Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto

7 03 2012

I don’t get how some food bloggers update so frequently. Really, a post every day/every other day?? Is the Internet the only occupation you have in life? And you know what also pisses me off, food bloggers who update a lot with posts about baked goods. Where are all these baked goods going, you fat pig? If I want to blog about a cake, I have friggin’ cake sitting around all week. I don’t eat cake every day, unlike these people, these unemployed, cake-faced bastards.

So to all the other workin’-class food bloggers, I salute you for updating bi-weekly at best. We work a lot, and sometimes the last thing we want to do is cook, let alone take pictures of it, savor the complex flavors, and then write about it online. Especially if you work all damn day in a restaurant, like myself.

But yesterday, I was able to summon the energy to cook after work and made this luscious little risotto. It’s earthy and creamy; the perfect side to a winter meal, or a meal in itself, paired with a salad. I recommend using fresh sage, but if you don’t have it, a teaspoon of dried works too.

Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

5 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, cut into thin half moons
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 2 cm. pieces
2 cups risotto rice (Arborio rice)
3/4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
3 tbs. shredded sage
Salt and pepper

Pour the stock into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and keep at a gentle simmer.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Sauté the onion over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the sweet potatoes and rice and stir until well-coated.

Add 1/2 cup of hot stock, stirring constantly over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding more stock, half cup at a time, stirring all the while for about 25 minutes, or until all the stock is absorbed, the sweet potato is cooked and the rice is tender and creamy.

Stir in the Parmesan and most of the sage. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with the remaining sage and some shaved Parmesan.

Advertisements




Quinoa Chowder with Spinach, Feta and Scallions

18 01 2012

My mother eats quinoa for dinner pretty much every day of the week. She’s one of those Dr. Oz health-conscious types; clinging to every word he says about wheat berries, fish oil, whatever it may be. Now I know these things are great for you, but I don’t need it indoctrinated into me by some television health guro who resembles a cross between grown-up Eddie Munster and a legit vampire.

Anyways. Quinoa. It’s a dinner staple for her. Quinoa with a green and a protein; the blandness meal on the planet. In truth, it has made me loathe quinoa. I think of it as the flavorless, boring mans meal. It tastes like air and it makes me envision myself being trapped in some cruel hell of having to eat the same food every day. I would rather be shark bait.

I came across this recipe while looking for a way to use up some leftover scallions and decided to give the ancient grain a chance, and ya know, I actually liked it! Quinoa adds a lot of body to the soup and I can imagine it adding it to pretty much any kind of veggie soup. The broth is flavored using just the quinoa cooking water, but emits a real smooth and earthy flavor, very similar to a chicken stock. The tangy feta and sweet pops of corn make every bite a flavorful surprise…in your mouth!

Quinoa Chowder with Spinach, Feta and Scallions
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

3/4 cups quinoa, rinsed well
2 tbs. olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 jalapeno chili, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb. boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 bunches scallions, including an inch of the greens, thinly sliced into rounds
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 lb. feta cheese, finely diced
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

Put the quinoa and 2 quarts water in a pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. While it’s cooking, dice the vegetables and cheese. Drain, saving the liquid. Measure the liquid and add water to make 6 cups if needed.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and chile. Cook for about 30 seconds, giving it a quick stir. Add the cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and the potatoes and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Don’t let the garlic brown. Add the quinoa water and half the scallions and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the quinoa, spinach, corn and remaining scallions and simmer for 3 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the feta. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the chopped egg and some more crumbled feta.





Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce

27 12 2011

As I’m writing this, my boyfriend is stuffing a shirt into a burning fireplace. We are staying at my bosses house all week, looking after his incredibly needy/flaky dog and a mysteriously absent cat. We decided to light a fire, only to discover that the fireplace is stuffed with household trash; the burnable, the probably-non-burnable. All I know is that my boss gave the OK on lighting fires, so I’m blindly praying that none of this stuff is too toxic. This is either very ghetto and incredibly hazardous or totally sustainable. Leaning towards the former…

Speaking of fires, I was very much on the verge of burning this cookbook. I’ve made a few recipes from it and frankly, they have all been flavorless and weak. Cursing these butter-substituting, fat-free nazis, I reluctantly gave the book one last try after Ryan dug it up one day.

