spring risotto

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This is such a gret time of year– things are blooming and turning green outdoors and after a winter of nothing but root vegetables at the farmer’s market you start to see fresh green things.   This risotto uses some of those fresh farmer’s market ingredients and truly tastes like spring.

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Peas, leeks, chives, (okay, not exactly from the farmer’s market, but still fresh!) and crimini mushrooms are where it’s at.  The recipe calls for fennel as well, though I am not a huge fan so omitted it but you should totally add it if that’s your thing.

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All of the vegetables get blended with arborio rice which turns creamy and luxurious upon cooking in a combination of chicken broth (you could make it vegetarian and use vegetable broth) and a little bit of dry white wine.  I think many shy away from making risotto because they get intimidated by the amount of stirring that’s involved, but it’s really not that bad!  And the end result is totally worth any amount of stirring anyway.

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This particular recipe calls for a poached egg to be served on top and it’s a great idea.  When you break the egg the yolk is still soft and melds in with the rest of the risotto so nicely.  I think the egg also takes it from being a side dish to the main feature.  And what a nice main feature it is!

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Spring Vegetable Risotto with Poached Eggs (from www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 cups shelled fresh (or frozen, thawed) fava beans or peas (from about 2 pounds pods)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 pound chanterelles or crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, whites and pale greens only, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, trimmed, leaves torn
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan (about 3 ounces) plus more for shaving
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

If using fresh fava beans, cook in a large saucepan of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain; transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Peel favas and transfer to a small bowl.

Bring a large skillet of salted water to a bare simmer over medium-low heat. Add vinegar. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl, then slide into simmering water. Repeat with 2 more eggs. Cook until whites are cooked but yolks are runny, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs.

Bring broth to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with favas.

Heat oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same pot over medium heat. Add leeks, fennel, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.

Add rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add 1 cup broth. Cook, stirring often (no need to stir constantly), until broth is almost absorbed. Add remaining broth by cupfuls, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more, stirring often, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total.

Add spinach, crème fraîche, 1 1/2 cups grated Pecorino, 1/4 cup chives, and reserved fava beans and mushrooms to risotto. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted and cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Season risotto with salt.

A few minutes before risotto is done, reheat poached eggs in a large skillet of simmering water, about 1 minute. Divide risotto among bowls and top with eggs, shaved Pecorino, chives, and pepper.

penang vegetable curry

When I was new to Thai food I was a Pad Thai girl all the way.  Pad Thai seems to be the gateway food for many who are new to Thai cuisine, though I eventually did venture away from the noodle dish and experimented with Massaman curry and satay and various peanut-based curries.  Lately I’ve been really into Penang curry.

I’m not so well-versed in Thai food as to be able to tell you what makes Penang curry different from other curries, I just know that I like it and also that a local Asian grocer conveniently carries Penang curry paste.  Score.

I found a recipe for a simple vegetable curry to use as a guide and went from there.  The recipe called for sweet potatoes (love), cauliflower, and chickpeas (which I had cooked up myself from dried beans and stored in my freezer for later use a few months back).

I wanted to add a little more color to the curry so threw some frozen peas into the mix.

A little tip that I sort of feel like a genius for thinking up, though by no means do I think that I am the first one to have this thought: the recipe called for coconut milk and a cup of water so I emptied my can of coconut milk and then filled the can up with water and added that to the pot.  It made broth richer by getting a little more coconut milk in there and also cleaned out the can for recycling at the same time: two birds, one stone.  So simple, and yet I’d never thought to do this before.

The resulting curry tasted pretty much exactly like the Penang curry I often get at a local Thai restaurant so on nights I don’t feel like making the half hour drive for carry-out I can recreate it myself at home.  It would be especially excellent with a little Thai iced tea.

Penang Vegetable Curry (loosely adapted from “Simple Vegetable Curry” from Everyday Food magazine)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Penang curry paste
  • 13.5 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 sweet potato (about  3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 bag of frozen peas

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 minutes. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir chickpeas into curry and increase heat to high. Simmer rapidly until liquid reduces slightly, 2 minutes. Serve curry over rice.

spicy lentil dal

Do you know what yesterday was? The one-year anniversary of this here blog. Happy birthday Baxter & Main! I had high hopes of redesigning the layout, getting a new font, real logo, and proper header to mark this occasion… but alas, it did not happen in time. Such is life. Until I get around to all of those things I will still bring you good food, such as this spicy lentil dal.

The recipe calls for red lentils which cook down in a hurry and turn into something of a paste in the process. The author recommends serving it over rice, as I have done here, or but you can also serve it like a dip with crackers. I did not have red lentils on hand but had plenty of brown and green lentils so decided to substitute those instead. Note that if you use brown or green lentils the simmering time is going to be longer (doubled for brown, tripled for green) and also the texture more firm. I can assure it tasted great just the same.

I cooked up some black rice to serve with the dal as it is supposed to be extra healthy since it is full of antioxidants. Plus it looks really pretty and I’m a sucker for aesthetics. (Speaking of, check out my new plate below: I scored several boxes full of these dishes at a barn sale last weekend for the whopping grand total of $4. Jackpot!)

Spicy Lentil Dal (adapted slightly from recipe found in Vegetarian Times magazine)

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed (you can also use brown or green lentils as I have done here, however consistency will not be as intended)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup light coconut
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Bring broth and lentils to a boil in pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until lentils are tender (if using brown or green lentils simmer time will be between 20 to 30 minutes). Cover, and remove from heat.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté 5 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, and coriander; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in lime juice. Serve over rice.

mid-week middle eastern meal

I used to work at an ad agency in metro Detroit.  I love that city, I really do.  I could devote a whole post (or two or ten) about my love for it but will start by talking about the food in the cafeteria at the ad agency I used to work at.  It was run by people of Lebanese and Yemeni descent and the food very much reflected that.

I had a few exposures to Middle Eastern food before living in metro D but it was pretty much restricted to pita and hummus.  The cafeteria opened my eyes to the beauty of things like shish tawook, chicken kafta, and a beautiful dish called mujadera.

Mujadera involves lentils, (and you know how much I love lentils) rice, and onions– both cooked and caramelized.

I had plenty of rice on hand but also had farro and thought that might make a nice substitute.  Farro is in the wheat family, similar to barley.  It is hearty and nutty and delicious in savory dishes.

While the lentils, onions, and farro were cooking on the stovetop I turned my attention to caramelizing some onions to top the mujadera with.

Caramelizing onions is easy and the results are delicious.  I’d venture a guess that even people who don’t like onions under normal circumstances like caramelized ones.

If I were making caramelized onions to go on a burger or to top a pizza I might stop at the below….

But for this dish you want them brown like the below image.  I don’t even mind if they’re a little on the black side even though the recipe warns you to be careful of burning them.

I was psyched to find this recipe in a cookbook I had because Wisconsin is relatively void of Middle Eastern food and now I can make this for myself at home.  Score!  Takes me back to my days of eating lunch at the cafeteria in Detroit…

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions (Mujadera) (from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, plus 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups lentils, washed and picked over
  • About 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water, warmed
  • 1 cup long- or short- grain rice (or farro)

Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep saucepan and turn the heat to medium.  A minute later, add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook 3 minutes more.  Add the lentils, stir, and add about 4 cups liquid.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes.  Add enough of the remaining stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid.  Stir in the rice.  Cover and turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, place the remaining oil in a medium skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes.  Scoop out the onions and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice.

Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes.  When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready.  If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes.  If, on the contrary, the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring until it evaporates.

Serve the rice and lentils, garnished with the caramelized onions.