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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: risotto

To parody the song from the Broadway show, Annie Get Your Gun, “Anything you can do with veal, I can do better with turkey”

Menu 1

Roman-Style Saltimbocca

turkeycutlets1

This traditional Roman dish is classically made with veal but can also be made with turkey.

Serves 4

Ingredients        

  • 4 boneless turkey cutlets (about 4 ounces each)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto
  • 8 sage leaves, more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • Lemon wedges     

Directions:

Sprinkle each cutlet lightly with salt and pepper. Top with a slice of prosciutto and a sage leaf.
Place cutlets between 2 sheets of parchment, waxed paper or plastic wrap. With a mallet or rolling-pin, gently pound cutlets to an even 1/4-inch thickness, pounding the prosciutto and sage into the cutlets.

Spread the flour on a shallow plate and dip the cutlets in it, lightly coating both sides.
Heat a tablespoon of butter and the olive oil in a large pan. When the butter begins to foam, add the cutlets to the pan, prosciutto side down. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once, until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to a platter and cover to keep warm.
Add wine to the hot pan and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine reduce by half, then add the chicken broth and reduce again.
Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in remaining tablespoon of butter. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, then pour over the reserved cutlets. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes; reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add pepper; cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Ladle 3⁄4 cup pasta water into skillet; bring to a boil. Using tongs, transfer pasta to skillet; spread it evenly.

Sprinkle the Pecorino Romano cheese over pasta; toss vigorously to combine until sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta without clumping, about 2 minutes, adding some pasta water if necessary. Transfer to serving bowl.

Garlic Green Beans

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) toasted almonds,
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the green beans. Boil for four minutes, then drain and dry on a kitchen towel.

Mix together the parsley, lemon zest and almonds in a small bowl. Heat the oil over medium heat in the same pan used for the green beans and add the garlic. As soon as it begins to sizzle, stir in the beans. Toss for about a minute until the beans are coated with oil and cooked garlic, then stir in the parsley mixture. Stir for a minute, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the beans to a platter or serving dish, scrape the almond mixture remaining in the pan over the top and serve.

Menu 2

Sautéed Scaloppine with Tomato Vinaigrette

turkeycutlets4

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless turkey cutlets, about 6 ounces each
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • flour for dredging
  • 1 cup Tomato Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Directions:

1. Prepare the Tomato Vinaigrette. Keep the vinaigrette warm.
2. Lay the turkey between two pieces of waxed paper, and flatten each cutlet with the flat end of a mallet until thin.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet until hot. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper and dredge it in flour. Sauté the turkey over high heat, about 1 minute on each side. Remove to a warm platter and serve, topped with the vinaigrette.

Tomato Vinaigrette                                                                                                                                                                   

Makes 2 Cups

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups (14 oz.)Pomi strained tomatoes 
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh basil or dill
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place the tomatoes, vinegar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the mixture to a thick consistency, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, place the sauce in a glass container and cool over ice.
Place the mustard and lemon juice in a food processor. With the machine running, add the basil and olive oil. Add the cooled tomato mixture and puree until smooth.
The vinaigrette can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Fennel Layered with Potatoes and Bread Crumbs

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (3/4 to 1 lb. after trimming)
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano  or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Peel the potatoes and slice them as thinly as possible, about an 1/8 inch thick. Put the sliced potatoes in a large bowl of cold water to keep them from browning.

Cut the fennel in half lengthwise. Slice the fennel crosswise as thinly as possible, about an 1/8 inch thick. You should have about 4 cups.

In a another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, and garlic. Mix well with your hands, making sure the garlic is evenly distributed.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Without draining the potatoes, use your hands to lift out about one-third of the slices and arrange them in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping them slightly. (The water clinging to them will generate steam as they bake and you will need less oil in this dish.)

Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and a couple of grinds of the pepper. Sprinkle the potatoes evenly with 1/4 cup of the breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Top the potatoes with half of the sliced fennel, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the fennel with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup of the breadcrumb mixture, and 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Repeat this layering process, ending with a top layer of potatoes. Season the top layer with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and some more pepper. Mix the remaining breadcrumb mixture with the final 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes (be sure the aluminum foil is sealed tightly all around the baking dish, or there won’t be enough steam to cook the potatoes).

Uncover and continue baking until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

Quick Broiled Asparagus

While the fennel potato casserole is resting, cook the asparagus in the broiler as described below.

