Chicken & Shrimp Risotto

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.

Brion and I found this meal sooo— good!!

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Chicken & Shrimp Risotto
  1. 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.

Stuffed Zucchini Rolls over Spanish Rice

This is a meal that is as much about the process as the final plate. Most everyone has made ‘zucchini boats’ at one time or another and this is a lovely rendition of them.

I have learned from travelling across cultures, that one thing can truly bring people together, no matter where in the world you are from, and that is food. 

No doubt, every culture has its own equivalent of ‘comfort food’. Stuffing vegetables is a Middle Eastern food trend that has been popular for thousands of years, combining spices and food groups in unique ways.

In truth, zucchini are simply immature cultivars of the squash family, eaten while the rind is still edible. Developed in Northern Italy, zucchini was not introduced to the rest of the world until the 1930’s.

‘Kousa Mahshi’ (Arabic for stuffed zucchini), is a type of yellow squash found in the Middle East which is hollowed out, stuffed with a meat/rice filling and steeped in a seasoned tomato broth. These were likely a reinvention of the ‘stuffed grape leaves’  common in the Mediterranean, Balkans and Persian Gulf.

I found the idea of hollowing out the small zucchini and stuffing them quite unique as opposed to just slicing them to make ‘boats’. Rather than using a meat/rice combo in my zucchini rolls, I used a ground turkey/mushroom stuffing and served them over a ‘simple’ Spanish Rice Pilaf.

This is not a difficult recipe, just one that takes a bit of time but is worth it in taste and eye appeal.

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Stuffed Zucchini Rolls over Spanish Rice
  1. Wash zucchini & slice off stem end. Use a long narrow apple or vegetable corer to core zucchini, leaving 1/2-inch walls. Care should be taken not pierce the shell or the end. If you are cutting your zucchini in half, make sure to leave your cut end with a solid bottom. Gently remove all the pulp from the rolls & set aside. Reserve pulp for turkey filling.
Turkey Stuffing
  1. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Saute onion & garlic until soft. Add mushrooms & reserved zucchini pulp; saute about another 2 minutes. Remove from skillet & set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil; add ground turkey. Lightly brown, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Stir in reserved onion & mushroom mixture. Add chicken broth; stir in tomato, basil & rosemary & cook 1 minute longer. Drain off any excess fat, remove mixture from heat & set aside. When mixture has cooled, add cheese, egg, salt & pepper. Fill zucchini rolls with mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a Dutch oven, place stewed tomatoes & water. Arrange stuffed zucchini in the pot. Cover & bake for 25-30 or until zucchini is tender-crisp. With a slotted spoon lift rolls out of pot & serve on top of rice or serve in stewed tomatoes WITH rice, your choice!
'Simple' Spanish Rice
  1. In a large pot, heat oil. Stir in onion & saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix rice into pot & stir until it begins to brown. Stir in chicken broth & salsa. Reduce heat & simmer (covered) for 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed & the rice is cooked.

Pita Pockets

From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather  simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam. 

Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.

The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.

Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.

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Pita Pockets
  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.