Asparagus Risotto

asparagus-risottoOne of my favorite things to make is risotto. I love it for its versatility and simple preparation. The basic formula for risotto is pretty simple, all you need rice, an onion, white wine, cooking stock and Parmesan cheese. This creates a nice and agreeable canvas to put any imaginable combination of ingredients into.

Risotto may seem intimidating if you’ve never made it before, but once you resolve to be invested in the constant stirring that is required, you will see how nicely the effort pays off. Well-cooked risotto should be slightly creamy, and slightly al dente. The constant stirring allows the starch in the rice to be released, and that is what contributes to the creamy texture of the finished dish, so do not underestimate the importance of this part of the process. Now when I talk about stirring, I don’t mean just standing there and swirling the contents of the pot around – I mean aggressive, arm-toning stirring.

With an abundance of asparagus this time of year, using it in risotto is a great way to enhance this basic recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6 cups unsalted stock (vegetable or chicken), lightly simmered and kept warm
  • 1-2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch slices on the bias, tips kept separately
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Instructions

  • Heat a sauce pan on medium and warm the olive oil. Add the onion and let sauté until translucent and soft, but do not let it brown
  • Add the risotto and cook 1-2 minutes until it’s well incorporated into the onion mixture and starts to turn translucent
  • Deglaze the pan with the wine, and continue to stir until the wine is fully absorbed
  • Add 1 cup of stock to the pan, and continuously stir until fully absorbed
  • Continue adding stock 1 cup at a time until the rice is almost al dente, about 14- 15 minutes
  • Add the asparagus to the risotto and continue to add stock and stir for another 2-3 minutes
  • While the asparagus is cooking in the risotto, heat a small sauté pan and add ½ tbs butter or olive oil. Lightly sauté the asparagus tips, 2-3 minutes
  • Add the salt and pepper, and stir and taste for flavor
  • Add the lemon juice and parmesan and continue stirring until it’s well incorporated
  • Taste again and adjust for seasoning
  • Once the risotto is done, plate and garnish with the asparagus tips

Scallops with ricotta-spring pea mash and chive oil

scallop-pea-mash1Welp, in typical Chicago fashion, Mother Nature has dumped a few more inches of snow across the city even though it’s technically Spring. Never fails, there’s always one last wintry slap in the face, and today is as good a day as any. While Mother Nature is dealing with her personality disorder, you can bring a little Spring into your kitchen with this dish.

I wasn’t totally sure how I’d make this vegetarian friendly without just serving up a plate of the mash and saying “bon appetit”. Looking around the kitchen, I spotted some potatoes on the counter and decided I would make “scalloped” potatoes for Terry. I cut them down to what a decent sized scallop would be, parboiled, then pan seared them to get the browned edges and finished them off in the oven. They actually looked better than my real scallops and I was proud of myself for being so clever. I had to use bay scallops because nobody had anything bigger, and they don’t sear up as good as larger ones, so I wasn’t able to get the browned caramelized color on them. But they tasted just fine.

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Risotto with scallops, lemon buerre blanc and pomegranate reduction

risotto-scallop-buerre-blanc2Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my newest favorite dish! I knew I wanted to make risotto this weekend and I have been thinking about a dish I had at a restaurant recently that had a really good pomegranate sauce, so I built this dish based off those two components. I also did an Instagram search for #risotto to look for plating inspiration.

Since I’ve acquired all these new handy dandy skills from class, I figured I’d put them to work and make my own veggie stock to use. One of my issues with using store-bought stock is that some of them are too dark, and it turns the rice dark, which I don’t like and definitely didn’t want for this particular dish. So, since there was no suitable excuse not to, I started the day slicing, chopping and boiling down my own vegetable stock. I got exactly the color I wanted.

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Honey-lime sweet potato, black bean and corn tacos

sweet-potato-tacoAfter many weeks of heavy, butter-induced French style cooking, it’s time to start eating a little lighter and healthier. I’m trying to squeeze in as much fruit and vegetables and salads as possible over the next couple weeks until school starts up again. Probably not great timing being the holiday season and there are so many yummy treats that are definitely not healthy, but any little bit helps, I guess.

If you feel like adding a little protein, shrimp would be great in these. I’d dust them lightly with the same mixture of spices on the sweet potato and saute them off in a skillet.

I used pico de gallo as a topping, but you could use a variety of any type of topping – cotija cheese, cilantro, salsa, hot sauce, anything.

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Gnocchi fail with roasted garlic béchamel and tomato sauce

Exhibit A - gnocchi mush.

Exhibit A – gnocchi mush.

Typically, our weekend is planned around “what’s for dinner”, and this weekend was no exception, even with the holiday mixed in. Inspired by my latest issue of Bon Appetit and the amazing tomato sauce I had left over from class, I figured why not make gnocchi!

Well, the culinary gods had other ideas. The sauce was not the issue, it was the gnocchi that foiled the plans. It started out easy enough, but I think I may have over cooked it because it turned in to a big mush ball. See exhibit A.

Time for plan B. This dish was always about the sauces to begin with, so all I had to do was get another pot of water going and boil whatever pasta I had in the house, which turned out to be about a cup of cavatapi and some lasagna. That’s not much but it would work.

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Gruyere and white cheddar macaroni and cheese

mac-n-cheese2Fall officially made its presence known this weekend. From a sleety, windy, freezing Halloween to being forced to pull out my winter jacket, everything screamed “hibernate”. I was up for the challenge – it’s been a while since the weather forced me inside for an entire weekend, so I decided I’d make this a practice run for the imminent, months-long winter isolation.

The first thing one must do when faced with such a challenge is to watch egregious amounts of TV, read and sleep. This doesn’t leave much time for an elaborate dinner, but that is fine because the only thing suitable to prepare in such a scenario is bubbly, warm, comfort foody macaroni and cheese.

If you have an hour, you can get this pulled together and get right back to binge watching/reading/sleeping in no time.

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