Directions:

Take 1 bunch of asparagus and cut off the tough ends. Wash lightly and let dry completely.

Place asparagus on a cookie sheet or the bottom of a broiler pan.

Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Move oven rack to the top and turn broiler on low. Cook for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness.

Menu 3

Turkey Cutlets with Mozzarella and Roasted Red Peppers

turkey-cutlets

Servings: 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Ingredients

  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper, cut into 4 wedges
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 (1/2-inch-thick) turkey breast cutlets (about 1 pound)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 3/4 pound Fettuccine or cooked rice

Directions

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Season turkey with chopped sage, salt, and pepper. Cook turkey in pan 2 1/2 minutes per side. Arrange peppers and cheese on top of turkey and pour Marsala and broth to pan. Place the lid on the pan and cook 45 seconds or until cheese is melted. Using a slotted spoon, remove turkey cutlets to a plate and keep warm.

Let Marsala mixture boil about 1 1/2 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup. Take pan off of heat and whisk in butter.  Place turkey cutlets over pasta on serving plates and spoon sauce over turkey.  Sprinkle with chopped sage.

Tip: to roast pepper:

Seed red bell pepper and cut into quarters. Lay pepper quarters, flesh side down on a foil covered baking sheet; broil 10 minutes or until skin is black. Put peppers in a plastic bag and let rest, sealed for 10 minutes; peel off skin.

Crispy Parmesan Broccoli

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound broccoli, rinsed, dried, and cut into flat sided small pieces
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup Panko Lemon Pepper Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and cheese.

Put the broccoli in a large bowl, add the egg substitute and toss with your hands to coat.

Sprinkle in the bread crumb and cheese mixture and toss to combine.

Transfer to a baking sheet, flat side down,  and roast for 12 minutes.

Menu 4

Turkey Osso Bucco

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 turkey thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2  celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 5-6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Pat the turkey with paper towels to dry and ensure even browning. Season the turkey with salt and pepper. Dredge the turkey in the flour to coat.
In a heavy roasting pan large enough to fit the turkey thighs in a single layer, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey and cook until brown on both sides, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the turkey to a bowl and reserve.
In the same pan, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season vegetables with salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in the wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Return the turkey to the pan. Add enough chicken broth to come 2/3 up the sides of the turkey. Add the herb sprigs and bay leaves to the broth mixture. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan tightly with foil and transfer to the oven. Braise until the turkey is fork-tender about 2 hours, turning the turkey after 1 hour.

Easy Parmesan Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and finely diced 
  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat the broth and water ( total 6 cups) in a pot and keep warm.
In a heavy Dutch oven pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil and cook the shallot over medium heat until it is translucent.
Add the rice and stir to coat.
Add the wine, and cook over medium heat until the wine is almost absorbed.
Reduce the heat to medium low, and add 5 cups of the hot liquid.
Cook for 18 minutes stirring just twice during this period or until the rice is just al dente.
Add 1/2 cup of broth and stir constantly for 3 minutes until the rice is creamy, adding remaining broth if risotto isn’t loose enough.
To finish the dish add the Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, remaining butter and  salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.

Green Peas

Defrost 1 package of frozen green peas but leave them in the plastic bag that encloses them.  Heat in the microwave on high in the bag for 3 minutes.  Pour into a serving bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper.

Menu 5

Braised Turkey Roulade with Pancetta, Shallots, and Porcini Sauce                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Serves 8   

This recipe can be cut in half to make 4 servings.  However, this is a good choice for an entrée when entertaining an would want to make the full amount.              

Ingredients

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 3/4 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 1/2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (about 9 slices), divided
  • 2 cups chopped shallots (about 10 ounces), divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 (1 1/4-pound) skinless, boneless turkey breast halves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Wondra flour works well for sauces)

Directions

Combine 2 cups boiling water and porcini mushrooms in a bowl; cover and let stand for 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft. Drain through a sieve over a bowl, reserving soaking liquid. Chop the porcini mushrooms.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Coarsely chop 1 pancetta slice. Add chopped pancetta to pan; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 3/4 cups shallots, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook for 7 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in reserved mushrooms. Cool slightly.

