Monday, August 22, 2011

Perfect Old School Risotto

Okay, I'm back. The past few weeks have been fairly - if pleasurably - hectic, what with house guests, visiting family, etc., so I haven't had much time to type things up. Since I'm starting coursework for my PhD (YESSSSS!) in a couple of weeks, there's also the whole "back to school" thing looming on the horizon, which may mean a little less cooking/blogging for awhile. I'm hoping to be sufficiently organized to do a lot of food prep on the weekends, and revert to my wonted once-a-week posting schedule. We'll see how that goes, but it's probably safe to expect lots of vaguely food-related references to Chaucer, British modernism, and gothic fiction; the possibilities seem limitless!

But for today, let's just Be Here Now, shall we? Here we have a simple, classic, saffron-infused risotto, just like Mama used to make. (Of course, my Mama never actually made risotto; she also looked nothing like the fine lady in the picture, who seems to have included shrimp, which would never happen. But you take my point.) This was, without exception, the best damn risotto I have ever made, and is loosely based on a version found while Googling "best classic risotto" or something. I stress the "loosely," because the model I chose to adapt insisted that the magic ingredient for a perfect risotto is - wait for it - bone marrow. Yes, you read that correctly. Now that you've got the old gag reflex back under control, I'll spare you the typically swoony, masturbatory, self-satisfied foodie rhetoric that accompanied this assertion, and just say that a few tablespoons of olive oil accomplished exactly what was required, without anyone's carcass being hacked apart. As my partner put it: "Gee, and to think I never even missed the bone marrow!"

And so, without further ado, I give you:

Perfect Old School Risotto
~ 5 cups stock (I'm addicted to Better Than Bouillon's No Chicken flavor)
~ 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 cups Arborio rice
~ 1 cup dry white wine
~ Salt to taste (depending on the saltiness of your stock)
~ 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ Fresh black pepper

~ Pour the stock into a pot and place over medium-high heat. Keep it very hot while you cook the risotto, but be careful to reduce heat if it comes close to a boil.
~ Toast the saffron (NB that this only takes a few seconds, and will make you feel totally cheffy!). Just place it in a metal spoon, and set it over a low flame to toast until fragrant. Add the toasted threads to the simmering broth.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 7-10 minutes. Depending on how salty your stock is, you may or may not want to add a teaspoon of salt at this point.
~ Add 1/2 cup of stock, and stir until mostly evaporated.
~ Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the rice. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, until the grains are coated and giving off a toasty aroma.
~ Pour in the wine, stirring constantly until it has been absorbed.
~ Ladle in about a cup of the stock, and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Continue this way until all of the stock has been added and the rice is creamy, but still has a bit of a bite to it.
~ Stir in the chopped parsley, the Earth Balance, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix thoroughly, remove from heat, and serve immediately. We had ours as an accompaniment to a huge pan of eggplant parm, for the perfect Italian dinner. Abundanza!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Last Minute Baked Beans for the Lazy/Organizationally Challenged Person

This total lazy cheater approach to baked beans came about because I got a last-minute craving for some sweet, smoky legumes to accompany the mac & cheese and garlicky greens I'd made for dinner. Since I hadn't planned ahead for this contingency (see above in re: lazy, last minute, etc.), and it was already almost 7pm, I took a quick look at the available supplies, considered the options, et voila: about an hour later, the idea had become reality! If I say so myself, the addition of mashed sweet potatoes was a stroke of genius. By the time the dish had been baked, they were unidentifiable as sweet potatoes, but they did something really nice to the sauce's flavor and texture, while adding nutritional value to an otherwise seat-of-the-pants, cupboard staple dish.

~ 2 large yams or sweet potatoes
~ 1 tbsp. oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. chili powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, thyme
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2-3 tsp. Liquid Smoke (or to taste)
~ 1/4 cup maple syrup
~ 2 tsp. hot sauce (or to taste)
~ 1 tbsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2 cans Heinz (or other brand) Baked Beans

~ Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven or microwave until soft. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash.
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the onions are quite soft; about 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, then add all the remaining ingredients.
~ Combine thoroughly and pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish.
~ Bake, uncovered, at 350 for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
~ Serve hot!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nigella-Inspired Boozy New Potatoes

I'm currently in the midst of a passionate love affair with new potatoes; they're so tiny, so versatile, so delicious, and - let's face it - so damned cute. One recent, steamy evening, the only thing that sounded good was salad, but it needed to be substantial enough to count as dinner; enter the wee, adorable, darling new potato.

