various tv food shows over the years, it turns out that risotto really isn’t hard. Yes, it takes time, and yes, you need to watch it, but it isn’t an hour of constant stirring. In all honesty, it is hard to get perfect, but it is also hard to screw up. Risotto, if you are just aiming for a good meal, is easy.

I decided to try something a little different. I love pearled or Israeli couscous – it has texture, structure and can accommodate a ton of different things added to it. Since it is pretty simple to cook, I tried to make it in a risotto style – and it worked. Bob loved this dish and he is not generally a fan of couscous, but the pearled variety is heartier and he apparently likes it. The leftover spinach pesto really brought this dish together and it made a great, filling meal. The only thing I need to do next time is make more of it – I want leftovers and I think it would make a great salad the next day (no microwave needed).

Couscous Risotto:

  • 1 cup pearled couscous
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup spinach pesto
  • 3 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil or butter

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil, then cover and reduce heat just to keep warm. Slice the shallot and split the tomatoes in half.

In a medium pan heat oil (or butter – about 1 tablespoon) until hot then add shallot and tomatoes and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to break down and the shallot is soft – about 5 minutes. Add the couscous to the pan and cook, stirring to coat, about two minutes. You want the couscous slightly toasted. Season with salt and pepper.

Add about 1/2 of the broth to the pan and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Reduce heat to low and add the rest of the broth. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth has been absorbed, about 8 minutes. If the couscous isn’t cooked through, add about a 1/4 cup of water, stir and cover.

Remove from heat and add cheese. Mix. Add pesto and combine well. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (some vegetable broths provide enough flavor so you don’t need any more here). Makes 2 servings.

Winzer Krems – Gruner Veltliner, 2016

  • Basic info: Winzer Krems – Kremser Sandgrube Gruner Veltliner, Austria, 2016.
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $13 (Total Wine)
  • Look: Very pale yellow, almost clear and colorless.
  • Smell: herbs, citrus
  • Taste: Tart. Citrus, lemon with a slight sour note. Little bit of effervescence with a short finish.
  • Conclusions: It was not bad, better than some whites, but not fantastic.
  • Other notes: After having the PFAFFL gruner veltliner a few weeks before, I was super excited to try a different wine of the same grape. This one was nice, but it just lacked that something special the other bottle had. The finish was shorter and there was a slight sour taste that was not in the PFAFFL. I wanted to love this wine, but I just didn’t. It also had a 90 point rating from Wine Enthusiast which I know, logically, mean very little, but I was hoping it would give some direction when picking a new bottle. Sadly, it did not.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Total Wine, “Savory notes of crushed chervil and yeast join lively, almost fizzing notes of lemon zest. This is ultrafresh, light-footed and very toned. Juicy, ripe acidity animates you to drink this almost as a thirst-quencher.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.

IMG_20170827_203823

Serranarrocco – Grillo, 2015

  • Basic info: Serranarrocco Grillo Terre Siciliane – Sicily, Italy, 2015
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $17 (weekly tasting)
  • Look: Medium yellow with some legs. Nice appearance in the glass.
  • Smell: apple and citrus
  • Taste: apple, stone fruit (like white peach and nectarine). Crisp, but not tart with a medium, round finish.
  • Conclusions: Pretty good. I liked this wine a lot, but it wasn’t super memorable a week or so later (when I got around to writing it up). It was very drinkable, and it kept well over the week that I had it.
  • Other notes: This was the wine I opened when Bob was away for business. I had a glass most nights when he was gone, usually while giving some attention to the furry creatures, new and old, after a long day at work. It was a great wine for just enjoying, and it didn’t require a lot of thought to enjoy it.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Weekly Tasting, “This wine is medium-straw in color, with aromas and flavors of apricot, stone fruit, peach, grilled pineapple, and hazelnut, with a textured and decadent finish that you can describe as ‘custard’ or the feeling of creme brûlée.” 13% alcohol by volume.