And lo and behold, cookbook gets to live another day because of Cheesy Polenta. I haven’t cooked with polenta that much, but when I have, the results have not been too exciting. But this casserole dish fits the texture and taste of polenta perfectly. It soaks up all of the flavorful sauce and matches very well with the mellow Gruyère. Serve with a salad, a side veggie and a good chunk of bread .

New beer reviews are also up! Check out Smuttynose Winter Ale and Ayinger’s Celebrator.

Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Fat-Free Vegetarian

1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups quick-cooking polenta OR one of those round mold packages of pre-cooked polenta that Trader Joes sells
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsps. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-oz cans chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tb. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup Gruyère cheese,

If using quick-cooking polenta: Lightly grease an ovenproof dish and set aside. Line an 11 x 7 in. baking pan with plastic wrap. In a pan, bring 4 cups water to boil with the salt. Pour in the polenta and cook, stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Beat in the paprika and nutmeg, then pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Leave to cool.

If using pre-cooked polenta: cut into 2 inch squares and sprinkle both sides with paprika and nutmeg.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and other spices. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place half the polenta squares in the prepared baking dish. Spoon over half the tomato sauce then sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot.





Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

13 10 2011

Yes, another butternut squash post. ANDTHEREWILLBEMORE. Muaaahhhhaha. *sighs* October.  Honestly, everything about autumn, October and Halloween fills me with this creative, motivational energy. It’s a really magical time. And this is a magical lasagna. Because it only uses a handful of ingredients and is very simply seasoned, the flavors of the vegetables and cheeses are forefront. Tis awesome.

On the topic of the magical and cheesy, check out my band, Cheri Love Affair. We are damned adorable, is my general consensus.

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, about 3 lbs, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch. pieces
1 lb. spinach
2 cups ricotta
2 tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Lasagna noodles
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the squash and toss over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Don’t worry if some of the squash gets slightly mashed. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep warm.

Blanch the spinach in a large saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds, or until wilted. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of cold water. Drain well, squeezing out as much excess water as possible, then finely chop.

Add the lasagna to the pot of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain.

Put the ricotta, cream, Parmesan, spinach and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until warmed through.

Arrange 4 noodles in a lasagna baking dish. Top with half of the pumpkin, then more lasagna strips. Top with half the ricotta mixture, then the final lasagna strips. Arrange the remaining pumpkin and ricotta mixture over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Serve!





Stuffed Artichokes

23 03 2011

These artichokes were the last thing I was able to eat before my body wildy descended into being ravaged by The Flu. And that is where I sit now. Couch-ridden. Finally able to sit up enough to wield a laptop. I’m one who rarely gets sick. I know a lot of people say that, but it’s true! I never get sick. I get hungover, I have asthma sometimes, but I never get sick enough to wake up in the middle of the night, shaking, not sure whether my nightmares are real or not. But here we are.

Thankfully, I was able to stay conscious through dinner and enjoy a giant stuffed artichoke with potato and onion gratin on the side. They’re an effort to get through, but worth every bite. Every creamy, lemon-laced bite. It’s like eating a huge blooming flower. Stuffed with ricotta! How the hell could I have gotten sick after such a satisfying dinner?? Oh well, I’ll retreat back into my blankets now.

Here’s Che during his heroin binge.

Stuffed Artichokes
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

1/4 cup sliced almonds
Juice of 1 lemon
4 artichokes
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tbs. flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 tb. olive oil
1 1/2 oz. butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350. And bake the almonds on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn!

2. Remove any tought outer leaves from the artichokes. Cut across the artichoke, about 1 1/4 inches from the top, then trim the stalks, leaving about 1/4 in. attached.

3. Combine the almonds, ricotta, garlic, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, Parmesan and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Gently separate the artichoke leaves and push the filling in between them.

4. Place the artichokes in a steamer and drizzle with the olive oil. Steam for 25-30 minutes, or until tender. Remove and cook under a broiler for about 5 minutes to brown the filling.

5. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Arrange the artichokes on a serving platter, drizzle with the lemon butter, season well and serve.





Labneh

1 11 2010

I remember my grandmother AKA Grammy, as sharply drawn on eyebrows and boxes of pencils for Christmas. My grandfather’s AKA Papa, is more pronounced and memorable. Scally caps and coffee cakes, mostly. But the people I knew still aren’t the parents that my mother had. Those people I’ll never experience.

