Pasta with chipotle cream sauce, caramelized onions, roasted red pepper, corn and goat cheese

I’m back! No, it’s not a joke that the first entry I decided to add in years happens to be on April Fool’s Day. With a bit of extra time on my hands these days, I figured I could put some effort into adding a few new recipes.

Yesterday was Terry’s birthday, so I made this for her dinner. I recently had this at The Westin Tampa’s restaurant and was blown away with the first bite. The ingredients were so intriguing and nothing I have ever thought to put together. And yes, a pink sauce?! Trust me, it works.

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The original, from The Westin

Since I didn’t have a recipe, I had to recreate it on my own so the portions are mostly guesses but it seemed to work well. You can scale up or down on any ingredient according to your taste.

 

The dish I had was served with shrimp, so you could amp this up a bit by adding that, but honestly, it doesn’t need it. The dish is good without it!

Since I’m out of practice on building a narrative, I’ll get right to the good stuff – ingredients and instructions!

1c vermouth
2 1/2 c heavy cream
4-5 garlic cloves, smashed
Chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tbsp cumin
1 whole red pepper, roasted
Olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced thinly and caramelized
2 tbs butter
1 c charred corn (all I had was frozen regular corn, but this will be better once corn is in season and we can char it on the grill)
2 oz goat cheese crumbles
Salt
White pepper (black pepper is good if that’s all you have)
1 lb penne or bow tie pasta
1 cup reserved pasta water
Cilantro for garnish

Start with the onions and pepper – those can be done well ahead of time – even the day before!

To caramelize the onion:

  • Slice it thinly. Heat a 12” or larger skillet over medium heat and add butter to the pan.
  • Coat the pan with butter and drop 1/3 of onions into the pan. You want to add the onions in batches otherwise it will be tricky to stir them until they’re cooked down a bit.
  • Continue adding onions 1-2 minutes apart until all onions are in the pan.
  • Add a generous pinch of salt to the pan
  • Stir the onions every few minutes until they start to brown.
  • This process can take as much as 45 minutes, so be patient
  • Onions are done when they are deep golden and have browned edges

To roast the pepper:

  • Heat oven to 450
  • Slice off the top and cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove seeds and white membrane
  • Place halves face down on a baking sheet and coat lightly with olive oil
  • Roast for 25-30 minutes until skin is blistered and peeling back from the pepper
  • Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let stand 10-12 minutes until cool enough to handle
  • Remove the skin from the peppers and cut into pieces roughly 1/2 inch wide x 1 inch in length

For the sauce:

  • Heat the vermouth in a large skillet until reduced by half (use a skillet large enough to hold the pasta once it’s been added)
  • Add the smashed garlic and stir until fragrant
  • Add the cream to the pan
  • Once the cream has started to bubble lightly, add the cumin, onions, corn and peppers
  • Continue to stir the sauce until it thickens slightly
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Taste, taste, taste! Always taste as you go when you’re building up flavors in a sauce
  • Add the adobo sauce from the chipotles a little at a time until you get to the desired heat level
  • When pasta is done, add it to the pan (add a little at time – you may not need the whole pound. I had about a cup leftover.)
  • Stir until pasta is well coated, add reserved pasta water a little at a time until sauce is slightly loose – you don’t want it to be too watery.
  • Add goat cheese to sauce
  • Continue to stir until pasta and goat cheese are well combined

While the sauce is reducing, drop the pasta and cook 1-2 minutes LESS than according to package instructions. It will finish cooking in the sauce. Don’t forget to extract 1 cup pasta water – you will need it to finish the sauce.

Serve in a bowl, garnish with cilantro.

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Getting the sauce going with the spices, onions, corn and peppers
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After adding the adobo sauce – yes, it’s pink, and it’s delicious!

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

Spice-crusted carrots with harissa yogurt

spice-crusted-carrotsI am about 4 dishes behind on the blog! I’ve been cooking as much as usual, but haven’t had as much time to follow up with a post. Of the dishes I’ve recently made, this one is a stand out and looks really beautiful on the plate.

I recommend doing a trial run if you plan to serve it for a party. It is a little labor intensive, but you can do some of the work ahead of time. Unless you have a huge skillet, you’ll want to take the time to find similar-sized carrots so they all fit and can cook in the same amount of time. Keeping the greens on is also key for presentation.

Continue reading Spice-crusted carrots with harissa yogurt

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.

Continue reading Gruyere and white cheddar macaroni and cheese

Crispy spaghetti squash crepes with mushrooms and sage

The season has officially turned, but this weekend I’ve been enjoying the last few moments of summer-like weather. At this time of year, one never knows how many more chances there will be to have the windows open all day or sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.

The fair temperatures have not fooled my palate, however. My brain and taste buds know that it’s nearly October, and therefore I find myself craving hearty, rustic meals. Various types of squash are in abundance right now, so I took advantage of the fall’s bounty and pulled up this recipe I’ve had bookmarked for quite some time.

