Braised Lamb Chops & Asparagus Risotto

I’ve classified this under “Danielle’s Favorite Meals.”

There’s really not much to say about this dish: it was amazing, and it’s definitely a pairing I want to store in my virtual cookbook and bring out when I want to woo someone or prove to people that I am sophisticated…

Once in a rare while I will come up with an original “recipe” (i.e. I’ll throw whatever I have in the fridge together in a makeshift dinner), but usually I steal other people’s tested recipes for my kitchen. Sometimes they are fantastic, others are… well, not so fantastic. That’s where this blog comes in. I want to be able to remember the good ones and let the other failed recipes fade away like a bad trip to Souplantation.

In this case, both the balsamic reduction and risotto were recipes I found online, and both turned out amazing. I’ve just copied and pasted them here- don’t judge me. I’m way too tired and behind in posts to type out these recipe and  add my personalized notes to them, and since I didn’t change much of anything in either one, there’s no need to.

Lamb & Balsamic Reduction a la All Recipes:

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 lamb chops (3/4 inch thick)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

  1. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the rosemary, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture onto the lamb chops on both sides. Place them on a plate, cover and set aside for 15 minutes to absorb the flavors.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place lamb chops in the skillet, and cook for about 3 1/2 minutes per side for medium rare, or continue to cook to your desired doneness. Remove from the skillet, and keep warm on a serving platter.
  3. Add shallots to the skillet, and cook for a few minutes, just until browned. Stir in vinegar, scraping any bits of lamb from the bottom of the skillet, then stir in the chicken broth. Continue to cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half. If you don’t, the sauce will be runny and not good. Remove from heat, and stir in the butter. Pour over the lamb chops, and serve.

Asparagus Risotto a la New York Times

Adapted from Mario Batali

Time: 45 minutes

1 pound asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.

2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.

4. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

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Salmon, Fusilli & Homemade Pesto

I am so behind on posts, it’s border-line ridiculous. I have dozens of great recipes and posts to publish and I am devoting tonight towards writing  a few entries.

This morning Dhiren and I were talking about the impending New Year and 2012. I was complaining expressing how overwhelmed I feel with all my “projects.” I love photography, cooking, teaching and singing equally, but finding time for all of those things in one day is close to impossible. On top of this, I’m also committed to getting fit and losing weight (down 10lbs since September!) and that takes tons of time and a wholelotta commitment as well. Days when I’m able to sing, get some photography work done, cook, eat well, practice, work out and teach come about once a month. Most days I’m left feeling… frazzled.

BUT, Dhiren reminded me that the beauty of this food blog is that it helps to keep me sane. It’s nice having a hobby where you don’t feel a pressure make money with. It’s a total labor of love. And since I need to eat  on a daily basis (sometimes hourly) it’s easy to incorporate it in my life. So here’s a toast to this food blog, for keeping me sane in 2011 and giving me the chance to test out a LOT of different recipes and ideas in the kitchen.

Today I’m highlighting one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in a long time– oh, and it’s healthy too! Salmon on a bed of fusilli topped with homemade pesto. Dhiren made the pesto, and since it’s his recipe, I’m going to ask him to write a guest post on it soon. This doesn’t even warrant a recipe, since I didn’t season the fish myself either.

I simply bought a package of Wild Pacific Chimichuri salmon at TJ’s, boiled the pasta, let Dhiren make the pesto and threw it all together. This was literally ready in 15 minutes! I LOVE easy, filling meals that keep you full for a long time.

The next couple posts will be much more detailed. Stay tuned for Sicilian Fig Cookies, Homemade Calzone and Bread Pudding! MMM. ‘Tis the season to break your diets.

Orecchiette with Peas in a Creamed Corn Purée

True story: I actually searched “name for a cheesy corn sauce” in order to find a better way to title this recipe (the results weren’t helpful). The word “purée” reminds me of baby food and has always bothered me. Tonight I needed a recipe that utilized canned corn,  left-over heavy cream from my Thanksgiving creme brûlées, and frozen peas. I winged it and this turned out amazing.

I first pureéd the corn with the heavy cream in the blender. I boiled the orecchiette (which is one of my favorite pastas ever since Italy) and then in a separate skillet, I heated up olive oil and sautéed the onion, garlic, chicken stock and peas, respectively. Once the liquid in the peas reduced, I added the pureéd corn and let it simmer until the pasta was done. After draining the pasta, I threw everything together into the pot and added about a 1/2 cup of low-fat ricotta for thickening and salted it to taste.

This was amazing, and I’m really proud (and kind of astonished) that something I spontaneously created turned out edible! I’m normally a “follow-the-recipe” kind of girl; one of those people who obsessively weighs ingredients and fills up the sink with measuring cups.

I attribute my success to our recent trip to Italy & France. I’ve never tasted more creative and delicious ways to prepare and coat pasta. I don’t think the typical Americanized “red sauce” will ever satisfy me in any real way again. Our three-week trip was INCREDIBLE by the way. I took so many food photos and mentally drafted dozens of reviews, but alas…

we lost the camera on the plane.

