Over centuries the unique cooking technique combing rice with other ingredients was developed resulting in the classic Italian dish known as ‘risotto’. The key ingredient for authentic risotto is Arborio rice.
Arborio rice is named after a town in Italy called Arborio, located in the Po Valley where the rice is grown. Its characteristics and cooking properties allow it to absorb the flavors and retain a certain firmness through the unique risotto cooking procedure.
In this recipe, I used a chicken sausage made with Asiago cheese and roasted red peppers. One of the grocery stores in our area makes the sausage in store so you can purchase them fresh in the quantity you need. The flavor of this meal is amazing. The tomatoes totally disintegrated and the rice took on a great smoky flavor from the bacon. The mushrooms added earthiness and the sausage gave the risotto a tiny kick of heat.
In a skillet, brown sausage & set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice crosswise & set aside. In skillet, saute onion & sliced mushrooms; stir in rice & toast for 20 seconds. Add the diced tomato & start ladling in the broth 1 ladle at a time. Once that broth is absorbed, continue adding another ladle of broth & so on. The rice should take about 30 minutes to cook over a medium low heat. About half the way through, add bacon. When there is about 10 minutes left add sausage & shrimp so the sausage warms & the shrimp cooks ONLY until done. Do Not overcook shrimp. Garnish with parsley or basil if you wish.
At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.
Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.
Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.
Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.
Once again, the last long week-end of summer has arrived. Here in Canada, families with school age children, take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer. Others enjoy the company of family and friends at barbecues, picnics, fairs, festivals and fireworks displays. Canadian football fans may spend a large portion of their week-end watching the Labour Day Classic matches live on television. Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will be a part of the holiday.
For some reason, the classic Reuben sandwich came into my thoughts for a tasty choice. If you’re barbecuing, it can be wrapped in foil and heated on the grill. If a picnic is your preference, add a nice potato salad and of course, a beer. Perfect, easy and delicious!
I can’t quite remember when my love for sandwiches began. I have memories of my brother and I having cold, leftover mashed potato sandwiches with my mother’s homemade bread after school.
The Reuben sandwich turns 104 this year. Its origin has definitely be contested, but it is universally acknowledged as an American invention. It brings together Irish corned beef, Jewish rye bread, German sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing to create the perfect balance of interesting flavors and textures.
In a colander, rinse & drain sauerkraut. In a large skillet, melt butter; stir in caraway seeds, salt & pepper. Add diced onion & saute for 3 minutes; add sauerkraut & combine well. Continue to saute, stirring frequently for 6 minutes; remove from heat & set aside.
Butter one side each of 8 slices of bread. Divide shredded cheese, corned beef & sauerkraut between 4 of the slices (on the unbuttered side) Top with remaining 4 slices. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Transfer sandwiches to griddle & grill until cheese is melted. Remove from griddle on to serving plates; lift top slice of bread from each sandwich & drizzle with Russian dressing. Close Reuben & slice. Serve with pickles & potato fries or chips.
Thousand Island & Russian dressings are similar. If you want to make your own Russian dressing just add 1/2 cup chili sauce to 3/4 cup Thousand Island dressing for a simple fix.
Rosti (roosh-tee)originated as a farmer’s breakfast item in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. In Germanic Switzerland, rosti literally means ‘crisp and golden’ andrefers to a dish of shredded potatoes, sauteed on both sides in butter with salt and pepper. Regional variations include extra ingredients such as bacon, ham, onion, cheese, apples or herbs and fresh vegetables.
This Swiss potato dish can be described as a cross between hash browns and a potato pancake. Poached eggs are particularly good with rosti at breakfast, but when served at any other meal, toppings might include smoked salmon, bacon, avocado, sour cream and red onions.
Writing this blog makes me mentally return to the brief bit of time Brion and I spent in Lugano, Switzerland. This city lies at the edge of Lake Lugano, south of the Swiss Alps. Lugano has a traffic-free historic town center where we enjoyed not only a great meal but some of that fabulous Swiss chocolate. The city’s waterfront forms a crescent around the bay. The climate of Lugano is humid subtropical that closely borders on being oceanic. I’ve included a few of Brion’s photos of the beautiful villas along the shores of Lake Como and in the city of Lugano. Hopefully, some day we will be able to explore Switzerland a little more extensively.
Mental journey aside, today I not only am making a potato rosti but something that mirrors that idea using zucchini instead of potatoes. It should make for a tasty combo.
Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Grate potatoes, rinse & squeeze moisture out. Combine with egg mixture; pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with Swiss cheese & shingle with ham slices. Using parchment paper, gently roll up rosti & bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve hot.
