Archive for the ‘Grains (non-pasta)’ Category

eggplant risotto

I rarely use specific recipes when making risotto – to me, risotto is a blank canvas, like pasta, waiting for the next combination of ingredients I can come up with to put in it.  However, on our honeymoon last year, I was reading a particularly good issue of Food and Wine which featured this risotto recipe in an article about cruising the Mediterranean with Jacques Pepin.  I went back to that issue recently, where I re-encountered this recipe and immediately decided to finally put this specific risotto on my weekly menu.

This risotto was a perfect blend of flavors.  It really tasted like all of the great flavors in a good eggplant parmesan combined in each bite.  The only changes I made were to add the fresh tomatoes later in the cooking process than they instruct, in order to preserve more of their fresh taste and texture, and to make sure that I cooked the risotto in the same pan as the eggplant, scraping up the browned bits into the rice.  This gave the finished dish extra flavor.  I also used butter to start the risotto instead of olive oil and added white wine as that’s just the traditional way that I know. A key ingredient in this dish is ricotta salata, which is a dried, crumbly cheese with a slightly smoky taste.  We liked it with the ricotta salata, but Craig was less sure about it than I was.  In keeping with the Mediterranean theme, I think this recipe would also work great with feta in place of the ricotta salata, and I might try that as well.

Eggplant and Tomato Risotto with Ricotta Salata

Recipe from: Food and Wine, May 2008


2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup dry white wine or vermouth

4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth, for a fully vegetarian dish)

1 small Vidalia onion, minced

1 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 cup Arborio rice

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata (2 ounces)

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup julienned basil


1. In a large sauté pan with high sides (the same pan you want to use for the risotto), heat the olive oil. Add the eggplant and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned all over. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a rapid simmer. In the sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp. of butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until thoroughly coated, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the wine and cook, stirring and scraping up the browned bits in the pan, until the wine is nearly absorbed. Add the hot stock 1 cup at a time and stirring until it is absorbed between additions. When the rice is about half cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, reserving a small handful for garnish. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a creamy liquid, about 25 minutes total.

4. Remove the risotto from the heat. Vigorously stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, then stir in the ricotta salata and parmesan cheeses. Stir in the eggplant and basil, reserving a little basil for garnish. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to bowls. Garnish with reserved chopped tomatoes and basil. Serve right away.


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Chicken sausage stew

For December, I was selected to choose the recipes for Dinner Divas. The only problem was, between finals, finishing up work, and being out of town for 11 days, it took me until early Jan. to actually cook the recipes I’d chosen! However, I have made them both now, and I am happy to report that they were both very good (Texas caviar to be posted shortly). The people choosing the recipes each month are supposed to choose one Food Network recipe and one non-FN recipe. For my FN recipe, I chose this stew from Dan and Steve (the original Next Food Network Star winners).

This stew is very smooth and velvety from all the flour. I used only 1/3 the amount of butter the original recipe called for (a ridiculous 10 Tbsp.!) and found it to be plenty rich. The most interesting thing about this stew, however, was the addition of fresh fennel and orange zest. These ingredients gave it a flavor much different from the average stew and also very different from what you’d think it would taste like just looking at it. It was very tasty and we both enjoyed it. Rather than mixing in the oven-roasted potatoes from the recipe as they suggest, I topped it with oven fries, resting them on top to keep them crispy. The potatoes were a great addition, but the stew would also be very good with a scoop of basmati rice. I’ll definitely keep this recipe around.

Dan and Steve’s Chicken and Sausage Stew

Adapted from: The Hearty Boys, Food Network


3 tablespoons butter (I reduced this from the original 10!)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 2 -inch chunks (I used 1.65 pounds)

Salt and pepper

8 ounces andouille sausage, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced

½ Tbsp. dried thyme

5 cups chicken stock

Zest of one orange (I did a lazy job of getting all the zest and it was still plenty orange-y)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white wine

Oven roasted potatoes (see below)




1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Just before the butter begins to brown, add the chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the andouille and cook 2 more minutes. Remove the meat to a plate and reserve.

2. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in the same pot (do not drain meat juices from pot). Add the onion, garlic, carrot, fennel, and thyme and cook over medium heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.

3. As the vegetables cook, pour the chicken stock into a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low.

4. When the vegetable mixture is ready, add the orange zest to the pot along with the reserved meat and any accumulated juices. Mix well. Sprinkle in the flour in batches and stir to coat the vegetables and meat. Cook 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir.  Add the warm chicken stock to the pot 1 cup at a time, stirring as the stock is added. Once all of the stock has been added, bring the stew to a simmer for 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls, top with potatoes, and serve.


Oven potato wedges

Preheat oven to 425. Cut one small Yukon gold potato per person into 8 wedges. On a lightly greased baking sheet, toss potatoes with enough olive oil to coat, plus salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Arrange in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping wedges over after 20 minutes.

Thanks to Ashlee at “A Year in the Kitchen” for providing the proper potato wedge cooking temperature and time in her blog.

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Ok, so I have been meaning to post this recipe for awhile. I made this dish in celebration of six months of marriage, which was on November 17. So yes, I am a slacker for not posting it sooner! The reason I wanted to make this dish for a special occasion (and six months of marriage fell not long after we marked 6 years together, so it was extra-special), is that this is our favorite dish to order at Maggiano’s. We have gone to Maggiano’s on numerous occasions just to order a big plate of their ricotta gnocchi in vodka sauce to share with a salad. When I saw a very similar recipe that I could try at home, I knew I wanted to make it. This came out very tasty. I think it was almost as good as the Maggiano’s version, and it was certainly made with more love! As a bonus, ricotta gnocchi are probably a little easier to make than potato gnocchi. Try it!

Ricotta gnocchi with tomato-cream sauce

Adapted from: Cook’s Illustrated


for the gnocchi:

16 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese (must use whole milk ricotta, not part-skim)

2 slices of white bread, crusts cut off and torn into quarters

1 egg

2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil leaves

Salt and pepper

All-purpose flour

½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


for the sauce:

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 14.5 oz. can low-sodium plain tomato sauce

Salt to taste

1/8 tsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. chopped basil leaves

2-3 Tbsp. heavy cream, at room temperature



To prepare gnocchi:

1. Line a fine mesh strainer with a triple layer of paper towels.  Place ricotta in strainer, cover with a plate, and refrigerate for 1 hour. You can put another plate underneath to catch any dripping liquid, but mine did not have any – the paper towels absorbed it all.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Process bread pieces in a food processor until finely ground.  Spread crumbs on a baking sheet and bake until dry and slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

3. Place ricotta in food processor and pulse to a fine, grainy consistency, about eight quick pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in egg, basil, salt and pepper with a rubber spatula.  Add 6 Tbsp. of flour, parmesan, and bread crumbs and stir until well combined.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

4. Check the texture of the dough.  It should roll into a ball easily, leaving few crumbs on your hands.  Add more flour if necessary to achieve this texture (I didn’t need to do this).  Dust work surface and hands with flour.  Roll a lemon-sized piece of dough into a ¾-inch rope, rolling from the center outward.  Cut rope into ¾-inch long pieces and transfer to a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook gnocchi at a simmer in 2 batches.  Once all pieces float to the surface, continue to simmer for 2 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon.  Repeat with second batch.


While water is heating, prepare sauce:

1. Heat oil in a high-sided skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add garlic and cook 20 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar and simmer 5 to 6 minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in basil and cream.  Check seasoning.

2. Gently fold gnocchi into sauce.  Serve immediately with additional grated parmesan.

Serves 3 as a main course.

dressed gnocchi

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Golden Tilapia

When I was making my grocery list for the week, it occured to me that my husband Craig would be taking the MPRE, aka the ethics portion of the Bar, on Saturday (which also happens to be his birthday, but more on that later in the weekend). As such, I figured I should ask him what he wanted to eat on Friday night that would give an extra boost to his mental agility. Unfortunately, my mental agility was apparently in the toilet, because I asked him once, got an answer (fish), and then proceeded to forget that he had given me an answer and ask him again. Of course, I got a different answer the second time I asked (risotto). I realized this while I was grocery shopping, and decided I would make both – tilapia filets with a nice veggie risotto on the side.

