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A risotto for May

May 18, 2010

Lemon Risotto with Leeks, Peas and Tarragon

I first made risotto in college. It was this recipe, as a matter of fact, which still makes occasional appearances in our kitchen. It’s one of Kyle’s favorites. (I’ve determined his affection for it is related to one or more of the following: A) It tastes darn good and screams comfort food in every way imaginable. B) His dear wifey sweats and stirs over a steaming pot for 30 plus minutes all in the name of a better-than-leftovers-or-another-turkey-sandwich dinner. C) It comes to us via Giada and, well, I’ll leave you with that.) It was my first “advanced” recipe. You know, the step above omelets and homemade pasta sauce (what, you mean pasta sauce does not come from glass jars?). In other words, not that advanced. Really, it’s a breeze provided you’ve braced yourself for a steamy half hour over a pot and an upper arm workout. A little patience goes a long way.

This lemon risotto is lighter and perfect for the season. Comforting enough for these brief May cold fronts and accompanying chilly drizzle but bright enough to enjoy well into the early summer(!) months. I’ve often overlooked tarragon but really need to include it in my herb arsenal. I love how it pairs with lemon here.
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Superpesto

May 4, 2010

Swiss Chard Pesto

Last year I made the mistake of setting a potted basil plant outside in early April. It must have been deceivingly warm and for whatever reason I was convinced we wouldn’t see the likes of frost until, oh, October. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m terribly impatient. The toaster isn’t fast enough. Needless to say that basil plant had to be nurtured back to life indoors. Lessons learned. One, don’t fall for Ohio’s Spring teasers and two, wait until at least the middle of May to move herbs outdoors. I can hardly wait for overflowing, rampant, what-the-heck-am-I-to-do-with-all-this? basil plants. Because then there is no excuse not to make pesto.

I’m certain most of you know pesto is not limited to fistfuls of basil leaves. All sorts of other lovely green things can take its place. Bright herbs like parsley and cilantro are a shoo-in. As are greens like spinach and kale and swiss chard, which are perfect for pre-out of control basil season. Not to mention all of the nutritional perks these dark green leaves pack. They make for a veritable superpesto.

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One pot shop

April 30, 2010

Potsticker Salad with Snap Peas

I did not make these potstickers from scratch. I’m sure they’d be delicious, but that’s not a project for a Thursday evening around 7:00 when you’re finally getting around to dinner and tempted to gnaw off an arm. No, these here were frozen potstickers. And let me tell you, they make for the easiest, quickest, whaaa-dinner’s-ready-already? weeknight meal. Plus, the recipe requires ONE pot. Glorious! And it’s ready in under 20 minutes. No joke. Have I sold you on this yet?

We both happily munched and crunched and mmmmm-ed our way through this. Kyle, twice. Love a man who likes his vegetables.

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Spring soup for you

April 28, 2010

Spring Vegetable and Wild Rice Soup

I bought leeks, green beans and asparagus for a recipe I’ve had brewing in the back of my head for the last couple of weeks. I had good intentions Monday. No after work plans. I’d attempt this culinary brainchild. But Monday brought with it a case of the Mondays. Driving home from work, my good intentions began to fade. I could feel the early symptoms of cushion syndrome creeping in. It begins with reasoning that it’s too windy for a run, followed by determining that you most certainly have enough clean underwear to get you through the week, thus doing laundry is not necessary, and convincing yourself the fresh vegetables you just bought will likely last until Thursday, your next open weeknight. Then full blown cushion syndrome presents itself as follows: You walk in the house, set down your keys, drop your shoulder bag, slide off your shoes and make a beeline for the couch cushions. All bets are off at this point. No run. No housework. No cooking, for sure.

And so it happened this past Monday. My tush found its way to the cush. Then the voices started. (I know, right! Cushion syndrome and voices? What a Monday, indeed!) The guilt voices. The ones that pointed out dust on the coffee table and the dishwasher full of clean dishes. The voices that convinced me I really should do a load of whites to save me from having to wear hole-y underwear. And the voices that asked why I didn’t just jump on the treadmill if it was so windy outside. That did it. I made my way to the kitchen. Productive procrastination. I’d cook. Then I’d be doing something without doing what I should really be doing. Hey, everyone needs to eat! It all makes sense in my mind. But the thought of experimenting with a new recipe did not appeal in the slightest. Instead, I turned all of those fresh vegetables into this soup. It was next to mindless but promised something comforting, a sure treatment for the Mondays. Soup never disappoints.
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A story about chicken breast

April 19, 2010

Pan Roasted Chicken with Sundried Tomatoes and Feta

I started writing a post about my eight year struggle with boneless skinless chicken breast, and then I got tired and bored. It’s only chicken, after all. So I’ll spare you and paraphrase. Up until about six months ago, I couldn’t figure chicken breast out. I’d marinate. I’d pound. And I’d rather have eaten the rubber sole of a shoe. It always left something to be desired. But I so wanted to be able to cook it, eat it and like it. Here I was, recommending boneless skinless chicken breast as a healthier alternative to red meat and fried chicken legs, trying to convince people that yes, it could be just as satisfying as, say, prime rib. But at the same time I was struggling to make a decent meal of this ornery cut of poultry. It was always the same old story. Dry. Dry and tough. Dry and tough and leathery. Again, pass the shoe. I thought I was a decent cook. This ongoing chicken battle made me wonder.

And then one day I happened upon this pan roasting method and, well, glorious. It all made sense. Sear both sides over high heat for a couple of minutes (to seal in the juices), transfer to a high heat oven to roast (and finish cooking), then allow to rest before serving (to allow the juices to redistribute). It only took me a humbling eight years to figure out. But that’s what this whole cooking thing is all about. Learn as you go, improve with practice. It’s experiences like this that make me appreciate and love the art of food that much more.

Ok, so I guess you did get a story about boneless skinless chicken breast.

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