Fresh spring risotto features beautiful flavors

springrisotto052814Every once in a while, I just want risotto. My favorite thing to do with this creamy rice dish is to add shredded cheese and a bit of white truffle oil. Though it takes a bit of time to make, it’s easy and delicious. I always make more than I need so I have leftovers.

The inspiration for this particular flavor combination came from dinner at a Seattle restaurant. They were able to make their risotto light by using fresh citrus and asparagus. It was a nice change from my usual flavor combination. At home, I decided to add basil to my version, and it was the best addition I could have made. That fresh basil flavor really complemented the rest of the dish. If you do garnish with truffle oil, do so sparingly because the flavor is really strong. A few drops will do.

Ingredients
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth
8 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound of frozen peas, cooked
Two small lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
White truffle oil (optional)
Fresh basil leaves

Sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat until onion becomes translucent.

Add rice and stir for about two minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of broth. Cook and stir until broth is absorbed. Stir in the rest of the broth, one cup at a time, until each cup is absorbed.

Stir in peas, asparagus, lemon juice, and salt.

Garnish each serving with a few drops of truffle oil and a few leaves of fresh basil.

Advertisements

Start your week with simple, flavorful salmon

1Balsamichoneysalmon110313

Most weeknights I turn to easy-to-make meals because, by the time I get home, I’m already hungry and don’t want to wait for something more elaborate.

On a recent trip to Raley’s, I picked up a copy of the store’s free “something extra” magazine for fall 2013. It contains a bunch of recipes, one of which was Maple Balsamic Baked Salmon.

While the original recipe used parchment bags, I just made my own. To do so, take a large piece of parchment paper and fold the longer sides toward the middle. Fold the other ends about an inch toward the center, so the flaps are on top. Fold each flap over once more.

I first thought the recipe might be too sweet, but it was just right. I added pieces of fresh basil on top, which nicely complemented the flavor of the fish. The best part is that the whole thing took less than 20 minutes. I’ll definitely be making this again.

Ingredients
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 cloves roasted garlic, minced
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Place skin side down in parchment bag and place on a baking sheet. Stir together vinegar, syrup and garlic and pour over salmon in bag. Fold over to enclose. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Top with snipped fresh basil.

Beautiful broccoli shines in simple pasta dish

broccoliorecchiette080413

The farmers market continues to have a variety of impossible-to-resist produce — and I keep buying it. A few weeks ago, I picked up some beautiful broccoli from one of the booths. I wanted to make those most of it, so I started looking through my cookbooks for a suitable recipe.

Since it was a weeknight after work, I wanted something I could make in 30 minutes or less. I decided to try another recipe from the “Five-ingredient Fridays” chapter of Curtis Stone’s “What’s for Dinner?” The recipe, Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts, and Basil, called for ingredients I had on hand and didn’t require a lot of cleanup. After about 20 minutes, I ended up with a hearty, delicious vegetarian dish that was great comfort food after a long day at work. The broccoli flavor really came through when paired with a simple brown butter sauce, and the pine nuts added a nice crunch that provided great contrast to the the pasta.

Though I’m not a vegetarian, sometimes it’s just nice to make something that allows vegetables to be the star of the meal. I’m looking forward to making more dinners with more finds from the farmers market.

Ingredients
13 ounces broccoli florets with 1-inch stems (about 6 cups)
1 pound orecchiette
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until bright green. Using a mesh spoon or sieve, scoop the broccoli out of the water, draining it well, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Return the water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the orecchiette.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and stir for about 2 minutes, or until it has turned hazelnut brown. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until hot.

Add the pasta to the broccoli mixture and stir gently to combine. Stir in the basil, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta as necessary.

Divide the pasta among four pasta bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Pesto provides endless possibilities

pesto1063013

Never underestimate a good pesto recipe.

Pesto can be used to coat chicken for baking; it can be tossed with pasta for an easy-to-make dinner; it can be combined with a bit of mayonnaise to make a potato salad dressing — the possibilities are endless. pesto2063013

Italian basil is usually available at Tahoe farmers markets, which run from about May through September, but can sometimes be hard to find in stores. During the months when it is available, I keep homemade pesto in my fridge at all times.

The recipe I use was given to me by one of the reporters at my last job. He got it from “Pasta Cooking” by Jeni Wright. He said it was his favorite recipe, and it has become mine, too.

While some pesto recipes are more Parmesan and olive oil, this one is all about the basil, as it should be. The original also calls for four tablespoons of butter and a dash of pepper, which you can add if you like. I leave it out. Be prepared for the strong basil flavor. I love it.

pesto3063013If the pesto gets a little dry in the fridge, just stir a little more olive oil into it. It’s definitely something worth keeping around.

Ingredients
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 packed cup of fresh basil leaves (about two bunches, just the leaves, not the stems)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Dash of salt

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Potato salad fit for summer

potatosalad

The warmer weather in Tahoe has me thinking about being outside — and the food that comes with it.

Summer is a time for barbecues and picnics, and potato salad is one of the first dishes that comes to mind when I think of eating outside.

Champagne vinegar and dijon mustard are the dominate flavors in this version of the dish. The first time I used champagne vinegar in potato salad was after watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten made this French Potato Salad. I hadn’t considered the combination before, but it has since become my go-to ingredient.

The recipe below is based on Garten’s recipe. I didn’t have all of the ingredients her recipe called for, so I improvised. If you’re looking for an alternative to your mom’s potato salad recipe, this is a great option.

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds baby gold Yukon potatoes
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons chicken broth
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
10 leaves of spinach or basil, ripped into small pieces
A small bunch of chives, cut into small pieces
Dash of salt
Dash each of garlic powder, onion powder

Boil the potatoes in a pot of water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain pot. Let potatoes cool for about 10 minutes. Cut into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add vinegar and chicken broth. Toss gently and let sit until the potatoes have soaked up the liquid.

Once the liquid has been absorbed, add the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, chives and spinach or basil. Mix and add salt and spices to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.