Monday, November 24, 2008

Re-thinking rice

I've made risotto about five or six times before my attempt two nights ago. None of them seemed worth the effort. The recipe below, however, was well worth the effort. The rice was flavorful but not overly broth-y (the main problem of every earlier iteration), and the ingredients I stirred in at the end added just the right amount of depth to the dish.

I have to say, though, as much as I love the basic risotto recipe (below), I love the recipe that follows it (and uses leftover risotto) even more. Both originate from Giada DeLaurentiis.

Pesto Pea Risotto

4 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons butter or oil (or a combination of the two)
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (from 1 onion)
1 1/2 cups Aroborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine*
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2-3 tablespoons pesto (or pesto oil)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

* If you don't have white wine on hand, just use an additional 1/2 cup of broth.

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over a low heat. In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.

Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about three minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about three minutes. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about two minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the peas, pesto, Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter and the salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and serve immediately, topped with the toasted pine nuts.

If you can control yourself, set aside about two cups of the risotto and make this dish, which is even better:

Arancini di Riso

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 cups risotto, cooled
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
2 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Marinara sauce (if you're like me, you'll buy a bottle of it and heat it up on the stove)

Pour enough oil in a heavy large saucepan to reach the depth of three inches (or pour the oil to a depth of about 1 1/2 inches and turn the arancini after the submerged side has browned sufficiently). Heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees F.

Stir the eggs, risotto, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs in a large bowl to combine.

Place the remaining breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Using about two tablespoons of the risotto mixture for each, form the risotto mixture into 1 3/4-inch-diameter balls. Insert one cube of mozzarella into the center of each ball. Roll the balls in the bread crumbs to coat.

Working in batches, add the rice balls to the hot ail and cook until brown and heated through, turning them as necessary, about four minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the rice balls to paper towels to drain. Season with salt. Let rest two minutes. Serve hot with warm marinara sauce.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My favorite French toast

French toast may just be my all-time favorite breakfast food, which is probably why I make the recipe below so often. I know French toast recipes in general are pretty fail-safe, but this one is especially so--it always turns out wonderfully, and it's a snap to make as well.

I usually top it with a pat of butter and some maple syrup, but a homemade berry sauce (and a good dousing of powdered sugar) sounds like a good alternative, doesn't it?

1 loaf challah or other rich, eggy bread
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vanilla-flavored soy milk ("regular" milk works too, obviously)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar (optional)
Maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Slice bread crosswise into 3/4-inch thick round slices.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended. Add the milk, sugar, zest, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk well.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter on a large nonstick griddle over medium heat. Dip 3 slices of bread into the custard, turning to allow both sides to absorb the custard. Grill the soaked bread slices until they are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 4 minutes per side.

Transfer the French toast to a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining butter, bread slices and custard.

Transfer the French toast to plates. Lightly dust with the powdered sugar, if that's your thing. Drizzle syrup over and around the French toast and serve immediately.