Tag Archives: italian

Individual Tiramisu

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In keeping with last week’s “mini” theme I thought I would post a great individual dessert you can serve to a crowd.  These were the perfect sweet ending to an engagement party I threw that I will post about next week.  The best part is that they have to be made in advance, so while there are a lot of layers, they are easy to do and can all be made a day before.  I used 8 ounce glasses from Ikea but any small vessel will do, even plastic.  Grab a bunch of these mini spoons and you are good to go.  If you don’t want to do individual tiramisus then just follow the instructions without breaking up the lady fingers and layer in one large pan.  The special couple had a sentimental attachment to this dish but it turned out to be a real crowd pleaser – almost like coffee and dessert in one!

Individual Tiramisu

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 24 ounces room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups of espresso (or 2 cups hot water with 6 tablespoons of espresso powder)
  • 1/2 cup coffee liqueur (like Kahula)
  • 36 lady fingers (found in the Italian section of your grocery store or in the cookie aisle)
  • cocoa for disting

Place the egg yolks, marsala wine and sugar in a heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan add several inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the bowl over the water (make sure its not touching) – this is called a double boiler.  Using a handheld mixer beat the egg mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, until the eggs have tripled in volume.  The mixture will be light in color and thickened.

Take the bowl off the heat (carefully) and fold in the mascarpone cheese, trying not to deflate the mixture (room temp is very important here so it incorporates easily).

Set aside.  In a shallow baking dish combine the espresso and the coffee liqueur.  Break the ladyfingers into a couple of pieces (I broke them into quarters).  Spoon a small amount of the mascarpone mixture into the bottom of the glass.  Dunk two ladyfinger pieces into the espresso mixture, quickly so they don’t fall apart, and pile them into the glass.

Repeat for 2 more layers and then dust with cocoa powder.  Repeat with the rest of the glasses (I did it in assembly line style which worked well).  Chill overnight and serve.

Bolognese Sauce

I usually plan dinner parties weeks in advance – tinker with the menu, what wines to serve, what kind of tabletop I want to have etc until I settle on exactly the look, taste and feel I want.  However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and this sauce and the dinner party it spawned is a good reminder to me that I should trying to be less planned.  I have been working on my bolognese sauce for a couple of years, trying to meet my husband’s exacting standards.  I had been getting pretty close so when our good friend Dave was staying with us for the weekend I thought it would be a good way to try out the latest incarnation.  We were having a bunch of people over to watch the Patriots so the notoriously long cooing sauce could just sit and bubble away while the game was on.  Well smelling the sauce for a couple of hours drove my friend Baker to distraction – he offered up a deal.  Could he and his fiance Erikka stay and have dinner with us if he provided fresh pasta??  That was much too good for me to pass up and so suddenly a dinner for 3 because a party of 5 with a fresh pasta lesson to boot.  I was able to round up a nice salad to start and figured out some sort of dessert with what I had in my pantry.  Baker schooled us all on making pasta by hand (something that I am determined to conquer this year).

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It was one of the most fun nights in recent memory and the sauce was just perfect with the fresh pasta strands.  This sauce would actually be good on cardboard so if you don’t have fresh pasta just used boxed like I had planned to.  This makes a ton and freezes really well so you too can have an impromptu dinner party!

Bolognese Sauce 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.

Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.

Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

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Veal Saltimbocca

I often get in the trap of boneless chicken breasts, flank steak and pork tenderloin on repeat for weeknight dinners.  They are all quick, easy and pretty lean but when I saw veal cutlets or scallopini the other day I thought them perfect for a break in my routine.  These cook super fast so really the only hassle is “sewing” the prosciutto and sage to the cutlets.  Set up a little assembly line like below and  do it in the morning or the night before and then just dredge and cook, cutting the time to dinner even more.  This would be delicious all sitting over a bed of pasta or rice to sop up the sauce, or served with a green salad and some crusty bread (uh again to sop up that sauce).  I always order this when I see this on a menu but now I may just add it to my own weeknight repertoire!

Veal Saltimbocca 

  • 1 pound veal scallopini
  • 5-6 ounces prosciutto
  • several sprigs of sage
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • zest of lemon
  • juice of lemon

First prepare the scallopini – salt and pepper the veal then top with a slice of prosciutto (you may have to cut the slices to fit.  Lay several sage leaves on top.  Using a toothpick or small skewer (a regular skewer cut in half works as well) thread in between the veal and the toppings to affix them to each other.