But it’s at this moment in time, I’m finding myself checking hydrometer readings on gallons of beer in the basement, at the same time, tying up a cheese-cloth satchel of yogurt, where in a couple of days, it will give me labneh, a soft Middle Eastern cheese. And my mother, looking on, amazed and excited, because as she later tells me, her father was a homebrewer, a concoctor of natural remedies, home-made wine and dandelion soup. And her mother, used to hog the shower for days, with her bags of strained yogurt-cheese hanging from the shower rods. I never knew these things about my grandparents. And I’m coming to appreciate family a whole lot more through food. There’s nothing like seeing your mother remember her mother by tasting a cheese that still tastes the same after 30 years.

Anyways. Labneh. Soft-texture, flavor similar to a blend of cream cheese and goat cheese. A common breakfast throughout the Middle East and Greece. Something really special when smeared onto pita bread. Try it out. You can either make it plain, or do as I did, and marinate the cheese in olive oil and fresh herbs & garlic. It’s fun to make and there’s really nothing like incorporating a traditional old-world delicacy into your life.

Labneh
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

4 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tsps. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (this can be omitted if you don’t have any, or if you prefer your cheese without a slight peppery kick)
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs. rosemary leaves
6-8 thyme sprigs

In a medium-sized bowl, place the yogurt and stir in the salt and pepper. Line a bowl with a piece of cheesecloth folded in half to make a square. Spoon the yogurt into the center. Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and using a piece of string, tie as closely as possible to the yogurt, leaving a loop at the end.

Thread the loop through the handle of a wooden spoon and hang the yogurt over a bowl. Leave to drain in the refrigerator for 3 days. (This can be done by either hanging the yogurt from a rack in your fridge, or what I did was use a wide-mouth long-neck punch jar)

Rinse a mason jar with boiling water and dry in a warm oven.

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and fresh thyme. Set aside.

Untie the cheesecloth and roll tablespoons of the drained yogurt into balls. Make sure your hands are cool and wash them often.

Place the labneh balls in the dried jar and pour the herbed oil over the top. Seal with a lid and refridgerate for 24 hours. Serve at room temperature.





Rich Chocolate Cheesecake

10 09 2010

This cake is ridiculous. The texture/taste is a mix between fudge and chocolate gelato. This cake is not fucking around. Usually I’m not really a sweets/dessert/chocolate person. But in the past month or so, I’ve found myself picking up cupcakes on my coffee break at work. Usually anytime this starts to happen, I automatically assume Hell, I’m Pregnant. But since I’m not having sex anymore (wahh), there’s no excuses. Now I’ll just look pregnant. Fuck It.

So I’ll post the recipe how I found it, with some minor changes. What I did differently though was use a food processor for all of the mixing, not use a double boiler to melt the chocolate because I don’t friggin have one, and I used a store-bought Oreo crust. I ended up with some extra batter so you could always do what I did, and fill a couple of ramekins with what’s leftover, bake them with the cake, and then eat them straight from the oven. Because life’s too short.

Rich Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from eat me, delicious

Chocolate Crumb Crust
1 1/2 cups Oreo (or similar cookie) crumbs
4 tbs. unsalted butter, melted

Filling
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tbs. natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
4 eggs, room temp.
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsps. vanilla
2 tbs. Kahlua

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×3-inch springform pan. Cut an 18 inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap the foil around the outside of the pan.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Pat the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 8 minutes, until set.

3. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool the crust completely. Leave the oven on.

4. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat, leaving the chocolate over the hot water.

5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed until creamy and lump-free, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Gradually add 1/4 cup of the sugar and beat until blended. Add the cocoa powder and mix until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand.

6. In a clean mixer bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until blended, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and beat at high speed until tripled in volume, about 2 minutes. Remove the bowl and whisk from the mixer stand and replace them with the bowl containing the cream cheese mixture and the paddle attachment. Mixing at low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the cream cheese mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary to ensure that the mixture is even-textured. Mix in the melted chocolate. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and Kahlua (or Cognac) and mix until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir the filling several times to ensure that it is evenly blended.

7. Scrap the filling over the baked crust in the pan. Place the pan in a roasting pan or large baking pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough hot water into the pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for 35-40 minutes, until the center of the cake is set but slightly wobbly (the cake will set completely as it cools).

8. Remove the cake pan from the water bath. Place the pan on a wire rack and carefully loosen the foil. Immediately run the tip of a paring knife around the sides of the pan, to prevent the top from cracking. Let the cake cool completely.

9. Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving.