Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saffron Risotto

This recipe was inspired by the classic Risotto Milanese. Here I use vegetable broth instead of the traditional chicken broth, substitute good olive oil in place of the traditional butter, and omit the Parmesan cheese to make it vegan-friendly.

While saffron is quite expensive, a little bit goes a long way. And having some on hand is a good excuse to enjoy this delicious risotto frequently.


4 cups (1 quart) vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, heat the broth over medium heat almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low or medium-low, and keep the broth at a slow simmer.

In a separate large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the onion, and saute for 4-6 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Do not let the onion burn.

Add the rice to the onion mixture, and saute for a minute or two, until all the rice is coated.

Add the wine and the saffron to the rice mixture, and saute over medium heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Add the hot vegetable broth to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly each time until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more.

Repeat until the rice is tender and creamy, but still slightly firm in the middle (al dente). The process will take at least 20-35 minutes. You may not need to add all of the broth, or you may need to add some water or more broth to achieve the desired consistency. The finished risotto should not be runny, but should also not be stiff.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for another minute or two to blend all the flavors.

Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.

-- 3-4 servings

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tortellini with Peas and Mushrooms

Here I started with our recipe for Tortellini with Peas and Parmesan and simply added some sauteed mushrooms.

The result was delightful, as the mushrooms add an earthy dimension that deliciously complements the fresh-tasting peas and the rich, cheese-filled pasta.


1 pound frozen cheese tortellini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 1/2 cups fresh white or brown (crimini) mushrooms, or a combination, sliced
2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving as desired

Boil the tortellini in salted water according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or two, just until the aroma starts to emerge. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard it.

Add the mushrooms to the oil, along with salt and pepper to taste. Saute over medium to medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until the mushrooms are lightly golden.

Add the tortellini and peas to the skillet, and saute over medium heat for a minute or two to combine all the flavors.

Stir in the 1 tablespoon of Parmesan.

Serve with additional Parmesan for topping as desired.

-- 4 servings

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brown Rice Pilaf with Cashews

While I was growing up, the cooks in the family made rice pilaf using white rice. Here I substitute brown rice, because I like the texture and the extra nutritional value.

In this version, cashews add a delicious crunch.


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley), divided
1/3 cup roasted, salted cashews (or more to taste*), coarsely chopped

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Stir in the rice, coating it well with the olive oil.

Add the broth, water, salt, and pepper, along with 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Raise heat to high, and bring the mixture just to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40-55 minutes, or longer as needed, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Drain any excess cooking liquid that has not been absorbed.

Uncover, add the cashews and toss lightly.

Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley, and serve.

-- 4 servings

* Note: If you’re a big fan of cashews (as I am), feel free to increase the quantity to 1/2 cup.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hollandaise Sauce

Loaded with butter, Hollandaise isn't the healthiest sauce, but a little bit goes a long way. Since I believe in moderation rather than deprivation, I do indulge in some Hollandaise a couple of times per year. It's good with eggs as well as a variety of vegetables - from asparagus to green beans to brussels sprouts.

If you don't have a double boiler, you can improvise. Just place a heat-proof bowl (such as Pyrex) over a saucepan containing the boiling water, as shown in the photo below. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. This works just as well as a fancy double boiler.


2 egg yolks, preferably pasteurized
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold salted butter, cut into 8 equal pieces
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pour 2 inches of water into the bottom part of a double boiler and bring to a simmer over medium-high to high heat. Once it reaches the boiling point, reduce heat to low, and keep it at a simmer.

In the top part of the double boiler, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, and 2 pieces of the butter. Place over the simmering water and whisk until the butter is melted. Whisk in the remaining butter, one piece at a time, melting each piece before adding more.

When all the butter has been melted, stir in the cayenne.

If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a little bit of water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin it to the desired consistency.

-- 4 servings (approx. 2/3 cup of sauce total)