Slice 1 turkey breast half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, the other side. Open halves, laying turkey breast flat (like a book).
Place plastic wrap over turkey breast; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Spread half of shallot mixture over turkey breast; roll up jelly roll fashion, starting with long sides. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange 4 pancetta slices evenly on top of turkey roll. Secure at 2-inch intervals with twine.
Repeat procedure with remaining turkey breast half, shallot mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 4 pancetta slices.

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add turkey rolls to the pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, turning after 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup shallots, carrot, celery, and wine to pan. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half (about 2 minutes). Stir in reserved porcini liquid and remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons rosemary. Cover and bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 160°. Remove turkey rolls from pan; let stand 15 minutes. Cut each roll crosswise into 12 slices.

Strain cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Combine 1/4 cup water and flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Return remaining cooking liquid to pan; add flour mixture and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly. Serve sauce with turkey slices.

Rice With Cheese

 4 servings.

Ingredients: 

  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly coarsely ground cracked black pepper.

 Directions:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt, just as you would to cook pasta. Add rice and stir. When water returns to a boil, lower heat and cook rice until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain in a fine mesh colander or line your colander with cheesecloth if the wholes in your colander are large enough for the rice to fit through.

2. Put butter in the same pan and turn heat to medium. When butter melts and just begins to turn brown, add rice and toss together. Stir in Fontina cheese, the Parmesan, along with freshly ground cracked pepper.

Parmesan Broiled Tomatoes

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 large beefsteak tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Preheat the broiler.  Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Halve the tomatoes crosswise (through the equator, not from stem to bottom). Place the tomatoes flesh-side up on the prepared pan and brush the tops with the olive oil. Season the top of each tomato with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Combine the Parmesan cheese and garlic and mix well to combine. Sprinkle the mixture on the top of each tomato.

Broil 5 to 7 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and tomatoes soften. Sprinkle the parsley over top just before serving.

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The arrival of rice in Italy was introduced by the Arabs during their invasion of Sicily, along with oranges, lemons, sugar cane and pistachio nuts. Some historians, also, claim that saffron made its appearance around the same time.  Urban legend tells of a young apprentice, called Valerius, who was supposed to have invented the yellow risotto recipe that Milan is so famous for, now called, “Risotto  alla Milanese”. He was put in charge of making the stained-glass window that was to adorn the Cathedral Duomo Di Milano. While he worked, many of the townspeople made fun of him, giving credit to the herb saffron for the beautiful colors showcased in his artwork. As a result, Valerius became angry and devised a plan of retaliation. During his master’s wedding, he added an excessive amount of saffron to the rice being served at the affair.  He hoped his action would ruin the festivities, but instead the rice received great reviews and so the yellow risotto recipe of Milan became famous.

Italy is the leading producer of rice in Europe, with the majority of it being grown in the Po River Valley. Lombardy is home to the best rice growing area, Lomellina, while Piedmont and Veneto also have bountiful rice harvests. Rice thrives so well in these areas that first courses of risotto are more common than pasta. That is not to say that other regions of Italy do not eat rice, as there are wonderful rice recipes throughout Italy..

Italy grows mostly short, barrel shaped rice that is different than the long-grain rice that is usually boiled or steamed in other parts of the world. Among this type of rice are four categories based on grain size: comune, semifino, fino, and superfino. The superfino rice is the type most used for risotto, with Arborio being the most recognized outside of Italy. However, Venetian cooks prefer the Carnaroli variety, which was invented in the 1950’s. Baldo is another variety well-known for making excellent risotto.

Risotto is made with great care, braising the rice and allowing it to absorb the cooking liquid, usually broth. The special rice used in the preparation lends its starches to the cooking liquid, giving the risotto a rich consistency that in some ways, resembles a heavy cream sauce. The actual braising of the rice is a standard procedure starting with the rice being toasted in a soffrito (chopped vegetables such as onion, garlic, carrots and celery), before broth is ladled in slowly. What makes each risotto unique is the local ingredients that give the dish its character.

In Piedmont it is not unusual to find risotto with truffles or made with red Barolo wine. In Venice, seafood risotto is a mainstay and risotto with sauteed eels is a Christmas tradition. Risotto is completely versatile, and goes just as well with cuttlefish ink (Nero di Sepia) as with Prosciutto di San Danielle or with butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano (added just before serving – Risotto Mantecato) or with wildfowl like quail (Risotto con la Quaglie).