Filled Zucchini Rolls
Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Grate zucchini & squeeze moisture out. Combine with egg mixture; pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with smoked Gouda cheese & shingle with ham slices. Using parchment paper, gently roll up zucchini roll & bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve hot or cold.
It is very important that you absolutely MUST squeeze out all the moisture from potatoes & zucchini before you add the eggs.
Its already late August so BBQ’s and salads are in full swing. There’s just something about cooking food outdoors on the grill that we Canadians absolutely love. If your a true BBQ lover, it doesn’t matter if its a block away, you will still catch that glorious smell.
BBQ season is not only for meat eaters. Just about any vegetable as well as numerous desserts can be cooked on the grill. For me, I love seafood, fish & chicken, for Brion, I guess I would have to add a bit of pork and beef.
This meal is a nice combination of shrimp, Parmesan zucchini and pasta salad. I kept the pasta salad real simple since we already had a vegetable. To give it some extra pizzaz, I made a roasted red pepper sauce which the little orecchietti pasta cups nicely. Nothing fancy, just plain good!
In a food processor, blend red roasted peppers along with 2 Tbsp of liquid from the jar. Puree the peppers until smooth, adding a Tbsp or two of water if needed to help it blend ( avoid adding too much liquid from the jar as it can be very acidic). Mince the garlic & add it to a skillet with the butter. Saute for 1-2 minutes or just until garlic has softened but not brown. Pour in the pureed peppers; add basil & pepper & stir to combine.
Allow sauce to come to a simmer; turn heat to low & simmer about 10 minutes, stirring often, until mixture thickens. Add cream, stirring until smooth. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente about 12-13 minutes. Drain & add to sauce. Serve warm or cold.
In a bowl, whisk together all shrimp marinade ingredients; add shrimp & marinate at least 30 minutes.
Prepare zucchini. In a bowl, combine Parmesan & garlic powder. Melt butter; toss zucchini slices in butter then coat with Parmesan mixture. On wooden skewers, alternate marinated shrimp with cubes of Parmesan zucchini. Roast in oven or on BBQ until shrimp is pink & cooked being careful not to overcook. Serve with orecchiette pasta salad.
This tomato-free sauce could also be used as an alternative to a traditional pizza sauce.
Taking vegetables and turning them into ‘fries’ isn’t a new concept. Through the years we have definitely become more knowledgeable about nutrition and healthier eating. It seems we are always looking for a way to have that deep fried flavor without consuming so much of the grease.
Trends come and go, but you have to admit, avocados are still high on most of our priority lists. There seems to be endless ways beyond guacamole to unleash their true potential. Baked avocado fries are amazing. Crisp and crunchy on the outside while being smooth and creamy on the inside.
Nothing says ‘summer’ like strawberries and rhubarb. Usually the combo appears in pies, crumbles and the like. But, I think the avocado fries are beckoning me to make a savory salsa out of them. This salsa is a great balance of sweet, tart and spicy — summer eating at its best!
In a small saucepan with boiling water, cook sliced rhubarb for about 1 minute or until tender crisp but not mushy. Drain. In a bowl, combine rhubarb, onion & strawberries. In a blender, pulse oil, apple cider vinegar & honey; combine dressing with chopped cilantro & rhubarb mixture. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
Prepare avocado slices. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & place a wire rack on the sheet. Set aside.
In a small dish, measure seasoning & combine. In 3 separate dishes place beaten eggs, flour & panko crumbs. Divide seasoning between them. Coat each avocado slice in the flour, then the eggs & finally the panko. Place on the wire rack & spray lightly with cooking spray.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until panko is lightly browned Cool about 10 minutes & serve with strawberry-rhubarb salsa.
Salsa also tastes great on a fresh summer salad or fish tacos.
Avocado fries can be served in warm tortillas topped with strawberry-rhubarb salsa or just as is with your favorite dip or sprinkled with Parmesan.
Ricing vegetables has been around for as long as I remember. Maybe not to the degree that is happening today. I recall a utensil my mother had that resembled a large garlic press. It was called a potato ricer and to my knowledge was only used for potatoes to change the texture.
As time has passed, this idea has evolved into so much more. Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions and peas.
The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.
Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or saute and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts or a sprinkle of cheese.
