Saturday, July 4, 2009
Risotto is a creamy rice dish. It is not necessarily creamy because of added milk, but because of how you make it. I've seen recipes for Risotto where you basically cook the rice and then saute some ingredients, then add the rice and some milk. That is not really Risotto. Some recipes talk about how Risotto is labor intensive. They are also inaccurate. It is actually pretty simply, and very tasty!
Risotto is an Italian dish dating back to the 1500s that has four basic components; without these, you don't really have Risotto.
First, Italian rice such as Arborio. You need a rice that can absorb a lot of liquid to give off a creamy starch while keeping its shape. The inexpensive rice you buy in large bags at the grocery store will result in paste if you try making Risotto with it.
Second, sauteed vegetables. Onions are a must, finely diced. A popular addition is mushrooms, but there really isn't a limit. Pumpkin Risotto was mentioned in another blog I read...I hope to be trying that soon. I make a Risotto with grated carrots that goes really well with pork chops.
Third, broth. Risotto is not made with just water, but rather with broth that you add gradually.
Fourth, the flavoring ingredient. This can be the sauteed vegetables if they are flavorable enough, but it is often herbs, spices, or even wine.
My favorite Risotto recipe, found at https://www.usarice.com/index.php?option=com_recipe&view=recipe&id=1098&Itemid=233 uses water, broth, and wine. This is a very basic recipe, and the reason I like it so much is that I can add from there. I can also subtract from it, like removing the half and half for additions that wouldn't do well with cream, like Asian flavors.
Once you have a basic recipe for Risotto, the only thing that can limit you is your own taste.
More good Risotto recipes:
Risotto with Asparagus:
Risotto Milanese - this a drier, more traditional Risotto:
Goda del vostro alimento!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
When you think pasta salad, it's time to get out the mayonnaise, right? Wrong! You have so many more options than you think! I had a friend ask me for recipes for pasta salads that aren't creamy. Since Chris won't eat mayonnaise, I've made quite a few over the years. I mentioned one of them in my second (and third for the corrections) blog entry, so for one pasta salad idea you can go back and look for that.
The simplest one I know is a mixture of pasta, olive oil, italian seasoning, peas, and Parmesan cheese together. Viola! This is very tasty and a snap to make. Proportions are according to your taste, of course.
One of my favorites is this Asian Pasta Salad that I developed a couple of years ago:
Asian Pasta Salad
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
8 ounces small egg noodles, or other pasta, cooked according to package directions and cooled. 3 medium green onions, chopped fine
2 large carrots, diced or grated
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 medium radishes, julienned
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well to make the sauce.
Combine remaining ingredients in a salad bowl.
Pour the sauce over the pasta salad, only adding as much as you think you need and blend well.
Chill covered for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Stir once more before serving to blend in the sauce that settled at the bottom.
Serving Ideas: This goes very well with cold salmon recipes, or you can add a can of salmon or some chicken to make it a meal on its own.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 322 Calories; 13g Fat (35.1% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 36mg Cholesterol; 248mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
I need to note that as I was telling Chris that I was blogging about this salad, he got really excited and asked if we could have that for lunch...so we did. Thus the pretty picture I've included.
Another one is very similar to the Mediterranean Salad previously mentioned in entry #2, but a little more complicated and sweeter. I've added Balsamic vinegar to this because it compliments the cranberries so nicely.
Mediterranean Pasta Salmon Salad
8 ounces rotini, cooked as directed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6 ounces canned salmon, drained
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pine nuts, raw or toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 418 Calories; 17g Fat (36.5% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 36mg Cholesterol; 400mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat.
Want them to be lower carb? Halve the noodles and add more vegetables. The Asian salad would be great with broccoli and/or cauliflower. The Mediterranean salad would do well as a lettuce salad, also, skipping the pasta altogether.
Here are other recipes that I've found scouring the web:
Lemon Basil Pasta Salad: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/dan-smith-and-steve-mcdonagh/lemon-basil-pasta-salad-recipe/index.html
Marinated Beef and Pasta Salad: http://www.recipesource.com/fgv/salads/pasta/00/rec0040.html
Pesto Pasta Salad: http://elise.com/recipes/archives/001996pesto_pasta_salad.php
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A friend of mine asked me to explain a ricer. A good question!
Actually, the full name is a potato ricer. It is a tool that is used for smashing potatoes (and other foods, why limit yourself?) into pieces a little smaller than the size of a grain of rice. Thus the name 'ricer'. I believe its origin is for lefse, the Scandinavian potato pancakes that my father-in-law loves so very much. Another good use for it is to cook vegetables and other foods until they are fairly soft and make baby food. Don't forget applesauce, too!
I, of course, figured out that it is sort of like a garlic press except that it can do a whole bulb at once. It does require some strength to use it that way, but you end up with lots of garlic. Warning about using it this way: crush your garlic under a knife first and make sure you have a sturdy metal ricer. It is worth the effort for that!
Cooks Illustrated in May suggested using a sturdy metal sieve and a stiff rubber spatula as a ricer if you don't have the real thing. I can't see why this wouldn't work. However, they did have a recommendation in case you'd like to purchase one; the RSVP International Classic Kitchen Basics Potato Ricer available from http://www.cheftools.com for $11.99. They also recommended the Bethany Housewares Heavy-Duty Potato Ricer available from http://www.target.com for $16.99, but not as highly.
For another view with other links, see the Wikipedia article here:
I really like this commentary on ricers from a UK magazine back in 1997:
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
1) This is a side-dish serving, but even as a main course it is well below the requested 45 carbs or less.