Italian rice is not just limited to risotto.   One of the more famous of the non-risotto rice dishes is Minestrone alla Milanese, a hearty vegetable soup, which makes use of Lombardy’s abundant rice. In Venice,  Peas and Rice (Risi e Bisi) is a popular dish that is like a soup made with rice and peas, but thick enough to eat with a fork. Riso al Salto is a great way to use up leftover risotto – pressed into patties and fried in butter. Another delicious way to eat leftovers is to add the rice to eggs for an Omelette di Riso.  Arancini (little oranges) are fried rice balls with a filling, usually of cheese, and they are a popular snack found in Italian cafes and bars. Rice stuffed tomatoes are a traditional antipasti  around Naples. Rice is also useful in desserts, such as Sicily’s Dolce di Castagne e Riso – a rice pudding flavored with chestnuts.

http://www.lifeinitaly.com/food/risotto.asp

It is a common belief that risotto must be stirred constantly while you’re making it. Outrage rippled through the masterclass on rice when Gabriele Ferron, a well known chef from Verona,  first presented his ‘no-stir’ method of cooking risotto many years ago. How could anyone call a dish a risotto, if you haven’t slaved over the pot, stirring constantly as you add stock? Never mind the fact that his “revolutionary” method freed the cook from the stove and produced an excellent rendition of this famous dish.

Wonder if all that work is really necessary!
The editors of bon Appetit sampled recipes for stirred risotto and “quick n’ easy” no-stir risotto and compared the results. The verdict? It depends on what you like!
Risotto made in the traditional way, adding the broth one cup at a time and waiting for it to be absorbed so that the starch from the rice dissolves into the sauce, turns it silky and creamy.
No-stir recipes where all the broth is added at once do not wind up with the same sauce-like consistency. The editors of Bon Appetit say they turn out more like pilaf.  It’s still full of flavor and definitely a fine method to use if you don’t want to be tied to the stove, but the results aren’t nearly the same.
Both methods are definitely edible and have their own merits, so it comes down to what you have time for and what you like.

Chef Simon Humble, who won a silver medal in an international rice competition in Italy, employs the ‘no stir” method at his Melbourne restaurant, Tutto Bene.
His basic principles of the ‘no stir’ method are summarised as follows:

  • use minimal oil,
  • never allow the onion to brown as bitterness will pervade the rice,
  • “toast” (toss in oil and heat) the rice over moderate heat
  • ensure all liquid used is hot
  • DO NOT STIR the risotto again after an initial stir when adding the liquid – if you start stirring at the beginning, then you must stir right through to the end.  After adding the liquid, the dish is cooked over low heat.
Why don’t you give this method a try.  I don’t agree with Bon Appetit about the outcome of the no stir method, because whenever I have used this method, the dish is creamy and rich tasting.

The Almost No Stir Method For Risotto

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  large shallots, peeled & finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

To Finish:

  • 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter

Directions

Heat the broth and water in a pot and keep warm.
In a heavy-bottomed Dutch Oven pan with a lid, heat the oil and cook the shallots and garlic over medium heat until it is translucent. 
Add the rice and stir to coat well.
Add the wine, and cook over medium heat until the wine is almost absorbed.
Reduce the heat to medium low, and add 5 cups of the hot liquid. cover the pot.
Cook for about 18 minutes stirring just twice during this period or until the rice is just al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Add 1/2 cup of broth and stir constantly for 3 minutes until the rice is creamy, add the remaining ½ cup of broth if the risotto isn’t loose enough.
Add the finishing ingredients and mix well.
Serve immediately offering additional grated cheese at the table.
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Stir in any one of the following ingredients to the almost finished dish:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in skillet. Sear the asparagus just until beginning to brown, about three minutes.

1 butternut squash (medium, about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups).  Place the squash on a baking pan and toss it with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

2 cups shrimp and/or scallops cut in half  and sauteed  in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove.

2 cups mushrooms such as shiitake, chanterelle, or oyster mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into half inch pieces and sauteed in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

8 ounces sweet pork, turkey or chicken Italian sausage, browned.

10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach cooked according to package instructions and drained well. Cool spinach completely and squeeze dry.