Continue reading Crispy spaghetti squash crepes with mushrooms and sage

Mushroom risotto with tarragon cream sauce

mushroom-tarragon-risottoAs previously mentioned and evidenced by the number of recent risotto postings, I am a bit obsessed with risotto. Even though I made it just last weekend, I tried a new recipe last night. With the dramatic dip in temperatures, I was craving some comfort food and this fit the bill perfectly.

I borrowed the recipe for cream sauce from Real Simple, adapting it to not use the onions, but this sauce is AMAZING and light and would go well over many types of vegetables or fish.

Continue reading Mushroom risotto with tarragon cream sauce

Caramelized onion and apple risotto

onion-apple-risottoI have a confession to make: I am a bit obsessed with risotto. I love everything about it – the process of making it, all the ingredients that go into it and not least of all, eating it. I love it because it’s versatile and is a dish you can eat year-round, customizing to ingredients and flavors that are in season. It can be made to appeal to any diet preference as well – it works wonderfully with light seafood such as scallops or shrimp and is a great vehicle to highlight seasonal vegetables.

Forever on the hunt for the next awesome flavor profile, I decided that caramelized onions and apples sounded like a good idea to try. I know what you’re thinking – there’s already plenty of onion in the base of risotto, won’t this be overkill? I was worried about that too, but I did it anyway and was glad I took the risk. Caramelizing the onions gives them a different flavor, so this wasn’t overkill with onion. You’re also only going to use a half cup of the onions, so you’ll have some leftover. (Looking for what to do with them? Try this crostini recipe.)

Continue reading Caramelized onion and apple risotto

Asian crepes with peanut sauce

asian-crepes1Crepes are one of my favorite things to make. They’re something so simple but can deliver pretty complex flavors when done well. They’re versatile enough to eat for every single meal of the day. From sweet crepes for breakfast or brunch to savory crepes for dinner, you can do pretty much anything you want with them.

I learned how to make crepes in a class at The Chopping Block about a year and a half ago. The trickiest thing to get right is getting the batter to cover the entire bottom of the pan and not using too much batter because crepes are supposed to be extremely thin. I stumbled quite a bit trying to get the technique of swirling the pan with my left hand while ladling in the batter with my right hand. If you’ve ever tried rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time, that’s how awkward it was for me.

Eventually I got it down well enough that I moved on to trying to flip the crepe by just using the pan. Another step in which more than a few crepes suffered from poor technique. I also turned to none other than the master Jacques Pepin for some tips on making crepes. Of course he makes it look as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but that’s why he is the master.

I built this recipe knowing that I was going to try a new peanut sauce that I’ve had bookmarked for a while. With peanut sauce as the main driver, I figured Asian would be the best way to go, so what better than to make a simple stir fry to fill the crepes with. Once I had that in mind, I immediately went to thinking about how I would plate the dish. Sometimes I make decisions on what to cook by starting with the type of presentation I want to do. Is that weird? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, presentation can really amplify a dish, so I’ve always got that in mind.

Continue reading Asian crepes with peanut sauce

Summer risotto

Five weeks into the baking and pastry course and I’m super-ready to move on to the savory side. You’ll notice that I didn’t post a “week five” of culinary school because I’m kinda sort of over pastry. However, I really did enjoy the kudos doled out by my colleagues when I brought in the devil’s food cake with coconut-vanilla buttercream frosting. Yep, that was pretty good – I even had a small piece.

This weekend, I was really ready to get back to cooking what I love the most – savory foods. And what better to make than a season-appropriate risotto? I was anxious to try the Arborio rice I picked up from Eataly a couple weeks ago and this seemed the perfect opportunity to take advantage of it.

I love risotto because you can pretty much do anything with it. There are ingredients that will work with every season of eating and it’s a hearty dish, that when made well, can even work as a light summer dinner. Tonight’s recipe is no exception. Everything that went into this one was acquired at the local farmer’s market and was super delish.

summer-risotto1

Risotto can’t be rushed, so make sure you allow yourself at least 30 minutes cooking time (more to prep your ingredients) to pull this together. It will be well worth the time investment!

Recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Serves 2-3 (Or just 2, if you’re really hungry and want to have seconds. Which you probably will.)

  • 3 – 3-1/2 cups vegetable broth (can substitute chicken broth)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter (To make vegan, use 2 tbsp olive oil)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 3/4 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 small zucchini, quartered and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut from cob (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • handful torn fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep hot.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat then add shallot and garlilc, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until tender, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add rice then stir to coat in butter. Add wine then stir until nearly absorbed by rice. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth then stir constantly until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until nearly absorbed before adding more.
  4. When there’s 1/3 of the broth remaining, add zucchini, season with more salt and pepper, then continue stirring. When there’s 1/4 of the broth left, add corn then continue stirring. Add the tomatoes with the last batch of broth then stir until absorbed.
  5. Take risotto off heat then stir in parmesan cheese and basil. Add more salt & pepper to taste then serve.
  6. Garnish with whole basil leaves, if desired.

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