Monday, October 18, 2010

Asparagus Risotto

Despite the lousy lighting, with one image too light and one too dark, eating this dish was truly a Goldilocks experience — the risotto was "just right".

A couple of professional chef's tricks enriched the veggie broth that brought a cup of arborio rice from raw to rich and creamy with a depth of flavor that belied the simple ingredients and offered the warmth and deep satisfaction a true comfort food provides.

I blanched the stems of the young asparagus spears in 3 cups of water, reserving the leafy tops for the final moments of cooking. Once the stems were crisp tender, I scooped them out of the water, reserving the cooking water to be the base for the broth the rice would cook in. Measure the water and add more as needed to equal 3 cups.

Meanwhile, I soaked two dried shitake mushroom caps in a cup of boiling water. When they had softened, I minced them and added them along with the cup of soaking water to the pot of simmering broth (asparagus cooking water). To enrich the flavor of the quart of simmering water, I added one dissolved veggie broth cube. Keep the broth just below a simmer if proceeding with the dish. Otherwise, cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

I used the standard procedure for cooking risotto, I began with sweating half a minced white onion in 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then added the cup of washed and drained arborio rice, stirring to mix and continuing to cook over medium heat until the rice kernels glistened.

I then added 1/4 cup of white wine, continued to cook, stirring as the wine coated the rice and onions until all the wine had disappeared. At this point it's just a matter of adding simmering broth by the half cup, stirring and letting the rice absorb the broth.

Don't add more broth until the last addition has been absorbed. Keep adding the broth and stirring until the rice is al dente —chewy on the outside, but creamy on the inside, about 30 - 40 minutes cooking time over medium heat.

Before the last two additions of the broth, when the rice is almost cooked, add the blanched asparagus stems and the uncooked tops.
To complete the dish, taste for salt, add if needed.

If you eat cheese, a quarter cup of grated Parmesan is a lovely final addition. If not, it's still a simple, satisfying grain based dish.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rick Bayless in Orlando

Don't miss the opportunity to see and hear the man who has successfully taught so many of us to cook Mexican food authentically.

Rick Bayless will be at Macy's at the Mall of Millenia on Sunday, October 17th at 2 p.m. demonstrating some fabulous Latin cuisine dishes from his latest book, Fiesta at Rick's.

Enjoy food samples, tips for serving, and there's a book signing, too.
The event is Free but to reserve a seat call: 800-329-8667.

See you Sunday!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Simple Soup

I had good intentions of writing a new post singing the praises of my latest Mexican dish courtesy of Rick Bayless. Especially since the famous chef/teacher/restaurateur is actually here in Orlando today. Macy's at Mall of Millenia is hosting Rick at a demonstration and book signing featuring his newest book, Fiesta at Rick's. The past few weeks have been filled with fabulous Mexican meals prepared by following Rick's step by step instructions in Mexican Kitchen.

But yesterday got away from me — and today I was lured to a simple soup involving 3 major ingredients courtesy of Jack Bishop, executive editor of Cook's Illustrated. I had purposely picked up a butternut squash to give this simple soup a try.

Three main ingredients: squash, garlic and chipotles with the addition of salt and water, and presto, a luscious, smooth as silk taste teaser. The piquant chipotles are the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the butternut squash and the hint of garlic manages to marry the flavors to perfection. Of all the squash varieties, I think the butternut lends itself the best to a smooth as silk finish for soup.

If you are having a challenge with incorporating more vegetables into your everyday diet, or if, like me, you are a vegan who likes a variety of preparations for some of my favorite vegetables or a nudge to try something different, get your hands on a copy of A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, Jack Bishop's great compendium of simple techniques to produce some fabulous vegetarian meals using seasonal produce.

Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Garlic
Recipe courtesy of A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs) peeled, pared and cut in 1" dice
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 small canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced (about 2 tsps) with 1 tsp adobo sauce.
5 cups water
salt to taste.

I had a smaller squash, approximately 1.5 lbs. I used 2 garlic cloves and 3 1/2 cups water but the same amount of chipotles. This made a generous quart of soup.

Heat the oil and garlic in a Dutch oven over medium heat until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add the chiles and adobo sauce and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with garlic and chiles, about 1 minute. Add the water and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer briskly until the squash is very tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender until very smooth. Adjust the seasonings, adding salt to taste if needed.