Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spring Pea Risotto with Pancetta and Lemon

Next to fresh fava beans, peas are a cinch. Shell a few handfuls for this light and flavorful risotto that pairs them with pancetta and a hint of lemon for a perfect complement to a warm, summery evening.

26 oz chicken and/or veggie broth
Pinch or two saffron threads, crumbled
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic: 2 chopped, 1 lightly smashed
2-2.5 oz pancetta, sliced into short strips or cubes
(or sub good-quality, thick-cut bacon)
1 rounded cup Arborio rice
1 cup fresh shelled green peas
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 handfuls baby spinach or baby arugula, coarsely chopped
Zest of one Meyer lemon
3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley, plus a little extra for garnish
1/2-2/3 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat broth and smashed garlic clove in a covered pot until it simmers. Add the saffron, stir once, cover, and turn off the heat.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. When hot, turn the heat down just a bit and add the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the pieces begin to show a lightly golden sheen. Remove the pieces from the pan with a slotted spatula and place to the side on a plate lined with a paper towel. Remove some of the bacon grease from the pot, but leave about a tablespoon to cook with.

Add a glug of olive oil to the pot and let heat for a moment. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring, until translucent, then add the garlic and saute about 2 minutes more. Reduce the heat to halfway between medium and medium-low.

Stir in the rice and saute in the onion-garlic mixture for a minute or two longer, then add the white wine and continue to saute, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Add half the pancetta back into the pot, and save the rest for later.

Begin adding broth by the ladleful, stirring the rice regularly until the liquid is absorbed and then adding more. Adjust the heat up or down as needed—you want the liquid to come to a gentle simmer when you stop stirring for a few seconds.

When there is about a cup of broth left, add the peas to the risotto and cook, stirring and adding broth when the rice dries out, as before. When there is one ladleful of broth left, add the chopped greens, 1/2 of the lemon zest, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine, then add the last ladleful of broth and the cheese, and turn off the heat.

Let sit 3-5 minutes for flavors to blend, then adjust lemon zest, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve into preheated soup plates, and garnish with chopped parsley.

 Serves 2-3.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Carrots and Snap Peas with Ginger and Fried Basil

Remember that good old food pyramid from the USDA, stolidly pointing skyward from its foundation of pasta and white bread? Well, it's gone. In its place—a new icon and new recommendations. The upshot? 50% of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

What a good excuse to cook more of our favorite things.

3-4 carrots, sliced at a diagonal and then halved
1 tsp julienned fresh ginger
10-12 smallish basil leaves
Handful sugar snap peas, ends snapped, strings unstrung, and sliced at a diagonal
Olive oil

Heat a wide nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Scatter the ginger into the pan, stir a few times, then sprinkle in the basil leaves and stir once again. Let fry about 10 seconds, then add the carrots and stir to combine. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring every minute or two (you want the bottom of the carrots to start to turn a little golden in a few places, but you don't want to wait so long before stirring that they stick to the pan). Cover for a minute if the pan if it starts to get dry.

When the carrots are just starting to get tender, add the snow peas and a pinch or two of salt and saute, stirring, for another minute or so. When carrots are desired tenderness (we like them and the snow peas still slightly crunchy), turn off the heat and serve.

Serves 2, and works very well as a quick-and-easy veggie complement to take-out sushi or Thai.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Simple and Elegant: Nasturtiums and Snap Peas

Found before dinner: A rioting cascade of nasturtiums in our backyard and sugar snap peas in our produce box. The two together make a quick and light springtime salad that's easy enough to throw together for a one-person meal but also stunning enough to display at a dinner party.

Sugar snap peas, ends snapped and strings removed
Nasturtiums, rinsed and dried*
Kosher salt

Arrange snap peas and nasturtiums together on a plate, drizzle lightly with good-quality olive oil, and sprinkle with salt before serving.

*Nasturtiums are reminiscent of radishes, and are spiciest when grown in full sun and fully opened. For a more delicate taste, choose nasturtiums that are just opening or growing in part shade.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Saffron Risotto with Fava Beans and Prosciutto

Fava beans, meet prosciutto. Prosicutto, fava beans. Let's throw some rice at them and toast the happy couple.

Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rounded cup Arborio rice
1 ladleful white wine
28 oz chicken and/or veggie broth
1 generous pinch saffron
2 lbs fava beans, shelled
3 oz prosciutto, sliced crosswise into strips
2-3 big handfuls baby arugula or spinach, chopped
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped (about 1 tbsp, or a bit more to taste)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tbsp pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the shelled favas and blanch for 2-3 minutes till the skins turn white (2 minutes for medium-sized beans and 3 minutes for large ones). Drain, run under cold water to cool, and peel.

Heat the broth with the pinch of saffron in a pot over medium heat until it begins to boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for a minute, then turn off the heat. Keep covered so it stays warm.

Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil, wait a few moments for it to heat, then add the onion and saute, stirring, until it softens. Turn the heat down just a little. Add the garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes, then stir in the rice and continue sauteing for 2 minutes more. Add a little more olive oil if needed.

Stir in a ladleful of dry white wine, and cook the rice, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed. Add a pinch or two of salt. Begin adding broth by the ladleful, allowing the rice to simmer (turn the heat down a touch more if it's more than a gentle simmer) and stirring every 30 seconds or so until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladleful.

Lightly toast the pine nuts in a pan and set aside.

When there is about a cup of broth left in the pot, head a glug of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the prosciutto, scattering it in the pan so it doesn't stick together, and the fava beans. Saute, stirring, for a minute, then add the greens and a pinch of salt and continue to saute until the greens wilt. Turn off the heat, and douse liberally with freshly ground black pepper.

When there is just one ladleful of broth left to add, gently stir the fava beans and greens into the risotto. Add the last ladleful of broth, stir, then add the parsley and Parmesan and turn off the heat. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serve into soup plates, sprinkle with a few pine nuts, garnish with parsley, and serve. Best eaten when it's still very warm but not piping hot.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lemonless Halibut

We grabbed some halibut last night from our co-op to throw together a quick dinner, but forgot about lemon entirely until it was too late.

Usually, you see, there are lemons in the fruit drawer. But last night, when we opened the fruit drawer, and looked inside all full of hope and expectation, there were not. There was parsley in the garden (though only just, because it keeps attempting to bolt), but absolutely no lemons in the fridge. Not even when we closed the fruit drawer in confusion, shut the door of the fridge, paused, opened it, and checked again. Still no lemons. None at all.

Here is what we decided to do about it. You could garnish this dish with lemon wedges...I'm sure they would only make it better...but you don't (as we stated proudly last night in a burst of sophisticated articulation) need no stinkin lemons to make it good.

1 cup black forbidden rice, simmered with a bit of chopped shallot for 25 minutes in 1 1/4 cups water (or sub brown rice)
0.6 lbs fresh wild halibut
1/4 cup stone ground whole wheat flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium clove garlic, pressed
6 Castelvetrano olives, pitted, halved lengthwise, and sliced (or sub another kind of unpickled green olive)
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Slosh white wine

Liberally sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour. Heat a glug of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat, then add the fish skin-side down and pan fry until golden on the bottom.

In a small pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer for 20-30 seconds until it softens, then add the olives and parsley. Stir a few times, then add a slosh or two of wine and a pinch of salt. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half (3 minutes or so), then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, flip the fish and continue cooking until golden brown on both sides (or all sides, if it's thick enough to cook on four sides) and until it's almost but not quite cooked through. Serve immediately over a bed of rice (it will finish cooking as it sits), and spoon the sauce over the fish and a little over the rice as well.

Serves 2, with a couple of side vegetables (like a big bunch of roasted Red Russian kale and a salad).