10 oz pkg frozen peas, defrosted

2 cups chopped leftover roasted or grilled chicken

2 cups broccoli florets, cooked

1 medium zucchini diced and sauteed in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 2-3 minutes

When You Have Leftover Risotto, Make Risotto Cakes

Risotto Cakes
Makes 6-8 cakes

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F and spray a baking pan with olive oil cooking spray.

Combine the egg substitute, the risotto and 1/2 cup panko crumbs and mix well.
Pour the remaining breadcrumbs onto a  shallow dish.
Form the risotto mixture into 6 to 8 patties (depending on how large you want to make them) and coat lightly with the remaining panko crumbs.
Place the risotto cakes on the prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes, turning the cakes over half way through the baking time.
Serve each with a tablespoon of pesto.


I have a bookshelf filled with cookbooks, but the ones that mean the most to me, are the Italian cookbooks I have had since the early days of my married life.  Before getting married, I really didn’t take much interest in cooking because my mother took care of all that in our home. Around the time that I was planning my wedding, my mother gave me, what was probably one of the most popular Italian cookbooks of that era, Ada Boni’s, The Talisman Italian Cookbook , and one that most first and second generation Italian-American daughters received as a gift.  I was recently reminded of this traditional custom while I was reading a novel, Adriana Trigiani’s, Very Valentine.  The novel is about an Italian-American family living in New York during the 1960s and one of the women in the novel takes out her copy of the Talisman to look up a recipe.

Ada Boni was a professional food writer in Italy. In 1915, she founded a lady’s home economic’s magazine called Preziosa. Each monthly installment featured recipes that she had collected from all over Italy, with a strong emphasis on recipes from her native Lazio and central Italy.  In 1929, she published a compendium of over 2000 recipes from her columns–a volume that had a major impact on modern Italian cuisine.

Boni’s work was probably the first cookbook published in Italy intended specifically for housewives and was to Italians what, The Joy of Cooking, was to American cooks.  The book was translated and published in the United States in 1950, and sad to say, is no longer in print.  I still have my copy, though.

In the early days of my marriage, I refered to this book for ideas on what to make for dinner because my husband was a lover of Italian food. I was happy to have this reference because I could not keep calling my mother to find out how to make this dish or that dish.

Minestrone Soup was one of the first dishes I learned to make and have included Boni’s recipe for you to read.  The recipe is healthy as written and does not need any changes. While this was my first version of minestrone, I graduated to a more substantial version, minus the bread, over the years that included more vegetables and some type of macaroni.

Minestrone Toscano (Tuscan Vegetable Soup)

Ada Boni

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1/2 pound dried white beans
  • 1 very small cabbage, shredded
  • 2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1  stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
  • 1  tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1  clove
  • 12 slices thin of toasted bread
  • 2 tablespoons grated Roman cheese

Soak the beans overnight; then boil in 3 quarts water 1 hour or until
tender. While the beans are cooking, place oil,  garlic, onion, celery and rosemary
in soup pan and brown lightly. Dilute the tomato paste with a
little warm water, stir it into the pan and cook 5 minutes.  Add the cabbage,
zucchini, parsley, salt, pepper and clove, as well as the beans and their cooking water.  Cook slowly for 20 minutes.
Place 2 slices of toast in each soup bowl, add soup and sprinkle with cheese.

Leone’s Italian Cookbook 

After a few years I became more adventurous and looked for additional recipes to master.  Of course, I had a few American cookbooks for common, everyday meals,  such as meatloaf and pot roast but I wanted to branch out into more Italian restaurant style food.  Who knows why I thought that then?  In any case I purchased my next cherished book, Leone’s Italian Cookbook by Gene Leone, of the famed New York eatery, Mamma Leone’s.  My husband and I had eaten there a few times and even took the children there once after going to the theater.  The restaurant closed in 1987.  The book was first published in 1967 and is no longer available.

The recipe that I made most often from this book, and one my husband really liked, was Spaghettini with Clam Sauce.  The version I make today is one with less oil, no butter or bacon and uses whole grain pasta.  There are much easier ways to open the clams than the method used in this recipe.  When I made this recipe back then, I usually turned to canned clams so I would not have to shuck them.  A much easier way to open clams in the shell is to use a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1/4 cup of water or white wine to a boil. Add the cleaned clams, cover immediately, and steam until the clams are open, 3 to 5 minutes.

 Notice some of the terminology and wording used for foods and processes mentioned  in the recipe date this book considerably.

