How to Build….Risotto

Risotto is easy if you follow the basic formula. Read the formula all the way through before starting to cook — when you add the vegetables depends on which you choose, and you have to heat your broth at the beginning of the process.

1) the onion: all risotto starts with onion. You can use a shallot or onion. Melt 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil in a dutch oven and add chopped onion and cook until softened.

2) the rice: Arborio. No choice there. Add 1 c rice to the onion and cook for a minute, stirring to coat.

3) the liquid: white wine and broth of your choice. Add about 1/2 c. of white wine and cook for about 2 minutes. Heat 4 c. broth so it’s warm when you add. Set timer for 35 minutes. Over the course of the 35 minutes, add warm broth 1-2 ladlefuls at a time, stirring frequently.

4) the vegetables: use any vegetables you want. When you add the veggies depends on which you choose. If I’m using asparagus or peas, I add them near the very end because they need minimal cooking. Mushrooms or butternut squash might be added at the beginning, after sauteeing the onions. Alternatively, you could cook the vegetables separately and add them at the end.

5) the extras: After the 35 minutes, add 1/4 c. Parmesan or a similar (e.g. asiago) cheese, 1 T. of butter, fresh herbs (e.g. thyme or parsley), salt and pepper.

Recap of ingredients (for your shopping list):
butter
olive oil
onion or shallot
1 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
4 c. broth
vegetable of your choice
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
fresh herbs (optional)
salt and pepper

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Good Enough Gourmet Goes “Down Home” – Lukshen and Cabbage

I grew up eating this so I feel sort of silly blogging about it. But it was easy and delicious, and if you get cabbage in your farm box for three weeks in a row, this recipe might come in handy.

Ingredients:
butter (and a little olive oil)
2 red onions
cabbage (I used 2/3 of a cabbage)
salt and pepper
1 16 oz. package of egg noodles (lukshen, if you grew up a a Jewish household)

Instructions:
1) Cook the noodles according to package instructions. FYI, I bought Whole Foods’ 365 brand extra wide egg noodles. Who knew Whole Foods made lukshen?! My Bubbie would be amazed.

2) Melt butter (around 2 T.) in a large skillet and add a little olive oil so the butter doesn’t burn. Slice the onions thinly and add them to the skillet. Cook on medium low heat for at least 10 minutes, until the onions get brown. Stir frequently.

3) Slice the cabbage thinly. Add cabbage to the skillet. You may have to add half the cabbage, let it wilt a little to make room in the pan, and add the rest. Add salt and pepper. Cook until onions and cabbage are soft.

4) Drain the noodles and add to the skillet. Add a little more butter if too dry, and toss until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Add salt if needed.

Good Enough Gourmet, keepin’ it real.

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CSA – Yes or No?

I’ve said in earlier posts that I joined a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). I get a farm box with fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to my doorstep every Sunday. Now that I’ve been a member for a while, I can talk about the pros and cons. Some of the novelty has worn off. So in case you’re considering it, here’s my list:

Pros:

– The produce is all in-season, locally sourced and sustainably grown.

– Grocery shopping is fast and easy, since I’m building meals around my farm box produce.

– I try fruits and vegetables that I wouldn’t otherwise try. Mulberries, cherimoyas, guavas, fava beans are recent examples.

– I eat more produce than I ordinarily would.

– It gets delivered to me every week, so even I don’t have the chance to go grocery shopping I can generally make a meal out of my produce and staples around the house (e.g. eggs).

– It’s fun to see what surprise I’m going to get.

– It forces me to be a more creative cook.

Cons:

– Since the produce is all in-season, you get the same thing for weeks in a row. Enough with the beets – really! And I don’t care if it’s cone cabbage, Napa cabbage, or regular cabbage — there just not that many things to do with cabbage! They try to change it up by giving me a different variety of kale every week but it’s still kale every week.

– It’s more work to plan meals around the produce I’ve received rather than picking my go-to recipes and shopping accordingly.

– It’s a little pricey, although for me it’s worth it not to have to make an extra stop at the farmers’ market.

– Sometimes we don’t eat the produce fast enough and it goes to waste.

– Although the produce is very good, it’s not amazing. I used to buy my produce at Whole Foods or the farmers’ market and my farm box produce is equivalent. Once I added eggs to my farm box and they tasted just like the brown eggs that I buy at Trader Joe’s.

– Some of the produce is weird or too fussy. What’s the point of a baby artichoke? Too much work for too little yield. And once I got flowering rapini which I thought was going to be like broccoli rabe but it wasn’t. Watermelon radishes are gorgeous but kind of bitter. And I’m just not into guavas – way too many seeds.

– Sometimes this happens:

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Turnips? Beets? Watermelon radishes? You tell me what these things are!

So stay with the CSA or quit? I think I’ll stay for now, at least through summer fruit season. Then the jury’s out.

Vegetarian Chili

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This is a simple chili recipe. Feel free to make substitutions — regular chili powder for the chipotle (but use a little more of it), add other vegetables such as red peppers or corn, or different types of beans.

Ingredients:
olive oil
onion
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 t. chipotle chili powder
1 t. oregano
salt and pepper
2-3 zucchini
tomato paste (about 1/2 can, or a couple large squirts if you use a tube)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
2 c. water
cheese for serving (optional)

Instructions:
1) Chop the onion and garlic. Add a little olive oil to a hot pan (I use my beloved dutch oven) and cook the onion and garlic until softened.

2) Add the cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for about a minute.

3) Add the zucchini and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.

4) Drain and rinse the beans. Add the beans, diced tomatoes, and water.

5) Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

6) Top with shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or pepper-jack would be good) if desired.

Cast Iron Skillet

Not long ago, I bought my friend a cast iron skillet for a wedding present. I suspect she’s still trying to figure out what to use it for. So in the name of research I bought myself one and have been loving it. My question is, what wouldn’t you use it for?

What to make in your cast iron skillet:
Any type of meat or fish cooks beautifully in a cast iron skillet. I’ve pan fried steaks, fish, sausage, and burgers. Basically, anything you want to pan fry, this is your pan. It’s also perfect for searing. I like to sear thick fish at high temperature on the stovetop for 1 minute on each side and then finish the cooking in the oven. The cast iron skillet gets really hot so it’s perfect for searing and it also cooks well in the oven.

This may be heresy, but I also stir fry in my cast iron skillet. I don’t have a wok because they’re too bulky and my non-stick skillet has lost its non-stickedness. The cast iron skillet can get really hot, so you can stir fry quickly at high temperature and nothing sticks. I made Korean pancakes in it, and will undoubtedly make my latkes in it next Chanukah.

This is just a small sampling of what I’ve used the skillet for so far. I believe that the only thing that should be avoided are acidic foods like tomatoes or lemon.

What size to get:
The only down side to a cast iron skillet is that it’s very heavy. If you need to lift the pan for some reason, e.g. to swirl your oil or to transfer ingredients from the skillet to another pan or bowl or serving plate, you (or at least I) need two hands. So for the sake of weight, you may want a 10 inch pan. But I opted for a 12 inch because it’s so much more useful. The extra surface area allows me to cook for my family in one batch.

How to use:
Today’s cast iron skillets are all pre-seasoned so I don’t think I did anything special when I first got it. When I’m using it, I preheat it on the stove for a few minutes and when it’s hot, I add a small amount of oil. I’ve read that as you use you skillet, it will build up seasoning and will be naturally non-stick but I don’t want to take the chance so I add a little oil. Nothing sticks!

How to clean:
I’ve read that you shouldn’t use soap — just wipe the pan out. But that does not seem very sanitary to me so I do use soap. I wash the pan like other pans, but I’m careful not to scrape it. It doesn’t necessarily look pristine — a la the day I bought it — when I’m done, but it’s clean. I dry it right away and rub a little canola oil on the whole pan with a small piece of paper towel. Just the smallest amount.

I’m pretty much down to only using my cast iron skillet and my Le Creuset dutch oven. There’s a reason they’ve been around forever while other cookware trends come and go.

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How to Build a Quiche

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Making a quiche is easy if you break it down into its various components.

1) The crust. You can buy a pre-made crust, but why bother when you can make one in minutes? In your food processor, add 1 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. sugar, and pulse until combined. Add 1 stick butter, cut into small cubes, and pulse for 8-10 seconds until the mixture looks like coarse meal. With motor running, add up to 1/4 c. ice water. Keep motor running until dough forms itself into a ball — it will not take very long. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. It’s best to make this dough in advance because it rolls out better when it’s been chilled but I’ve made it at the same time as I’m making the quiche (e.g. tonight). Sometimes advance planning just doesn’t work out.

2) The veggies. Use an onion of some sort (e.g. an onion or a leek) and another veggie of your choice. Tonight I used leek and asparagus. Greens are also great in quiche. Slice the veggies and saute them in 1 T. of butter until softened, and let cool a bit.

3) The cheese. I always grate my own, since then I can buy a better cheese than you can get pre-grated. Gruyere is traditional and has a great, strong flavor, but use any cheese you want. 1 cup of grated cheese will do you.

4) The custard. Whisk together 4 eggs, 1 1/4 c. half and half, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

5) Assembly: Roll out the dough and line a 9-inch pie pan. As you can tell, I didn’t make the edges pretty but you could. Add the cheese, sprinkling over the bottom of the crust. Add the veggies, and pour in the egg mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Summary of ingredients needed (for your shopping list):
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar
1 stick butter
ice water
onion or leek
vegetable and/or green of your choice
1 c. grated cheese of your choice
4 eggs
1 1/4 c. half and half
salt and pepper
nutmeg

Cafe Gratitude-Inspired Rice Bowl

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I love the restaurant Cafe Gratitude. I love it despite the fact that it’s a vegan restaurant. Here’s my take on their rice bowl.

Step 1: the rice. At Cafe Gratitude, you can get rice, quinoa, or half and half. I’m not a quinoa gal, so I always use brown rice.

Step 2: the veggies. You can use whatever veggies you like. Tonight I used beets, onion, fennel, and broccoli. I put the veggies on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. (I microwaved the beets first, otherwise they would have taken close to an hour to roast.)

Step 3: the greens. Sauté greens of some sort in some olive oil. Tonight I used the greens from my beets.

Step 4: the sauce. At Cafe Gratitude, they have several sauces to choose from. But why choose anything other than the garlic tahini sauce? I don’t know what they do to it, and I’ve seen complicated recipes online that I’ve tried to make but it’s not the same. So here’s my Good Enough version: 1/4 c. tahini, juice of one lemon, 2 cloves of garlic, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and chopped dill. Add about 2 T. of warm water to thin, or more it it’s still too thick.

Step 5: extras. This might be avocado or toasted sesame seeds. At Cafe Gratitude, you can also get their homemade kimchee, which is crazy good.

To assemble: In your bowl, add rice, roasted veggies, greens, sauce, and extras. Instruct your family members to follow your lead. Feel virtuous.

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