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.

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The best base recipe for muffins

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I’m back in Seattle and loving it. I haven’t straightened out my kitchen since I unpacked it, so this week’s recipe is an oldie but a goodie.

It’s based on Joy’s classic muffin recipe, which can be easily tweaked or added to in order to create different flavors. It is the best muffin recipe I’ve ever tried, and I’ve stuck to it ever since. The original says you can use vegetable oil instead of butter, and cream instead of milk, but I’ve found the combination below works best. Take out the poppy seeds and the lemon zest, and you’ve got the base recipe. Have fun creating your own flavors.

Next week, I’ll have a new recipe to share. In the meantime, enjoy.

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a standard 12-muffin pan or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, butter, vanilla and lemon zest. Add to the flour mixture and mix together with a few light strokes, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix; the batter should not be smooth. Divid the batter among the muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes before removing from the pan.

Elderflower liqueur makes a lovely cocktail

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This week I discovered elderflower liqueur. Over the years, I’ve seen it mentioned in cookbooks or called for in drink recipes, but I’d never picked up any to try. I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

I picked up a bottle of St-Germain, a brand of elderflower liqueur, which came with a small tag that included a recipe for its signature cocktail. I figured that was a good starting point. The liqueur itself is a slightly sweet, mellow alcohol. The St-Germain Cocktail was a bit sweet and a bit fizzy, without being too strong. It was a pretty light, refreshing drink fit for a hot day. Since I enjoyed that one so much, I decided to browse the St-Germain website to see if they had any other recipes. They have a few dozen, so I chose two others to try. I settled on The Gentleman, because I have cognac in the cupboard that I use for baking, and the Traditional Elderfashioned, because I keep a bottle of whiskey and bitters on hand. The Gentleman was sweeter and richer than the St-Germain Cocktail, but was also good. The Traditional Elderfashioned was stronger than both, and I enjoyed it as well.

So far, I’m three-for-three on drinks that use elderflower liqueur. They’re listed below in order from weakest to strongest. Next I’ll have to see what I can bake with the liqueur. Cheers!

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The St-Germain Cocktail

2 parts Brut Champagne or Dry Sparkling Wine
1 1/2 parts St-Germain
2 parts club soda

Stir ingredients in a tall ice-filled Collins glass, mixing completely.

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The Gentleman
1 part Spanish brandy or cognac
3/4 part St-Germain
1 cube brown sugar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Top with Brut Rosé Champagne or Brut Sparkling Wine

Cover a brown sugar cube with Angostura bitters at the bottom of a Champagne flute and add brandy and St-Germain. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

3elderflower081813Traditional Elderfashioned
2 parts bourbon or straight rye whiskey
1/2 part St-Germain
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients in an old fashioned glass, add ice and stir again. Add an orange twist.

A one-dish meal fit for a dad

Bayscallopgratin1

My dad does not have fancy taste. While some dads might have white-collar jobs and commute in SUVs, mine wears a uniform and commutes on a motorcycle. Some dads might like to dine at a fancy restaurant, but mine prefers to eat his meals out of a bowl after a long day at work.

I recently purchased some bay scallops from the store. While the usual idea of just searing them and having them with a side of cous cous crossed my mind, I wanted to do something more interesting. I looked around for ideas online and came across The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for bay scallop gratin. I had all but one ingredient — the absinthe — on hand, so I did without it. I scaled down the original recipe so it only made two servings, since I only had a half-pound of scallops.

My favorite thing about the gratin is that it was easy to assemble and put in the oven after work. During the cooking process, the butter and wine came together to form a sort of seafood broth that added a ton of flavor to the scallops. The panko added a slightly crunchy topping that was a nice contrast to the texture of everything below it. A slice of bread was a nice addition that helped soak up the remaining broth.

This one-dish meal is something I think my dad might enjoy. Happy Father’s Day.

Bayscallopgratin2Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallots, minced
1 ounce thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma, minced
1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoons Pernod (absinthe)
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup panko
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 pound fresh bay scallops
Lemon, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 2 (6-inch round) gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

To make the topping, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). With the mixer on low speed, add the garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Pernod, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the olive oil slowly as though making mayonnaise, until combined. Fold the panko in with a rubber spatula and set aside.

Preheat the broiler, if it’s separate from your oven.

Place 1 tablespoon of the wine in the bottom of each gratin dish. With a small sharp knife, remove the white muscle and membrane from the side of each scallop and discard. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and divide them among both dishes. Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the top of the scallops. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the topping is golden and sizzling and the scallops are barely done. If you want the top crustier, place the dishes under the broiler for 2 minutes, until browned. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley and serve immediately with crusty French bread.

Chicken cutlets ready for any night of the week

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Growing up, my family ate a lot of chicken. Mom would make Jamaican jerk chicken, lemon chicken and everything in between. My brother and I went through a phase where we complained any time it was put in front of us. “Again?” we’d ask. But mom likes chicken, and still does. Like most moms, she wanted to put something good in front of us and tried to mix it up once in a while.

I was searching for good make-ahead dinners when I saw this recipe in the March edition of Bon Appétit. I had once made Parmesan chicken and wasn’t terribly impressed by the recipe I used. This one, however, looked easy enough to put together and sounded like it would have a nice crust.

parmesanchicken2The panko and Parmigiano-Reggiano combination lends itself to a well-made crust that is packed with flavor. If you don’t have panko, regular breadcrumbs will do, though the finished cutlets won’t have as much of a crunch to them.

These freeze surprisingly well. I portioned them and kept some in the freezer for about two months. I was worried the breadcrumb mixture would turn soggy once they were defrosted, but they didn’t. They are ideal for weeknight meals. If you take them out of the freezer and let them defrost in the fridge, they will be ready to go by the time you return home. It was nice to come home during a busy work week and have something ready to toss in a pan.

This post is dedicated to moms such as mine, who work to put dinner on the table night after night, with or without thanks. Happy Mother’s Day.

parmesanchicken3Ingredients
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tablespoon mustard powder
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 small skinless, boneless chicken cutlets (about 1 1/2 pounds total), pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lemon, halved

Place flour in a shallow bowl. Beat eggs in a second shallow bowl. Combine panko, Parmesan, and mustard powder in a third shallow bowl and season mixture with salt and pepper.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Transfer to bowl with beaten egg and turn to coat. Lift from bowl, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko mixture, pressing to adhere.

Chicken can be breaded 3 months in advance. Place between pieces of freezer paper or waxed paper and freeze in resealable freezer bags. Thaw before continuing.

Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet or a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, cook cutlets, adding remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pan between batches, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Serve with lemon.