Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lemon Risotto with Salmon

I'm back from Stockholm, Sweden! I had a fun but hectic time, working as much as 17 hours a day. It's amazing how, when you're really busy, a double-shift can pass as quickly as half a shift. I got to see some gorgeous sights along the way and visit some of Stockholm's most beautiful buildings (City Hall, Grand Hotel, Concert Hall, and more). But I'm happy to be back home in Canada. And I've missed all of you and your comments and blog posts - I've got lots to catch up on!

Before I left for Sweden, I made this lemon risotto topped with salmon. The risotto is adapted from a Giada de Laurentiis appetizer recipe. It's made with rice that is simmered in chicken broth and white wine. The rice is constantly stirred while more broth is added. When the risotto is creamy and cooked al dente, lemon juice and zest, parmesan cheese, butter, and heavy cream (if using) are stirred into the mixture and a simply prepared salmon filet is sliced up and piled atop each plate of risotto.

Fish and lemon are a natural pairing, but when it's not just lemon but a creamy, rich lemon risotto, the combination is even better! Still, this risotto is fantastic with or without the salmon.

Lemon Risotto
Adapted from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4-6

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, diced (or half a medium onion, minced)
1.5 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus 3 tablespoons
3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
3/4 a lemon, zested and juiced (the best way to do this is to juice and zest 1 whole lemon and use all but 1/4 of the juice and zest)
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan bring the broth and 1 cup water to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots or onion and saute until tender but not brown. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add a ladleful of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, at least 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, 3 tablespoons of Parmesan, heavy cream if using, the lemon zest and juice, and the salt and pepper, plus more to taste if necessary.

Serve immediately with salmon and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

To make salmon:
This salmon is cooked very simply so that it complements but doesn't take away from the flavour of the risotto.

1 salmon fillet per person
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Season salmon fillets on each side with salt and pepper. Add to frying pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until cooked through (light pink in colour and flaky).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Classic Crispy Meringues

The first time I ever made meringues - sweet, crispy cookies made of egg whites - it did not go over well. I was using a recipe from one of my mom's cookbooks, and it was a hot, sticky summer day. Humidity is meringue's worst enemy. To make matters worse, since I was a kid (must have been about 10), I wasn't all that great at following directions. My raw meringues, which should have been very stiff and glossy, were literally puddles. I baked them anyway. Failure.

Since then, I've come a long way. I can now successfully make meringues, like this crispy-chewy version I made a couple of years ago. Well, most of the time. Last week, I decided to use up some extra egg whites I had hanging out in the freezer. I wanted to make a classic crispy meringue cookie, the kind that you can sometimes find in grocery stores in round plastic containers.

I stumbled about The Kitchn's version of meringues and thought it sounded perfect. One problem, though, was that it said to bake the meringues at 300F (the typical temperature for meringues is 200F) and I, ignoring my instincts, followed the directions perfectly. After only half of the recommended baking time had passed, the meringues were burnt. I am telling you, few baking mishaps smell worse than burnt sugary egg whites.

But I still really, really wanted meringues, so the next night, I made the recipe again, this time at 200F. They turned out perfectly! Crispy all the way through, a nice hit of vanilla flavour, and the melt-in-your-mouth texture that I was aiming for.

Click here for the recipe, but remember, do NOT bake these at 300F. Bake them at 200F. In the meringues shown in these pictures, I used 1.5 tsp. of vanilla and none of the recommended flavours mentioned in the Kitchn's post, although meringues do work very will with different flavours added in, and I recommend experimenting.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Quattro Formaggi Pasta

For years now, my favourite restaurant dish has been Quattro Formaggi Rigatoni at Spago in Windsor, Ontario. It's rigatoni, cooked al dente, covered in the richest sauce you've ever tasted. When I'm visiting my hometown, every few months I make sure to stop in at Spago. While I'd like to try something else on the menu, this dish is so packed with flavour that I just can't.

The first bite of this pasta always tastes so good that I can practically feel the endorphins being released in my brain. It's one of those dishes that is so delicious that you have an involuntary verbal reaction. Does that ever happen to you? Where something tastes so amazing that you can't help but moan, "Mmmm, this is so good!"

So my mission lately has been to find a recipe that would compare to Spago's quattro formaggi pasta. I found a recipe that seemed to have the right foundation, and then adapted it to make its flavour match as closely as possible to the original inspiration. I was so thrilled with the results that I actually ate it for dinner twice last week, much to the chagrin of my waistline, I'm sure. This recipe is definitely not for dieters, but the best food often isn't.

The four cheeses in question, in the original, were fontina, gorgonzola, Parmiggiano Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano. In place of the fontina, I used a half-and-half mixture of asiago and mozzarella - technically bringing this recipe's total to five cheeses, but the flavour is that of the quintessential four cheese pasta, so the title stays. The cheese is melted into a bit of heavy cream and, within minutes, you have a cheesy, velvety-smooth sauce.

Quattro Formaggi Pasta
Serves 2 people - multiply accordingly
1/2 a 454 gram (1 pound) box of rigatoni
1 ounce asiago cheese, shredded
1 ounce mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (if you're using regular blue cheese, use less - about 1 oz.)
2/3 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
2/3 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/3 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Milk (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta to boiling water. Cook according to package directions.

About halfway through pasta's cook time, pour heavy cream into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cheeses and simmer until they are melted. Add milk to thin if necessary. Set aside.

Drain pasta. Immediately add hot pasta to skillet and mix well.

Transfer to a serving platter or bowl. Add black pepper to taste and serve.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I've been given an award!

Last week, I was so happy to learn that MaryBeth, the writer behind one of my favourite food blogs, Dunkin Cooking the Semi-Homemade Way, gave me my very first blog award, the Friend Award! It's been a very busy week and in between my regular blogging schedule I was finding it hard to find the time to write up a post about it. But I made time tonight - sorry for the delay, MaryBeth!

Anyway, MaryBeth's blog is truly wonderful - it's packed with tons of recipes that make you think, "I need to make that!" And even better is the fact that she's always coming up with new recipes, many times a week. I don't know how she does it! I wish I had time to make every recipe.

Thanks for the award, MaryBeth! Here's the blurb that accompanies it:

"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

Well, I'm going to break the rules! I'm going to give it out to five bloggers. Some of these bloggers I have a relationship with already, and some of these bloggers I just love to visit every week - they probably don't even know how much I enjoy their blogs. Well, now they know!

Here they are:

1. Tracey of Vanilla Bean Cafe
2. HoneyB of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honey Bunch
3. Scattered Mom of Notes From the Cookie Jar
4. Vibi of La Casserole Carrée
5. Mike of Living Out West

  © Blogger templates 'Sunshine' by 2008

Back to TOP