So it was a tragic return to Los Angeles. I hyperventilated and cried for days. Eventually, I decided to put it out of my head and have been trying not to think about the loss since. We luckily got home with four out of the five videotapes, so I’ve been screen-capturing stills from that and making “polaroids”. And as a consolation prize I bought myself my dream camera and a snazzy new L-series lens (and am finalizing full-coverage insurance!).

So anyhow, back to tonight’s dinner. This turned out really, really good. It was rich, creamy and satisfying. So if you have two cans of canned corn, some orecchiette and some peas hanging around, give it a try and let me know how it turns out!

Mushroom Risotto: A Step-By-Step Guide

I normally loathe making step-by-step guides. When I cook and am in the zone, it’s hard for me to break the flow and take out the camera. But, risotto is such a lengthy process, that it’s a little easier. These step-by-step guides take forever to write and assemble though, so enjoy this one while it lasts.

I have found that the key to good risotto is constant stirring for about 50 minutes to an hour, on medium-low heat. This requires a glass of wine, a chair to sit on, and some sort of book or smartphone to get you through the hour. It’s going to get hot and sweaty and your arm will feel like falling off.

At one point I whined to Dhiren that I was feeling dizzy, and he rescued me while I sat in the living room in front of the fan. So, it helps to have a significant other nearby to take over for you if you’re weak, like me.

Though even he complained, “You have to stir this for an hour?”

Here’s my step-by-step guide to a delicious risotto, adapted from this version on All Recipes.

  • 5 cups chicken broth, divided
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Combination of portobello, white mushrooms and/or crimini. I used a combination of all three. Use as much as you like. I used two portabellos, a bag of Crimini and 1/2 pound of white. It depends on your preference.
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Step 1: Prep your ingredients. As you need to be in front of the pan stirring, you won’t have time to chop and grate, so do it before. Clean and chop all your mushrooms & shallots, grate the Parmesan and have everything measured out.
Step 2: Heat up the chicken broth in a separate pot.
Step 3: In a big skillet, heat up some oil and cook the mushrooms until soft. They won’t be cooked much longer after this point, so be sure they are done. Pour the juice and mushrooms into a bowl and set aside.
Step 4: Heat some oil in the large skillet, and then saute the shallots until light.
Step 5: Pour in the rice and stir continuously until slightly clear.
Step 6: Play with your rice.
Step 7: Slowly pour in the wine, little by little and stir until it is fully incorporated.
Step 8: Add the chicken broth one ladle at a time, stirring constantly. Do not add the next ladle until all the broth is incorporated. This step should take anywhere from 50-60 minutes, depending on your skillet and heat. I like the starch to release slower, which takes a lower heat and more stirring. The rice should ooze like lava, but still remain a little al dente. Mushy risotto is no good.
Step 9: Once all the broth is incorporated, remove from heat and mix-in the mushrooms, butter, chives and Parmesan.
Step 10: Serve immediately and enjoy with wine and a salad.

You say Chickpea, I say Garbanzo

I’ve always wanted to make falafel, but assumed it was a complicated dish and avoided it. Well, it isn’t complicated and it’s a great quick, “kinda healthy” meal. You toss a bunch of ingredients in a blender or food processor, mash it into a little ball and fry it. Pretty painless, although it took me a while to assemble the ingredients since I didn’t have most of the spices and tahini. Here’s the recipe for a Mediterranean feast. You’ll need:

Falafel

  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbs. tahini
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 1½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped onion
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • Olive oil, for frying

Yogurt Sauce

  • 2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin

1. Pulse the first ten ingredients (through salt) in a blender or food processor until mostly smooth, but still chunky. Dump it into a large bowl and stir in the flour, onion, parsley, and baking powder.
2. Pour enough olive oil into large skillet to have 1/4 inch in bottom and heat. I always test the readiness with a couple breadcrumbs or a few drops of water. If the oil crackles and scalds you, it’s ready.
3. Shape 1/4 cup chickpea mixture into a patty like the one in the photo, and then lightly pat breadcrumbs on it and drop it carefully into the pan and cook 3 minutes per side until golden brown. Transfer to paper-towel-lined platter to drain. Don’t let the falafel stick together!
4. To make Yogurt Sauce: Combine all ingredients in serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

These turned out delicious and moist– one of my biggest complaints about falafel is that it tends to be super dry at some restaurants. I also put together a couscous salad. To make the couscous you prepare as directed on the box with slightly less water and no butter, then add around 6 Tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 chopped onion, a tomato, parsley and seasoning. I pretty much stuck to the recipe on the back of the TJ’s couscous box. Not very creative, but yummy. The boyfriend made a gyro out of his and wedged the falafel in a warm pita with hummus. I’m getting kind of hungry thinking about it.

WARNING: for those of you who don’t like chickpeas or have never used them, please note that chickpeas are the same thing as garbanzo beans. I traveled to three separate grocery stores like a moron searching for chickpeas with no luck. I like the name garbanzo better, and think it would also be a good name for a cat.