This tilapia recipe has a special place in my recipe book because it was the first moderate-difficulty recipe I attempted when I was first learning to cook. I simplified it slightly for this meal, but I also recommend the original, which is linked below.

I also can’t believe I haven’t blogged a risotto yet. I learned how to make risotto from my dad (we’ve since dubbed him the “Risotto King”), who in turn learned from an Italian chef in Ann Arbor, MI. I really enjoy making risottos and, even more so, eating them. However, I usually make them as a main dish, so it was a slight departure for me to serve it as a side here.

Golden Tilapia

Adapted from: Food Network


Coarsely ground pepper

1 tsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 ½ Tbsp. rum

¼ tsp. lemon zest

1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. garlic powder

2 tilapia filets

Olive oil to cook



1. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring soy sauce, rum, lemon juice, lemon zest to a simmer. Add sugar and whisk to dissolve. Whisk in pepper, ground ginger, and garlic and reduce slightly – for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.


2. Pour marinade over filets and marinate 20-30 minutes (if making the risotto, you can just marinate for the time it takes to cook the risotto).


3. Coat the bottom of a sauté pan well with olive oil and heat over medium high until shimmering. Remove filets from marinade and let excess drain off. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, until fully opaque.


Zucchini-Red Pepper Risotto


4 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

½ onion, diced

1 ⅓ cups Arborio rice

2/3 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

1 small zucchini, julienned

6 oz. jarred fire-roasted red peppers

2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan (go for the good stuff in this recipe)



1. Put chicken broth in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a rapid simmer over medium high heat.

2. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium high heat in the largest high-sided sauté pan you have, or in a Dutch oven.  When beginning to foam, add onion and cook 3-4 minutes, until softened but not brown.

3. Add rice and toast, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.

4. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until wine is almost fully absorbed.

5. Add two ladle-fuls of hot broth, just enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until broth is nearly absorbed. Continue to add broth in small batches and to cook, stirring frequently (I find that two ladles at a time works well until the end, when I cut down to one at a time).

6. When about half the broth has been added and the rice is about half cooked, add zucchini and peppers. It may be necessary to raise the heat slightly for a few minutes after adding vegetables to return the contents of the pan to temperature.

7. Taste grains of rice frequently to monitor for al dente doneness, and add smaller additional batches of broth as necessary. When the rice reaches al dente (this could take anywhere from 15 to over 20 minutes depending on the batch), turn off the heat.

8. Add most of the parmesan (reserving a small amount to sprinkle on top) and the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, and stir vigorously. Once the texture is creamy and butter and cheese are melted,* plate and sprinkle with reserved parmesan to serve.


*If making with tilapia, the risotto can be covered and set aside in its pan for the few minutes it takes to cook the fish. The time it takes to prepare the fish will also be reduced by immediately putting a pan on the hot risotto burner to cook the fish.




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Following up on the Vegetarian Week post from below, I also wanted to share the second great vegetarian dinner we had recently. This one, I felt, was a bit more “legit” as a vegetarian dinner than the pasta dish I posted below. I mean, sure, anyone can think of a tasty meatless pasta dish, especially if it’s one that has a cheesy, creamy sauce. This dish, though, is one of the healthiest, most balanced dinners I can think of and it was amazingly good. Ratatouille is one of those dishes that is truly much more than the sum of its parts. As you’re cooking it, you’re thinking “well, it’s just a bunch of sauteed vegetables – how exciting could it be?” But by the time you take a bite, all the flavors have blended and it tastes so good. This is also a surprisingly hearty and filling dish, for those who think they can’t get full without meat. I added cannellini beans to make it more nutritionally balanced, and I thought they were a great addition.

