Lemon Thyme Risotto

Yesterday I was eager to make a mess in the kitchen after being away for the last week or so. After a trip to the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market in the morning, I got busy making fresh strawberry ice cream and the Lemon Thyme Risotto that recently appeared on the Leite’s website. Served with grilled salmon and asparagus, we had a very tasty dinner for ourselves. The risotto was delicious and reminded me that I should make Risotto Verde again now that spring vegetables are popping up in the markets. (Apparently, I have a thing for risotto in April – I just searched for risotto on my blog and realized that every April for the last three years I have tried a new recipe!)

Dessert was tasty (and pretty) too!

Butternut Squash and Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Another win from Heidi Swanson – healthy mac and cheese! I had all of the necessary produce for this recipe delivered yesterday in my CSA box: cherry tomatoes, basil, broccoli, and delicata squash. Alex and I put it together in about ten minutes and had a hard time putting our forks down once it was done. This is actually a reasonable weeknight meal in that there isn’t much prep work and it bakes in only 20 minutes. *And* it’s a wonderful way to get a few more veggies and whole wheat pasta into your diet!

Recipe courtesy of 101 Cookbooks

  • 1 small winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into tiny chunks
  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch of basil, stems removed
  • 2 slices good brown bread, stale or dried out in the oven
  • 1/2 a small head of broccoli (100 g / 3.5 oz), roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • ~ 1 3/4 cups / 3.5 oz / 100 g grated white cheddar cheese
  • ~ 1 3/4 cups / 3.5 oz / 100 g grated gruyere cheese
  • a large handful of (yellow) cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups / 300 g dried (whole wheat) macaroni elbows

Preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Place the squash on a large baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

In the meantime, pulse half the basil, all of the bread, the broccoli and a lug of olive oil in a food processor until you’ve got a fine crumb. Transfer to a small bowl and give the processor a rinse.

In a separate bowl, combine the creme fraiche and grated cheeses.

Place the cherry tomatoes in the food processor with the remaining basil. Pulse a couple times to break things up, then add to the creme fraiche mixture and stir well.

Boil the pasta in well-salted water for a bit less time than the package suggests – you want it ever so slightly undercooked. Drain, reserving a big cup of the hot pasta water for later use. Return the hot pasta to the pan and add the cheese mixture to it. Add the squash and give it a good stir. Add pasta water to thin the sauce to the consistency of cream. It can be a bit runny as the pasta will soak it up in the oven.

Transfer everything to a large baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle the green breadcrumbs evenly across the top and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until the topping is crunchy. Remove from the oven, and wait 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 – 10.

Zucchini Pasta

Last week Patty brought me some enormous zucchini from her yard in Sacramento. They looked and felt like 3-4 pound dumbbells! Initially I was inspired to make a zucchini lemon cake, but after a glowing recommendation of the “Zucchini Pasta” in Martha Rose Schulman’s section in the NYT, I switched gears. It was the perfect Sunday night meal after a wedding weekend – quick, healthy, veggie, and surprisingly full of flavor. Thanks to Patty for the veggies and Kristin for the recommendation!

 

  • 2 pounds zucchini (or a combination of yellow and green zucchini)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving (more to taste)

1. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons. Peel off several from one side, then turn the zucchini and peel off more. Continue to turn and peel away ribbons until you get to the seeds at the core of the zucchini. Compost the core.

2. Cook the zucchini strips in two batches. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the zucchini ribbons and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, tossing and stirring the zucchini, for two to three minutes, until softened and beginning to turn translucent. Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste, and transfer to a serving dish. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and zucchini. Serve, topping with fresh basil slices and freshly grated Parmesan if desired.

Yield: Serves four

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.