Spring Risotto with Shrimp

Last night I had two girlfriends over for dinner. These are the kind of friends where we’ll sit and chat for hours and hours and then suddenly realize that its not only dark outside but it’s the middle of the night. That’s why I chose to make something that wouldn’t require a ton of thought or time to put together. I picked up some sheep/goat/cow (we tried to figure out what that would sound like – a fun game after a few glasses of wine) soft cheese and a smoky gouda with some seed crackers for appetizers and then made a lemon asparagus pea risotto with shrimp, steamed some artichokes, and served fresh strawberries over homemade vanilla ice cream that I’d churned earlier in the day. Everything was delicious though I’d try a different vanilla ice cream recipe next time as the texture was more like “ice milk” than ice cream. My new goal is to use the ice cream maker once a week so there will be plenty of time to perfect a vanilla ice cream recipe this summer. There are a bunch of recipes on the David Lebovitz and Pastry Studio websites that I’m itching to play with.

Spring Risotto with Shrimp (adapted from Gourmet’s Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp)

  • 4-5 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup fresh shelled peas
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Keep covered.

In a small saucepan, bring some water to a boil. Add asparagus and peas and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer vegetables with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking, then drain.

Cook shallot in 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.

Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 18 minutes. (There will be leftover broth mixture.)

Stir in shrimp and cook until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Cover for a minute or two if that helps speed up the process.

Stir in asparagus, zest, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, parmesan, parsley, and pepper to taste. (Thin risotto with some of remaining broth if necessary.)

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Leftover Pot Roast Stew

I never think of myself as being a very creative cook. I am usually pretty good at following recipes (except when I space out and forget to read the preparation time like I did on Tuesday night – oops) and I try to cook a wide variety of foods. However, when it comes to knowing what and how much of what to put in a new dish, I’m not too confident and usually try to piece a few recipes together for guidance. Today I decided to make a stew out of the leftover pot roast all on my own – no cheating and looking up other recipes. It actually turned out quite well!

I softened an onion in some olive oil and added two stalks of chopped celery and two chopped carrots. When that was all soft (not brown), I stirred around a pressed clove of garlic for a few seconds before adding the rest of the ingredients. I added a pinch of salt, the leftover meat (cubed), a box of very expired diced tomatoes (oops- looks like I’m turning into my mother in that I haven’t cleaned out the pantry in a while), a chopped up potato, and half a box of beef broth. For spices, I sprinkled in some rosemary and thyme and decided to hold off on adding anything else until the flavors came together and I could taste it. After bringing it to a boil and simmering for about 40 minutes until the carrots were soft, I was delightfully surprised at how well it turned out. It’s simple but it’s hearty and delicious. I’m going to put it in the freezer and bust it out once all the fog starts to roll into San Francisco in the next few months.

Experimental Dinner Party

Last night we had four friends over for an experimental dinner party. We used recipes that we’d been wanting to try and lucky for us, everything turned out really well. This same group of friends hasn’t always been so lucky. A few years ago we tried making a roasted duck but the duck won and we ended up grabbing Delfina pizza down the street. At least it was a bittersweet ending for all involved.

Alex and I made the Barefoot Contessa Company Pot Roast which I’m already looking forward to reheating for dinner tonight and an Herbed Ricotta Dip with Spring Vegetables for an appetizer. The latter was a big winner in the last Leite’s evaluation round and I was eager to try it after reading all of the positive reviews. I made my own ricotta again and put together a colorful plate of veggies for dipping. The pot roast was easier than I expected. It just requires a lot of chopping for the vegetables and then some strong arms to rotate the roast in the pan while searing. It was done in less than 2 hours (recipe said 2.5 but I took it out of the fridge about an hour in advance so that might have been why) and produced a ton of gravy which we’ll use on some fresh pasta this week.

Mike and Wei made a “smashed potatoes” recipe from Cooks Illustrated that I’d love to try on my own sometime. Kristin and Jeremy brought over a lemon strawberry tart by David Leibowitz that we polished off in minutes. The rest of the evening was spent playing Catch Phrase which kept us laughing and crying until about 1am. Good fun all around!

Asparagus Pizza and Strawberry Gelato

More spring treats! For tonight’s pizza, I planned the toppings and Alex shaped the dough. We had friends over for dinner so I didn’t take any photos. It’s so much more fun to chat and eat than it is to spend five minutes taking a photo that isn’t all that great anyway. Instead, I’m including the photos from the websites where I found the original recipes. However, if I may say so myself, my own versions weren’t so ugly. Though my photography would have been!

Asparagus Pizza from Smitten Kitchen (Photo by Smitten Kitchen)

Strawberry Gelato from Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health section in the NYT (Photo by Andrew Scrivani for NYT)

The only changes we made were to use our own pizza dough recipe and to use fresh berries for the gelato. I served two scoops (hey, it did say recipes for “health”) over fresh berries. YUM.