My affection for the über-posh, bawdy, and unapologetically buxom Nigella Lawson is well-documented, and I remembered seeing some "boozy potatoes" on her blog. This seemed the most felicitous word pairing that might be wished, and a quick Google search led me to the recipe, which I altered to suit personal taste and the contents of our larder. The results were so good that I can easily see this becoming a go-to preparation; along with some falafel, shaved carrot, plum tomatoes, and a simple tahini dressing, these little beauties turned a simple plate of greens into a Proper Dinner.

Of course, the primary virtue of a method like this one is that the sky is pretty much the limit; you could change up the spices, omit the lemon juice and/or mustard for less tanginess, add chopped onions or scallions, and really do whatever suits your potato-based fancy. That said, I do suggest you make them (at least) once as written; you won't be sorry!

Nigella-Inspired Boozy New Potatoes
~ 2 lbs. tiny new or fingerling potatoes
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. prepared mustard
~ Juice of one lemon
~ 3/4 cup white wine
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, chili powder, marjoram
~ A few grinds of fresh black pepper

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Wash the potatoes, and halve some (if not all, depending on their size). Add to the baking dish in a single layer.
~ Mix together the remaining ingredients, and pour over the potatoes. Combine to make sure they are all thoroughly coated (I like to do this with my hands; it's not only fun, but moisturizing!).
~ Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in the center of the oven for about 35-40 minutes.
~ Remove the foil, stir the potatoes, and continue baking another 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown and glazed with the (by now somewhat reduced) liquid.
~ Serve hot or at room temperature, as a side dish, or for a perfect hot weather dinner, atop a beautiful salad with some added beans, falafel, or baked tofu/tempeh for protein.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peanuty Noodles with Tempeh Croutons

Iwis it is not halfway to her heart.
But if it were, doubt not her wish should be
To eat some noodles with a peanuty sauce,
And twirl her fork and use it as a tool.
~ The Taming of the Shrew, 1.1.61–65 (sort of)

At this time of the rolling year here in central New England, the idea of hot - in the temperature sense - food seems pretty unappealing, so meals that can be prepared ahead and eaten later are a welcome option for those of us whom the heat makes a bit...well...shrewish. Cook these peanuty, slightly spicy noodles early on a warm day, and you can be assured of a great dinner in the evening, without having to turn the accursed stove back on. Better yet, they are delicious when eaten at room temperature, and make excellent straight-from-the-refrigerator leftovers the next day. Of course, if you're in a more temperate zone (or blessed with a less fiery temperament), go ahead and eat them hot; Iwis they'll taste just as good!

The Tempeh

~ 2 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: toasted sesame oil, hot sauce, agave nectar
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ Juice of 1 lime
~ 8 oz. tempeh, cut into crouton-sized cubes

~ Combine all the marinade ingredients, then add the tempeh cubes and mix to coat. Set aside to marinade for at least an hour.
~ Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, arrange the tempeh cubes (reserve any remaining marinade), and bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure they don't burn.
~ Remove from oven and set aside.

The Sauce

~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, hot sauce, tomato paste
~ 1 cup smooth peanut butter
~ 1 cup vegetable broth
~ 1 10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed

~ In a saucepan, heat the oil and saute the garlic and ginger over medium-low for about a minute.
~ Stir in the soy sauce, hot sauce, the tomato paste, and any leftover tempeh marinade.
~ Add the peanut butter bit by bit, stirring constantly. As it begins to thicken, add the broth until you have a smooth, creamy sauce.
~ Stir in the spinach and cook a minute or two more, until it is well incorporated.

You will also need...
~ 1 lb. noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed (lomein are nice, but linguine works just as well)
~ 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
~ 4-5 cups stir-fried veggies of your choice (I happened to have scallions, red bell peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms)

The Assembly
~ Transfer the cooked, drained noodles to a large pot or serving bowl.
~ Add the stir-fried vegetables, the tempeh, and the sauce; mix thoroughly. (If it looks too thick, you can add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin it to the consistency you want.)
~ Serve hot or cold, or at room temperature ("...not hot, but temperate as the morn"). Sprinkle with some extra chopped scallions, peanuts, and/or hot sauce, as you like it.