Do this for each piece of veal – it doesn’t really matter what it looks like, just make sure the veal can lay pretty flat and that the prosciutto wont fall off the veal.  Dredge in the flour and shake off the excess.  In a large skillet heat over medium high 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add as many veal pieces that comfortably fit in the pan and cook for 2 minutes, flip and cook for 2 minutes more.

Remove to a plate and repeat with the rest of the veal, adding more olive oil if needed.  Once all the veal is cooked reserve it on the plate covered with foil.  Add the white wine to the plan and deglaze any browned bits.  Swirl in the butter, lemon zest and juice and let cook together for about 3 minutes until it thickens a bit and comes together as a sauce. Carefully take out the skewers, pour the sauce over the veal and serve.

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A Make Ahead Dinner Party

When my friends Stefanie and Ari got engaged I knew I wanted to throw them a celebratory dinner party.  Of course coordinating the schedules of 4 busy people meant we had to wait a couple of months and do it on a Friday.  I didn’t want to sacrifice a delicious and special occasion meal just because I didn’t have all day to cook.  I do a lot of make ahead meals (just check out all the tags to that effect) but for this dinner to work EVERYTHING had to be made ahead or make in 3 minutes flat.  I did creep out of work a little early to make sure everything was perfect but it turned out to be unessecary.  If I didn’t have such curious kitties I would have even set the table the night before but no one really wants cat fur in their polenta so I just made sure everything was clean and set aside so it was easy to throw together.

Since the theme was Italian I used this fun olive themed tablecloth and napkins (shhh, they are French!).  I love the graphic nature of these large olive oil containers I get at A Litteri so once they are empty I use a can opener to take off the top, rinse them out and repurpose as a vase.  This also works really well with large cans of tomatoes.  My little mini Chianti bottles as salt and pepper shakers from our trip to Italy made another appearance as well.  We opened a bottle of Brunello we had brought back from that trip to make it extra special.  It turned out to be a wonderful stress free night celebrating great friends with lots of wine and laughter – exactly what I wish for Stef and Ari in their lives together!

A Make Ahead Dinner Party Menu

Antipasti

The easiest and most delicious way to start any meal hands down.  Buy the best ingredients ahead of time and then all you have to do is put them out.  I decided against a typical cheese board and instead took two types of cheeses and jazzed them up myself.  First I took some beautiful ricotta I bought at Righteous Cheese (who now ship nationwide!) and mixed it with meyer lemon zest, salt and pepper.  That was all it took to make store bought cheese a totally delicious spread, served with RC’s awesome rosemary crackers.

Next I drained little bocchini mozzarella (those balls of mozzarella cheese you can find at the supermarket stored in brine) and tossed them with high quality olive oil, salt, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper flakes.  To round everything out I bought some mixed olives, pistachios and sliced some Olli calabrese salamini.  They are little baby salamis made by this amazing place in VA (you can find them lots of places in the DC area but I have also seen them in other areas at Whole Foods and even Costco – check their website for the place closest to you).  Plunk some grapes in the middle and you have a nice selection for your guests to pick on before the big meal – all in less than 10 minutes.

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Osso Bucco

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The star of the night was for sure this osso bucco that I posted last month.  A special occasion dish perfect for this dinner party – I made it several days before and just popped the whole pot into the fridge once it had cooled.  The night of the party I just reheated it over low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Stefanie told me Ari was crazy for bone marrow so of course I also bought some rosemary dinner rolls from Lyon Bakery in Union Market so he had bread to slather the marrow on.  I just tossed them in a 350 degree oven as we ate the antipasto and served them warm.

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

For some green on the table I opted for the super quick sauteed spinach.  Takes no more than five minutes to wilt the several mountains of spinach you will need and then tossed with raisins and pine nuts they are supremely Italian.  There are many versions of this dish, I used one from an old cookbook but this one by Martha is pretty much the same.

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I make the spinach while the bread was warming but you could also sautee it all in advance and then just warm over low heat right before eating if you cannot spare that 5 minutes!

Make Ahead Polenta

You think you can’t make polenta ahead of time?  You think you need to stand over it and stir and stir while your guests look on???  No longer – I have this great tip gleaned from Cooks Illustrated,  cook the polenta with extra liquid and you can make it ahead.  Basically for every ounce of dried polenta you use, cook it in a cup of water (ie I cooked 4 ounces of polenta in 4 cups of milk and water.  Cook for about 20 minutes just as you would normal polenta until it’s no longer raw and pour it into a baking pan.  It will be pretty soupy but that’s fine.  Chill it overnight, top with parmesan cheese and bake in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes you get a creamy cheesey polenta with zero hassle.