Strawberry Shortcake

Dough kind of scares me. My grammy will tell you that I’m not the most skilled when it comes to rolling out pie dough. Alex will tell you that my Italian roots are lost on me when it comes to shaping pizza dough. And my cousins can share the time that my cupcakes looked and tasted more like muffins – coining the term “mufcakes”. So you can imagine how nervous I was yesterday in making strawberry shortcake for the first time… for my cousin who witnessed the “mufcake” episode. Oh and it was to celebrate her birthday. Lucky for me, they turned out beautifully- light and fluffy in the middle with just a bit of crisp on the outside. My new mission is to perfect this recipe over the summer.

I modified a recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website and will definitely try it again. I made a few modifications because I didn’t want such a large batch (the original yields 9 servings) and didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand. The one thing I would change is to make them thicker next time rather than patting the dough out too thin.

Biscuits

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 TB baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 cup dried buttermilk powder* (I used non fat milk powder)
1.5 TB sugar
1/2 stick butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 large egg
1/2 cup milk

*Or substitute 1/2 cup buttermilk for the buttermilk powder and milk.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Whisk together the dry ingredients, and cut in the cold butter, margarine or shortening. Whisk the vanilla and egg with the milk, then add all at once to the dry ingredients and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times, just until it holds together. Pat the dough out until it’s about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick, and cut it into circles (using a sharp cutter for the highest rising biscuits). Place the biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet, brush the tops with milk or egg white for a shiny surface, sprinkle with sugar if desired, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Shortcake

1 quart hulled strawberries
1/4 cup sugar (I’d go even lighter next time)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup whipping cream

Mash 2 cups of the strawberries. Slice the remaining strawberries, and mix all of the berries with the sugar and lemon juice. Let rest 1 hour. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Just before serving, split open the biscuits, spoon half the berries and whipped cream on the bottom half, top with remaining biscuit halves, and spoon on remaining berries and cream.

Happy birthday Patty! Thanks for coming into the city to play with us 🙂

Risotto Verde

I’ve had a thing for rice this week. It was rice pudding on Tuesday, then risotto last night. I had over a gallon of homemade chicken stock in the fridge after roasting a chicken earlier in the week so I was eager to put it to use. I can never decide which I like more – the chicken itself or the stock that it produces once every morsel of meat has been consumed. As Alex would say, it’s just a win-win all around.

I wanted to make a risotto using all of the spring vegetables that have been popping up in the markets lately. Fresh peas, asparagus, spinach, etc. After perusing some of my trusty cookbooks and blogs, I settled on a Risotto Verde from Leite’s and made a few tweaks. I figured if I was going to make the effort of shelling peas, I should use more than a scant 1/2 cup. Also, it turns out that catching up with friends over the phone helps facilitate pea-shelling. (Thanks Sarah!) I also parboiled 8 hefty asparagus spears for a couple of minutes and then chopped them into 1.5 inch pieces, about 1 cup total.

The meal was fantastic but that was a given with such delicious ingredients and wonderful guests. Our friends Karen and Tad were here from Seattle with their adorable 6 month old, Wylie. They drove through the central CA coast over the weekend and brought back some enormous artichokes which we steamed with garlic and bay leaves. They also brought a vat of strawberries which I know we’ll have no problem devouring within the next 24 hours. Nothing beats the produce of CA in the springtime!

Spring Risotto Verde
(adapted from Lora Zarubin’s I Am Almost Always Hungry)

  • 4 cups spinach leaves firmly packed with stems removed
  • 2 cups arugula leaves firmly packed
  • 1 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 5-6 cups homemade chicken stock (this makes a huge difference!)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, finely minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine (toss it in the fridge and then drink w/ dinner)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 cup fresh shelled peas, chilled in ice water
  • 1 cup parboiled asparagus, chopped into 1.5 inch pieces, chilled in ice water
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano + more for the table
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the spinach and arugula leaves separately in water for 30 minutes to remove all the grit and sand.

2. Heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet and add the washed spinach leaves. Saute for several minutes, stirring, until wilted. Place the spinach in a colander and drain well, then finely chop.

3. Drain the arugula leaves and roughly chop. Wash and drain the parsley leaves and roughly chop.

4. Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a high simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

5. In a 6-quart non-reactive saucepan, melt the olive oil and butter. Add the shallots and garlic and stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the rice and continue stirring until the rice is translucent (about 2 minutes). Add the white wine and cook over medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Then using a ladle, begin adding the warm stock approximately 1 cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon several times after each addition. Wait until the stock has been absorbed before adding more. Repeat this until almost all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is al dente. The cooking time for the risotto is approximately 35 minutes.

6. Stir in the chopped spinach, chopped arugula, chopped parsley, peas, and asparagus. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately, passing the remaining Parmigiano separately.