Riced cauliflower can be used on its own, fried, in baked casseroles or as I’m using it today, in a pizza crust. A different texture than traditional pizza crust but loaded with flavor. Its sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I wasn’t sure how well we would like this pizza but it tasted just great with the addition of some homemade bread sticks.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 14-inch pizza with parchment paper. Process cauliflower. In a bowl, combine all crust ingredients. Pat mixture onto pizza pan & press to form pizza crust. Bake 15-20 minutes; remove from oven.
In a skillet, crumble fry beef & mushrooms with spices until cooked. Drain & cool slightly. Carefully 'spread' cauliflower crust with tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese, meat mixture, red peppers & sliced olives. Sprinkle with grated parmigano-reggiano & bake an additional 7-10 minutes, until cheese melted. Remove from oven & allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Main course salads can be very satisfying with a variety of bright and ‘sassy’ flavors. Even salads that seem elaborate are usually just imaginative combinations of simple ingredients.
Summer is salad time! Gardens, farmers markets and supermarkets are bursting with fruits and veggies. Easy to make, salads are perfect for those days we want something that doesn’t require turning on the oven.
This salad uses that interesting little ‘Enoki’ mushroom. The white, long and slender mushroom has an unusual delicate, fruity flavor with a crunchy texture. Most often they are eaten in salads and sandwiches or quick cooked in stir-fries. The Enoki mushroom is native to both North America and Eastern Asia.
This is a very simple pairing of lettuce, smoked turkey, fruit and Enoki mushrooms with either a raspberry or strawberry vinaigrette. No big list of groceries required!
Salad with Smoked Turkey, Strawberries & Enoki Mushrooms
Chia seeds have been around long before the famous ‘Chia Pet’ craze of the 1980’s. Chia is a flowering plant from the mint family domesticated in ancient Mexico. The seeds are believed to have been a staple in ancient Aztec and Mayan diets. In seed form, they are small, oval shaped and slightly flat, a bit bigger than a poppy seed.
Versatile and mildly flavored, chia seeds are a popular addition to yogurt, cereal, salads, smoothies and baked goods. As a good reference, mix 3 tablespoons of chia seeds to 1 cup of liquid such as almond milk, water, soy milk or regular milk. The chia seeds will form a gelatinous substance after which you can add whatever toppings you want.
I found this recipe on the blueberrycouncil.org website. It looked so cool and refreshing with an added bonus of being ‘healthy’. Great dessert for a hot summer evening.
Today, July 25th, is my sister Loretta’s birthday. I am truly grateful for having the privilege of Loretta in my life. More than family, she has always been a friend. Her support, encouragement and selfless love have always been a constant throughout my life. Loretta and her precious little Dachshund ‘Amigo’, have spent a lot of time over the years ‘house sitting’ for Brion and I so we could enjoy some holiday time. Her own ‘personalized’ bedroom at our house is there any time they can come to visit.
Loretta shares our love of seafood, so I’m making a shrimp etouffee for supper. This year, we have the pleasure of Loretta & Amigo being here with us on this date, making the meal extra special.
The word etouffee means ‘smothered or braised’. Classic seafood etouffee consists of butter, flour for a roux, onion, celery, green pepper, garlic & salt. One constant always remains in any etouffee and that is that it served over a plate of hot rice. Etouffee starts with roux, the color tends to be warm brown and most often butter is used rather than oil. The sauce will benefit greatly from using a shrimp stock.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LORETTA!
OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY
Remove shrimp shells (heads & tails) & devein. Rinse shrimp & lay on paper towels & refrigerate. In a saucepan, pour chicken stock over shrimp shells & bring to a boil. Allow to a simmer & cook for 10-20 minutes; remove from heat. Pour stock through a wire-mesh strainer over a measuring cup. Add a little water if needed to equal 1 1/2 cups.
In a small bowl, whisk together SPICE BLEND mixture
In a heavy skillet, melt butter; sprinkle with flour & stir quickly to combine butter & flour evenly into a thick, smooth roux. Continue cooking, stirring often, as the roux turns from white to golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add spice blend, onion, green pepper, celery & garlic & stir quickly, mixing the vegetables into the roux. Cook until everything is fragrant & softened, 1-2 minutes more.
Slowly add the stock, stirring & scraping to mix it in evenly. When the sauce is bubbling & boiling gently, lower the heat. Cook, stirring now & then, until sauce is thickened & smooth, about 15 minutes.
Scatter in the shrimp & allow them to cook undisturbed until the sides are turning visibly orange to pink, about 1 minutes. Toss well & continue cooking, stirring often, until the shrimp are pink, firm & cooked through & nicely flavored by the sauce. Add green onions & parsley; stir well. Transfer the etouffee to a serving dish. Serve hot over rice.