I used this amazing truffle polenta we still had on hand from our Italy trip but you could flavor it with herbs or garlic or just leave it plain.  Either way it will be delicious and creamy and the perfect accompaniment to the osso bucco with all that delicious sauce.

Tiramisu

This dessert actually MUST be made in advance so all the booze and marscapone can meld with the lady fingers to create a decadent dessert.  Unfortunately, the version that I made for this dinner party was a bit of a bust so I won’t be recommending that recipe but there are only about a zillion out there.  This one from Epicurious has very good reviews and really any decent Italian cookbook should have one.  Or better yet – just buy one!  Serve with some espresso and maybe an after dinner drink and the party will be complete.  By my estimation you will spend about 30 minutes reheating things and 5 minutes with actual hands on cooking which will give you lots of time to enjoy your guests any night of the week.

Osso Bucco

For the holidays I usually like to splurge a little and do a premium piece of meat for my loved ones.  However, I find crown roasts or cuts of that nature pretty intimidating because what if you have everyone over, hungry and ready to sit down but the middle is still totally raw?  Braised meats are totally in my comfort zone because they can be made ahead to avert a crisis and they are really satisfying.  For a special occasion, like say Easter, my answer is osso bucco.  This Italian braised veal shank dish is a classic for a reason – the meat is unbelievably tender and luscious and then you get the benefit of having the bone you can scoop the marrow out of.  Now I know veal is sort of controversial but you know what is more so?  Rabbit – my mother served it once on Easter and I locked myself in my room thinking she was serving the Easter bunny for dinner!  The quality of the meat here is key.  I got mine at Harvey’s in Union Market which is excellent but any good butcher should carry osso bucco shanks.  Make sure to specify osso bucco otherwise you could get a whole shank which is basically the leg (I would call ahead a day in advance and ask them to set them aside for you).  Osso bucco should be cut about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick and ideally the butcher will tie them for you, if not I suggest doing that when you get home.

Having them be tied helps keep them together during the cooking process but you will see once they have braised for several hours they literally fall off the bone.  And that bone!  If there are any marrow fans in your family they will be so excited to see this – make sure to serve a nice crusty bread on the side so people can slater it with the marrow.  Since it’s a long braised dish but I want it to be sort of springy I suggest adding what the Italians call a gremolata to the top.

It’s essentially an herb topping made with lemon zest, garlic and parsley that adds a bright punch to the meat.  If you are having lots of folks over make this several days in advance, let it cool and then pop the whole thing, pan and all in the fridge and then reheat over low heat.  I cannot think of a simpler way to impress the family for a special occasion.

Osso Bucco 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 veal osso bucco shanks (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick) tied with butchers twine if you have it
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • zest from 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (optional)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, grated or chopped very finely (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Salt and pepper the veal then dredge in the flour (i.e. dunk it in, get it covered in flour then shake off the excess).

Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  When hot add the veal and cook for 5 minutes.  Flip and cook for 5 minutes more and then remove the veal to a plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium and add the butter to the pan.  Once the butter is melted add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and let cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the onions start to soften.  Add the tomato paste, stir to combine and cook for another 2 minutes.  Splash in some of the wine to deglaze the pan (i.e. get up the nice brown bits on the bottom of the pan) then add in all the rest of the wine, the beef stock and the can of tomatoes.

Stir to combine.  Nestle the veal back into the pan – the liquid should come up about halfway up the shank, if not add more stock or wine.  Tie the herbs together with butchers twine and add to the pot or just toss them in separately.  Bring to a simmer then cover and place in the oven.

Cook for 1 hour, then carefully, using tongs, flip the veal and cook for an additional hour.  After 2 hours the meat should be very tender and falling off of the bone.  Fish out the herbs and remove the veal to a plate.  If the shanks were tied, cut off the string.  If you are going rustic serve the shanks with the sauce as is, for a more elevated dish use a fine mesh strainer to remove the vegetables from the sauce (I served it on the side in a gravy boat with some poured over the top for presentation).

The osso bucco can be served right away, stored in the fridge for several days and then reheated on the stove top or frozen for 3 months (make sure to freeze the shanks in the sauce).  If you would like to serve the osso bucco with gremolata on top, combine the lemon zest, parsley and garlic in a small bowl then sprinkle on top.

Chicken Marsala Risotto

One pot dishes are made for the winter time – they are so warm and comforting (and easy cleaning goes with every season).  I love a good risotto but it can seem like a lot of starch to constitute an entire meal so I decided to think of a way to incorporate some leftover chicken I had.  By using marsala wine instead of the normal white wine and adding in sautéed mushrooms, this easy weeknight risotto becomes plenty filling.  The basics are all the same (in case you need my risotto rules again here they are).  One deviation is stirring in some extra marsala at the end of the cooking.  I found that too much of the flavor was lost when you just use it at the start and by adding a dash at the end you get that sweet savory wine flavor burst.  And remember, don’t scrimp on the fresh grated parmesan at the end!!