2) I often use cherry tomatoes and just cut them in half
3) My preferred method of cooking the chicken is grilling or broiling. Most of the time I use my George Foreman grill after washing the chicken, patting it dry, and brushing it with olive oil.
3a) Never boil chicken unless you plan on putting it in soup. Ever. Really. No matter what the recipe said.
3b) When grilling or broiling chicken breasts, keep an eye on them. Chicken cooked without skin will dry out pretty fast.
4) When in season, Vidalia onions taste pretty good in this.
Okay, I think I covered it.
Thanks for reading!
As a matter of fact, my friend that requested low-carb had a comment on her facebook status from someone asking her to pass it on if it tastes good and is easy to make. The implication, just because she asked for low-carb, is that she expects healthy food to taste bad. Thank you, fad diets.
Here is the recipe I make most often during the summer. I make it specifically when I am cooking for a crowd because I know from past experience that they love it. Much raving has occurred in the course of eating this salad. Besides being low-carb, it is also low fat and low cholesterol. Not bad for something that tastes so good!
I have more, but we'll start with this because I've been madly doing artwork all day. It is now past midnight and I'm still up. This will do for now, I hope. Enjoy!
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
1/2 medium cucumber -- seeded and minced
1/2 red onion -- finely diced
1 plum tomato -- seeded and diced
1/4 cup kalamata olives -- sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley -- chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic -- pressed; or more if needed (or less if you really don't like garlic!)
1 tsp italian seasoning
4 ounces feta cheese -- crumbled
6 ounces rotini -- prepared as directed and rinsed in cold water
(or other pasta of your choice. I also like fusili or penne.)
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves -- cooked, cooled, and diced
Mix all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, and chill for at least two hours before serving.
Per Serving: 139 Calories; 6g Fat (39.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 200mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I've been asked to have a cooking blog including recipes. So here it is. While you are going to be put off by the first few paragraphs if you like convenience over flavor, read on and I'll show you how easy it can be to make things from scratch.
Cookbooks and Recipes
I love cookbooks that have ethnic foods in them, particularly the reasonably authentic ones. However, if it has the ethnic flavor and the food is good, why not? Salad and vegetarian books grace my shelves, though I usually use vegetarian meals as side dishes. I have a lot of healthy cookbooks. Not diet, just healthy.
For novices, the Fanny Farmer is, in my opinion, the best starter cookbook. The Betty Crocker is okay, but lacks some old-time basics.
I do not enjoy 'hometown cooking' with a few exceptions like sweet corn during the summer. I don't buy casserole books because I generally only make a couple a year to make my husband happy.
First I'll cover the ingredients I won't use. There are a lot 'semi-homemade' ingredients I will not touch:
-Bisquick or other 'mixes' such as for cakes and muffins
-canned creamed soup
-boxed pasta/rice dinners. (to be fair, I've been known to use boxed pasta and rice dinners when I need to make a quick meal. Who doesn't? However, they are NOT ingredients and I will not use them as such.)
-Ketchup (it's a condiment, not an ingredient.)
-Jell-o (when I do make jell-o, I buy the gelatin and use juice.)
-bottled sauces ready to go, like sweet and sour, alfredo, et cetera.
-frozen bread dough
-Miracle Whip (I prefer mayonnaise and Chris won't eat either)
-canned vegetables (frozen is much better if you don't have fresh)
-Cool Whip (I couldn't even think of its name at first)
-A-1 sauce (it is too salty)
Now for the ingredients I do use.
I do use bottled spaghetti sauce, but it doesn't really resemble its original bottled self by the time I'm done. I've just never like canned tomato sauce that's plain for you to flavor and tomatoes you buy don't have enough flavor in the autumn and winter. I will also use canned diced tomatoes in the winter for a fully 'homemade' sauce.
I use lots of flavorful additions to my cooking. The staples in my pantry include just about every herb and spice available. I always have onions and garlic on hand. I buy ginger paste from the Indian store and most of the time it works in recipes, but if a recipe really needs fresh ginger, I try to have that on hand too. For fresh herbs, I consider parsley and cilantro my staples, but during the summer basil and mint are in there, too.
Different vinegars are very important, as is extra virgin olive oil and canola oil for the dishes that require an oil without much flavor of its own. Hot sauce is must for me, but I can understand if not everyone is interested in that. I know Minnesotans are bland. *wink*. Salsa and yogurt are also always in my house.
Hummus or at least Tahini and chickpeas in case I need to make some hummus. Vegetables of all kinds, so my meals are colorful. I have all sorts of different meats in the freezer, but if freshness is important for a big meal, I will go buy fresh anyway. Cans of tuna, chicken broth, beef broth, tomatoes, and different kinds of beans are always in my pantry as well as pasta and rice.
Condiments such as ketchup (as previously mentioned), mustard (which can be an ingredient, unlike ketchup), hot sauce for both Latin and Asian cooking, salt, pepper, Parmesan, BBQ sauce (also sometimes an ingredient), Heinz 57 (not an ingredient), Worcestershire Sauce (also sometimes an ingredient), and salad dressings (though for big salads that I am sharing with friends I make it homemade) are usually on hand.
Bananas are always in my fruit bowl but I think that has more to do with brain washing as a child than anything else; I was required to eat a banana every morning. I always have frozen berries of some kind in the freezer, too. Frozen coconut, also, because the stuff in the bag in the baking aisle has sugar, and I don't buy it for baking, I buy it for Indian food.
I also keep apple sauce on hand for baking; that way I can use less oil and sugar and my quick breads and cakes are still moist. Speaking of baking, I always have baking ingredients on hand, including different types of flour and yeast and the whole nine yards.
I think that is enough for this note...it at least gave you the basics. I will write another note about tonight's dinner.