IMG_20170824_162137

Adalia – Soave, 2014

  • Basic info: Adalia Soave/Garganega, Venteno, Italy, 2014
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $17 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: Pale yellow with a slight green tint.
  • Smell: Citrus and cotton. (you know, that fresh laundry smell or cloths hanging outside to dry? That’s kind of the smell of this wine at first sniff – seriously.)
  • Taste: Lemon, lime, salt and a touch of mineral. Short finish.
  • Conclusions: Good, Drinkable. Love the flavors, but it wasn’t a memorable wine. I would very willingly have it again, but would not go out of my way for it.
  • Other notes: I tried this wine over the course of a  few days to see if my initial impression of it changed. It didn’t. It was a good wine and well worth the money, but it isn’t a superstar. (I do love that I have Tigger in the background on the picture of the wine in the glass. That just makes me happy.)
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes and no notes from Chamber Street. 12% alcohol by volume.

IMG_20170816_202804

French-Onion Soup Grilled Cheese

Every now and then I want real comfort food. Food that is hearty and goo-y and a bit salty. I was in that mood the other day and came decided to make grilled cheese. But me being me, decided to make it french-onion soup grilled cheese.

A while back I made a batch of French-onion soup (vegetarian, of course) and removed some of the soup before adding all of the liquid. I froze it thinking I could defrost it, add more water or broth and have soup another day. Instead, I heated it up, boiled off more of the liquid and made grilled cheese.

This really was pretty perfect for me. Slices of Gruyere cheese topped half a hoagie roll. Very condensed onion soup on top of that and a little more Gruyere cheese and a  touch of pecorino completed the sandwich. I broiled these for a few minutes to make sure everything was melty and goo-y.

Yes, those are two different sandwiches. The first one (on the foil) came apart when I pulled it up because the cheese melted onto the bread and foil so it was a total mess. I just took a picture of the sandwich I made the next day (same ingredients) before moving it to the plate.

Shannon Ridge – Zinfandel, 2013

  • Basic info: Shannon Ridge  High elevation collection Zinfandel, Lake County, CA – 2013
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $20 (local wine store)
  • Look: Opaque. Dark garnet or plum in color.
  • Smell: hot. oak, charred wood.
  • Taste: jam. dark fruit and a little hot on the palate. Medium acidity and some black cherry flavors. Short finish.
  • Conclusions: I generally LOVE zinfandel, but this was not my favorite. It tasted of a lot of alcohol and I’m not sure of the bottle was bad or if it was just the style the one maker was going for.
  • Other notes: Zins for me are fruity, jammy and deep in flavor. This one didn’t do it for me. One of the great thing about a good zin is that you don’t take the alcohol, even when the abv is above 14%. They should be easy to drink and this one wasn’t.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from the winemaker, ” The Zinfandel delivers extracted characters of raspberry and blackberry with notes of pie spice, clove and anise.” 13.9% alcohol by volume.

IMG_20170814_171629

Patricius – Furment, 2014

  • Basic info: Patricius Dry Furment, Tokaj, Hungary – 2014
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $17 (Weekly Tasting)
  • Look:Very pale yellow with a slight green tinge to the wine.
  • Smell: Slightly sweet, citrus
  • Taste: Lemon pie, apple, white cherry. Good acid with a long, tart finish.
  • Conclusions: Completely unique. I’ve never had a wine like this and the flavors were so different than what I generally expect in a light white wine. It was fantastic. Both Bob and I thought it was clean and crisp with a lot of interesting flavors (most of which we just could not identify).
  • Other notes: I wasn’t sure what to expect from this wine, but I went into it with an open mind. Whenever something note that the varietal is usually sweet, I hesitate, but I’m glad I tried this version because it was actually a dry wine. Was there some sugar there, yes. But it wasn’t sweet.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Weekly Tasting, ” honeysuckle, fresh and dried apricot, and a candle wax-type note hop out of the glass. … it’s completely dry with a ripe peach and apricot note. Strong white flower and honey flavors play against high acidity. There a touch of bitterness on the finish, giving this wine a tension that will surprise you.” 12% alcohol by volume.

IMG_20170815_212755