Chicken Marsala Risotto 

  • 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1 cup marsala wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock, warming over low heat
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 roasted chicken breasts

Over medium high heat in a large saucepan melt the butter.  Add the mushrooms and season with pepper (but not salt).  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the mushrooms have softened and are beginning to brown.

Spoon out the mushrooms and set aside.  Add the olive oil to the same pan and heat over medium.  Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the oil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add 1/2 cup of the marsala wine.  Use your spoon to stir the rice as well as deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Once almost all of the marsala wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.  Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.  Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.  After about 25 minutes, add the mushrooms and chicken to the pot and start checking the doneness of the rice.  It will probably take another 5 minutes to cook.  Once the rice is done (it’s tender with just a little bit of bite to it) stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of marsala and cook it for 1 minute more so most if not all of the wine is absorbed.  Take it off the heat and stir in the parmesan.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed and serve immediately.

Apple and Cheddar Risotto

Last day of apple week – I hope you guys enjoyed it.  Today’s recipe is inspired by a dish I saw on a menu years ago.  My brain is full of half baked ideas like this, that I glean from long forgotten sources.  I do remember thinking how unusual cheddar sounded in a risotto but now I am sad I didn’t try it earlier!  The tradition is parmesan of course, but cheddar has the same salty, nutty goodness and melts well right into the rice.

To add some crunch I sprinkled the top with toasted walnuts which keeps the whole thing from tasting like baby food.  Also the apple sauteed in with the shallots adds some sweetness and heft to the dish. We had this with a nice green salad (and ate all 4 portions between the 2 of us!) but I think it would make a really nice starter for a fall dinner party, then it would likely serve 6.  Have a great long weekend!

Apple and Cheddar Risotto 

  • 6 cups of chicken or veggie stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped (small dice)
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Add the stock to a small saucepan and warm over low heat.  In a high sided skillet melt the butter over medium heat, then add the shallots and apple and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the butter.  Reduce the heat to medium low.  Splash in the wine and use your spoon to stir the rice.  Once almost all of the wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.

Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.  Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.  After about 25 minutes I start checking the doneness of the rice but usually it will take closer to 30 or 35 minutes to cook.  Once the rice is done (its tender with just a little bit of bite to it) take it off the heat and stir in the cheddar.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.  Top with chopped walnuts and serve immediately.

Chicken Riggies

If you have ever been to Upstate New York you likely to be familiar with Chicken Riggies.  This is one of those great regional American recipes that seems to have evolved over time and become ubiquitous.  Every time I go to visit family I try to get my hands on this Italian American dish that is simultaneously sweet, spicy, creamy and satisfying.  Since today is my dear Aunt Janice’s birthday I thought it would be fitting to take a stab at my own version of this Upstate classic in her honor.  She has been one of my best cheerleaders during this blog and even got me my very own A Capitol Contessa apron!

This isn’t a light dish but those folks in Syracuse and Rochester deserve some hearty comfort food given the winters they have to endure.  I have searched and searched for lots of different versions – just like most American dishes people take the base recipe and make it their own.  Rachel Ray (Upstate New York girl) has done a version on her show that I have tried but it didn’t quite do it justice.  Some sleuthing found that the addition of sherry really adds a subtle sweetness that is great with the hot peppers and cream.  I also tossed in some spicy arugula at the very end to add some green (that cancels out the cream right?) and add another layer of flavor.  Happy birthday Auntie Jan – sending lots and lots of love your way.

Oh and apologies for not posting on Wednesday – I was traveling internationally for work and didn’t quite get my act together.  It was my first missed post which I think is pretty good but I promise I won’t make a habit out of it!

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Chicken Riggies

  • 1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (or approximately 10 mini bell peppers), sliced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or less if you don’t want it as spicy)
  • 6 to 8 hot pickled peppers (like pepadews), sliced
  • 1 cup sherry
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni (riggies!)
  • a couple handfuls of arugula
  • grated parmesan

Heat the largest skillet you have over medium high heat and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the pieces are browned and just about cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and add more oil if you need it.  Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper.  Sauté until the onions and peppers soften and they take on a little color, about 5 minutes.  Add the pickled peppers and cook for 1 minute.

