Friday, June 29, 2012

Risotto with Caramelized Beets

To me,  a simple risotto is the perfect, most savory and creamy conveyor for everything that's fresh and in season. Fresh peas, asparagus, mushrooms and, this month, beets. This risotto starts with a bit of shallots and ends with a handful of parmesan and fresh basil; enough but not too much, so that you really get to enjoy the flavor of the caramelized beets.

Risotto with Caramelized Beets
Serves 2 to 3

2 shallots, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 to 5 cups low sodium chicken broth, warm
1/2 cup grated parmesan
10 fresh basil leaves, julienned
2 cups caramelized beets (click here for recipe)*

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, and cook until slightly browned. Add the rice, and  toast for two minutes, stirring well.
2. Pour the wine to the rice, and stir until almost all of  the liquid has evaporated. Add one cup of chicken broth, stirring until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining stock, half cup at a time, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated after each addition. Stir in the parmesan and the basil. Serve the risotto topped with caramelized beets and extra fresh basil.

*The recipe for caramelized beets contains sugar. It is suggested to reduce the amount of sugar by half if using the beets in this risotto recipe.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pasta Salad with Radishes

This summer, we did something I have always wanted to do since moving to Minneapolis: joined a CSA. Ours is a small one, located in Marine on St Croix, and so far we are enjoying the fresh weekly box of fruit and vegetables (along with the occasional greenhouse plant.) One of the benefits of joining a CSA is that you get exposed to different produce every week, which definitely impacts the wholesomeness of one's diet. So far, our weekly box contained a nice variety, except for radishes which showed up in two weeks in a row. 

Not that I mind. I can find many uses for radishes, one of which is this pasta salad. This is a simple salad. Whole wheat pasta, radishes, chives, currants, mayo. That's about it. I must say, however, that while currants are not a common ingredient in pasta salads, I think you would appreciate the contrast it provides to the strong, peppery flavor of the radishes. 

Pasta Salad with Radishes
Serves 2

1 cup dried whole wheat pasta (elbow or penne)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup sliced radishes
2 tbsp chopped chives
1/4 cup dried currants

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. 
2. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, salt, ground pepper, and vinegar. 
3. Add the cooked pasta to the mayonnaise mixture and combine. Fold in the chives and currants. Serve. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweet and Salty Pecans

Sweet and Salty Pecans. 

My sister, Nancy, recently visited us for a couple days last month. Even though we talk practically everyday, thanks to Skype, it had been almost six months since we last visited each other. She lives in Toronto, I live in Minneapolis, and we both have busy lives, so our visits with each other have become rare over the years. I get a little nostalgic when I think about it because we are only one and a half years apart in age, and were inseparable while growing up.  We have so much in common: our passion for the beach, cooking, history, culture, and our impatience, to name a  few.

Nancy, however is a better gardener than I am. To my great benefit,  she offered to help me with my summer planting projects. Three trips to the garden shop, and many bags of potting soil later, my back yard patio space and deck look brilliant.

One of a few combination flower pots Nancy and I created. 

Nancy is also a fan of all things nutty: chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, peanut brittle, chocolate covered nuts, etc.  I, on the other hand, if given another choice, would readily forego nutty flavored foods.  But just add some salt and some sugar to pecans or walnuts, and I can't help myself. This is my recipe for sweet and salty pecans which are good on their own but also are a nice extra on salads.

Sweet and Salty Pecans

2 egg whites
1 lb pecans
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp ground pepper

1. Set the oven to 250 °F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the pecans toss thoroughly to coat.
3. In another bowl, combine the sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour unto the egg white covered pecans and combine well, making sure that all of the pecans are properly coated with the sugar mixture.
4. Spread evenly unto the prepared baking sheet into a single layer. Bake at 250 °F for an hour.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.