Adapted from: Emeril Lagasse, Food Network


1/4 cup olive oil
1 small diced yellow onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 baby eggplants, diced

1 diced green bell pepper
1 diced red bell pepper
1 large diced zucchini
1 large heirloom tomato, chopped

1 can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper


to serve:

Oven-baked brown rice

Grated parmesan for sprinkling



1. Cut up everything! The most time-consuming part of this meal, by far.

2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once shimmering, add the onions to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add the garlic, eggplant, and thyme to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the green and red peppers and zucchini and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes, beans, basil, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes.

6. Serve over oven-baked brown rice with a sprinkling of parmesan.

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When my husband and I went to visit my parents for the 4th this past weekend, my mom gave me some back issues of Cook’s Illustrated that she had gotten from a friend of hers. I know lots of home cooks love this magazine, but it was my first experience with it, and I have to say I am impressed. Anyway, when we got home today, I got right to work picking out some recipes from the magazine to make this week and ended up pairing May/June 04’s oven-cooked brown rice with Jan./Feb. 05’s homemade chicken teriyaki. The brown rice was outstanding. It takes a little longer to make than brown rice on the stove, which I make frequently, but the texture is flawless. I consider myself pretty good at making rice on the stove, but I will definitely make it this way in the future. The homemade teriyaki sauce was yummy as well.

The chicken also gave me a chance to practice some butchering skills, as it calls for de-boning some bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I am a firm believer that the best cooks are always talented at butchering their meat, so this was a good chance to practice these skills. It was a little difficult, but practice is good. Here are both recipes:

Oven-baked brown rice

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated



1 ½ cups brown rice (any grain length – I used long grain)

2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 ½ Tbsp. butter

Dash salt

Large wedge of lemon

¼ tsp. garlic powder

Black pepper



1.       Set oven rack to middle position and preheat to 375 degrees.

2.       Spread rice evenly in the bottom of a small round casserole with a lid.

3.       Bring broth and butter to a boil in a covered saucepan (make sure it’s covered – otherwise, some of the liquid will evaporate and mess up the proportions).  As soon as it’s boiling, stir in dash of salt and pour the liquid over the rice.  Cover and bake for 1 hour.

4.       Remove rice from oven, uncover, and fluff with a fork.  Squeeze wedge of lemon into the rice and add garlic powder and black pepper.  Fluff again to combine.

5.       Cover with a towel and let stand 5 minutes.  Uncover and let stand 5 minutes more. Fluff and serve.

 Perfect texture!




Chicken Teriyaki

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

This recipe requires starting with deboned chicken thighs (with skin on – the skin is important).  I can’t reproduce CI’s deboning instructions for you, but there is a similar set of instructions here, on AllRecipes.  CI also calls for making 3 slashes in the skin of each thigh, which I found difficult, but I managed something resembling that.


4 chicken thighs, butchered to specifications above

Salt and pepper

½ cup soy sauce

½ cup sugar (you could reduce this to 1/3 if you wanted)

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 minced garlic clove

2 Tbsp. mirin

½ tsp. cornstarch


(this is the full sauce recipe, but half the amount of chicken – 2 servings instead of 4 – so there will be sauce leftover, which will save just fine in the fridge)



1.       Heat broiler with oven rack about 8 inches from heating element.   Line baking sheet with foil and place a flat rack on it if you have one (I don’t, so I skipped this step and it was fine).

2.       Place thighs on baking sheet and arrange so that they are of even thickness and the skin covers the tops evenly.  Broil until skin is crisp and internal temperature is 175 degrees (My thermometer hit the temperature before the skins were super dark brown, and, concerned about them drying out, I took them out a minute before I probably should have.  You want the skin as crisp as possible, and the meat doesn’t dry out at all, so next time I’ll just judge them based on the skin).  This should take about 10-14 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through cooking time.

3.       Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir together mirin and cornstarch until no lumps remain, and whisk it into the sauce.  Bring sauce to a boil, whisking frequently.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until reduced to ¾ cup or takes on the texture of a glaze, about 5 minutes.  Cover and remove from heat.

4.       Let chicken rest for a couple of minutes before slicing crosswise and drizzling with sauce.  Serve with additional sauce on the side.


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