Mamma Leone’s Spaghettini with Clam Sauce

24 medium-sized cherrystone clams

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh creamery butter

1 ounce salt pork or bacon, diced

3 medium-sized garlic cloves, mashed

12 fresh parsley sprigs, leaves only

Pinch of flour

Pinch of crushed red pepper

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)

Open the clams, saving any juices, and coarsely chop the clams.  Combine olive oil, butter and salt pork in a skillet; heat.( For a meatless meal, omit the salt pork.)

Chop garlic and parsley together and add to skillet.  Cook slowly for 2 minutes.  Do not burn. Add chopped clams and cook 5 minutes.  Add flour and red and black pepper and stir well.

Do not add salt as the clams are salty.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of the clam juice, but be careful not to make the sauce too liquid. Bring to a boil and mix and the clam sauce is ready.

In the meantime have boiling salted water ready for the spaghettini.  Cook for 10 minutes.  (If a heavier spaghetti is used, cook a little longer.)  Always taste a strand before removing from the heat to be sure it is cooked to your taste.  Drain immediately and place back in the hot pot in which it was cooked.  Pour a little sauce over it and mix.  Serve in a warm bowl and add the rest of the sauce.  Serves 4 to 5.

Note:  You may add a dash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon to the balance of the clam juice for an invigorating and refreshing cocktail.  Or mix clam juice with a glass of Champagne and a dash of Tabasco.

 Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

After about 10 years, I purchased a much revered book in the culinary world, Marcella Hazan’s, Essentials of Classic Italian CookingBy this time in my cooking experience, I was ready for more sophisticated and more diverse cooking techniques. I was entertaining more and wanted to make dishes like homemade pasta, cannelloni, gnocchi, osso buco and risotto. The author’s style is very clear and her directions are easy to follow. Marcella Hazan has written several books since this classic cookbook came out in 1973. Luckily, her books are still in print and, if you want authentic, classic Italian recipes,  pick up a copy of one of her books.

I learned to make risotto with this recipe, but I did not use truffles.  I don’t think I even knew what they were, when I read this recipe for the first time.  Not something we had in our pantry when I was growing up.  I still make risotto every once in awhile, but like to add more flavorings and ingredients, such as lemon, asparagus, shrimp and chicken broth instead of beef.  The process for cooking risotto, though, will always be, as described here.  Well, maybe not the part about “never stop stirring”.  Risotto can survive with occasionally stirring.

Risotto with Parmesan Cheese


This basic white risotto is the simplest way to prepare the dish, and for many, the finest. Good as it is, it can be even better when blanketed by shaved white truffles.
Ingredients

  • 5 cups Homemade Meat Broth, or 1 cup canned beef broth diluted with 4 cups water

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons onion chopped very fine

  • 2 cups Arborio or other imported Italian risotto rice

  • ½ heaping cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

  • OPTIONAL: ½ ounce (or more if affordable) fresh or canned white truffle

  • Salt, if required

Directions

1. Bring the broth to a very slow, steady simmer on a burner near where you’ll be cooking the risotto.

2. Put 1 tablespoon of butter, the vegetable oil, and the chopped onion in a broad, sturdy pot, and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook and stir the onion until it becomes translucent, then add the rice. Stir quickly and thoroughly until the grains are coated well.

3. Add ½ cup of simmering broth and cook the rice, stirring constantly with a long wooden spoon, wiping the sides and bottom of the pot clean as you stir, until all the liquid is gone. You must never stop stirring and you must be sure to wipe the bottom of the pot completely clean frequently, or the rice will stick to it.

4. When there is no more liquid in the pot, add another ½ cup, continuing always to stir in the manner described above. Maintain heat at a lively pace.

5. Begin to taste the rice after 20 minutes of cooking. It is done when it is tender, but firm to the bite. As it approaches that stage, gradually reduce the amount of liquid you add, so that when it is fully cooked, it is slightly moist, but not runny.

6. When the rice is about 1 or 2 minutes away from being fully cooked, add all the grated Parmesan and the remaining butter. Stir constantly to melt the cheese and wrap it around the grains. Off heat, taste and correct for salt, stirring after adding salt.

7. Transfer to a platter and serve promptly. Shave the optional white truffle over it, using either a truffle slicer or a swiveling-blade vegetable peeler. Some prefer to shave the truffle over each individual portion.

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