Use the sherry to deglaze the pan and cook down for another minute or until most of the sherry has cooked off.  Carefully add the crushed tomatoes (try not to splatter yourself) and chicken, then stir everything together until combined.  Meanwhile boil water and cook the rigatoni in salted water until tender, about 7 minutes.  While the pasta is cooking let the sauce cook down over a low simmer.  Add the cream to the sauce, stirring it in until everything is nice and pink.  Drain the pasta and stir it all together (if your pan isn’t big enough just pour the sauce over the rigatoni in a larger bowl).

Stir in the arugula so it wilts into the dish and serve with parmesan.

Basil Pesto

The classic.  So good all you basically need is a spoon.  It is summer in a sauce, especially since it’s no cook!  I realized I had posted different pesto variations but never the classic basil.  I have tried lots of different versions over the years and finally worked out my own that borrows from all the rest.  Most pestos will only use pine nuts but I like a mix and by happy accident tried it with pecans once (out of walnuts) and really liked the flavor.  A little lemon zest is also nice here to really amp up the lemony flavor of basil.  This is my base recipe – it doesn’t contain any cheese so it’s perfect to freeze or for vegans.  I like to freeze the pesto in ice-cube trays or mini muffin pans (silicone is the easiest to get them out) and then just defrost and let my imagination run wild.  If I want to stay true to the classic I just fold in grated parmesan but often I skip the parm and mix in goat cheese which really mellows out the garlic and makes a wonderfully creamy sauce.  Make a whole bunch with the rest of your summer basil and freeze it so you can have a little bit of summer this winter.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons pecans (or walnuts)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 5 cups basil leaves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • optional add ins – goat cheese, parmesan, butter, ricotta, yogurt, a spoon…

In a food processor add the pine nuts, walnuts and garlic cloves.  Process until chopped together.  Add the basil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.  Process again for a couple of seconds and then with the food processor running pour in the olive oil until it comes together as a pesto.  This can now be served on its own or mixed with cheese, kept for several days in the fridge under a layer of olive oil or frozen for several months.

Corn Risotto

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To me cooking is like therapy – I can stop thinking about everything else in the world and just focus on turning raw ingredients into great food.  I like the ritual of cooking classics and I like the fun and excitement of cooking new things.  Of course the result itself can often serve as its own sort of remedy, especially comfort food.  Risotto is one of my favorite therapeutic meals because the method is so soothing and the meal itself is creamy and soft and lovely.  I have been toying with the idea of making a corn risotto for a while so when we were on the Eastern Shore of Maryland a couple of weeks ago I made sure to pick up some super fresh ears from a farm stand.  The sweetness of the corn is such a good match with the creaminess of the risotto.  Here I made my own corn broth using the cobs of the corn going into the risotto.  I think this really bumps up the corn flavor but it also adds about 40 minutes to the process.  You could either make the broth the day before and just store the kernels in the fridge or skip that step all together and use chicken or veggie stock you have on hand.

One common misconception about risotto is that there is actual cream in it – there isn’t.  Ok maybe some recipes include it, and I am SURE it wouldn’t be bad, but it’s just not needed.  The special aborio rice used in risotto is really starchy so as you slowly cook it with stock the starch is released and creates its own creaminess.  Whether you are making corn risotto or another kind there are certain rules of the road that you should follow to ensure the right texture.  Once you have learned the basics risotto can really become a vehicle for any ingredient you would like.

Corn Risotto 

  • 2 ears of corn – kernels cut off and cobs reserved
  • 1 onion, unpeeled cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled cut in half
  • 1 celery rib, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 a bunch of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 6 cups of chicken or veggie stock if not making the corn stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • chives

If you are making the corn stock put the corn cobs (kernels removed) in a large pot with the onion, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, salt and peppercorns.  Cover with 6 cups of water and then bring to a boil.  Cover and then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes.  When its done strain the liquid into a smaller saucepan, removing all the solids.  Warm the stock over low heat.  If you are not making the corn stock at this point add the chicken or veggie stock to a small saucepan and warm over low heat.  In a high sided skillet melt the butter over medium heat, then add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the olive oil and increase the heat to medium to medium high and add the corn kernels.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.  The sugars in the corn will start to caramelize and crust up the bottom of the pan which is fine, just don’t let the corn burn (if you need to turn down the heat).

Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the oil and butter.  Reduce the heat to medium low again.  Splash in the wine and use your spoon to stir the rice as well as deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Once almost all of the wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.  Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.  Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.

After about 25 minutes I start checking the doneness of the rice but usually it will take closer to 30 or 35 minutes to cook.  Once the rice is done (it’s tender with just a little bit of bite to it) take it off the heat and stir in the parmesan.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.  Top with chopped chives and serve immediately.

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