24 July 2009

Risotto with Roasted Vegetables

This is one of those endlessly adaptable recipes that is great to have in your arsenal in case company shows up at a moment's notice. It's quite good enough for that. Hopefully, though, they'll give you more than a moment's notice, since this takes about an hour. That's not too bad, still, for company and all.

Anyhow, please make this. And please feel free to use your favorite mix of vegetables. Asparagus and artichokes would be lovely, for example. I toyed with the idea of adding some crispy pancetta to mine, but I left it out for the sake of simplicity. It wouldn't have been a bad addition, and neither would chicken or even some medium-rare grilled steak. Let your imaginations run wild. Please, though - do tell me what you come up with!

Risotto with Roasted Vegetables

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips 1-2 inches long and 1/2 cm wide
3 yellow squash, cubed
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
4-6 cups chicken stock, simmering
1 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss together half of the garlic, the red pepper, squash, cauliflower and 2 tablespoon olive oil. Spread over a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and the oregano. Roast for 45 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the risotto. In a large pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and the remaining garlic with a pinch of salt and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the rice and stir until the grains are fully coated with the fat and appear mostly translucent with a small pearl of white in the middle.

4. Add the wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated. The rice should begin to seem creamy almost immediately.

5. Begin adding the chicken stock in 1/2-1 cup intervals, cooking each time until it has absorbed most of the way and the rice seems fairly gelatinous and creamy. The best way to tell when it is done is to taste it - when the texture is to your liking, it's done! As you make more risotto, you'll get a feel for it.

6. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and remaining butter - these will bring the risotto to its final, creamiest texture. To serve, ladle the risotto into bowls and spoon the roasted vegetables on top. Enjoy!

22 June 2009

Coconut Pecan Icing (for German Chocolate Cake)

My dad's all-time favorite cake is German chocolate cake, and since today was his birthday, I made him some. Aren't I a great daughter?

Anyways, I never really liked it myself because of the icing - the stuff in the can is just awful, and recipes for it tend to be hit or miss. So this past Christmas, my mom and I tried out a recipe for caramel sauce that we added some coconut and pecans to, and it turned out fantastic - really fantastic. Eating-it-out-of-the-pot-with-a-spoon fantastic.

This is it.

Coconut-Pecan Icing

3/4 cup butter
1 cup evaporated milk
2 cups brown sugar
a pinch of salt
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
2 cups chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. This is very important. Make a german chocolate cake. You can make it from a box, it's OK. Trust me, when it's covered with this icing, no one will care. Besides, it's tough to beat boxed cake mix for tastiness and ease. Go ahead. Give in to the box. I won't tell anyone.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, evaporated milk, brown sugar and salt. Bring to a vigorous boil and let boil for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the coconut, pecans, and vanilla and stir well.

4. Let cool to room temperature. The cake should cool at about the same rate, so you should be golden - just hope the icing survives! If you have icing left, ice the cake. Enjoy. Hope you still have cake left tomorrow to enjoy some more.

16 June 2009

I'm Back! I Brought Some Mongolian Beef with Me... Can You Forgive Me?

Let me just say.... I have missed you all so much, it's kind of ridiculous. And let me tell you, there's been loads going on. Let's see.....

..... I graduated from college!

..... I moved to New Orleans and back in with my parents for the time being.

..... Actually, that's about it, but those were big changes.

Anyways, I'm back. At least, I hope I'm back. And I've missed you guys a bunch, so hopefully I've learned my lesson and I won't leave again. I've been reading quite a bit, so I have lots of books for you, and I have lots of recipes to try out and share with all of you lovely folks.

So lets get this show on the road, shall we?

Mongolian Beef
adapted from this recipe

3 teaspoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons rice wine
3 tablespoons water
3 pounds beef (any fairly well-marbled cut will do, I used flank steak), thinly sliced
1 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
4 bunches scallions, white parts finely chopped, green parts cut into 2-inch pieces
1 inch ginger, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1. Whisk together the cornstarch, water, rice wine, and 3 teaspoons of soy sauce. Marinate the beef slices in this mixture for 30 minutes.

2. Pour the cup of soy sauce (yes, a whole cup) into a small saucepan and put said saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the soy sauce to a quarter cup. When it has reduced, add the sugar and stir to combine. Meanwhile, continue with the recipe. This was a substitution for the sweet and dark soy sauce (2 tablespoons and 1/2 teaspoon, respectively) called for in the original recipe. If you have those, by all means, use them.

3. In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add one-third of the beef and stir-fry until browned and about half-cooked. Remove from the pan. Repeat with the rest of the meat, adding more oil as needed.

4. Heat the final tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the garlic, ginger, and the white parts of the scallions. Saute until aromatic and softened, about five minutes.

5. Return the meat and all of the collected juices to the pan. Add the oyster sauce and the reduced soy sauce to taste to the pan. Turn off the heat, then add the green parts of the scallions. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar. Serve over steamed white rice. Enjoy!