Replay: Hazelnut-Asparagus Risotto

>> Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hazelnut-Asparagus Risotto

This risotto is so good I had to replay it again. I'm in perfect agreement with the 'eat local' movement, but at the same time I'm thankful we live in an era where we can get asparagus out of season when we're really craving it. So here's what I wrote back in June 2012:

So sad that the fresh asparagus season is almost over for the year. We just received two gifts of fresh asparagus in the last week: some came from my dear friend Ardy, and a big bundle came from my mom's garden in Ohio. Risotto was on our minds, slowly stirred into creaminess.

This recipe from Bocca Cookbook, by Jacob Kennedy, made a perfect meatless Monday main dish. It would be just as good as a side dish. We found our shelled hazelnuts (also called filberts) in the baking section and were pleased - whole hazelnuts look hard to crack.

The bright and slightly crunchy asparagus was a revelation paired with the earthy hazelnuts. We were too hungry to fully appreciate the combination at first, but once we slowed down and savored the flavors, it was exquisite.

I think I say food is exquisite too often, but my goodness, this is tasty, even if your friend didn't just snap off the last of her asparagus right out of her backyard for you.


½ medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup arborio rice
2/3 cup white wine
1 1/4 cups water
1 large bunch (3/4 pound) thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch sections
1/3 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
½ cup shelled hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped


Melt the oil and butter together in a large saucepan. Saute the onion until tender. Add the rice and salt and cook for two minutes. Add the wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Continue stirring and simmering and add the rest of the water in small batches as the arborio rice absorbs it - about 20 minutes total.

When the rice is just a little too al dente, sprinkle in the cheese and stir until it is the texture that you like. Serve sprinkled with the rest of the cheese and the hazelnuts.

Makes 2-3 main dishes, or 4-5 side dishes.


Cajun Bay Scallops with Zucchini Noodles and Potato puree

>> Friday, August 21, 2015

Cajun Bay Scallops with Zucchini-Noodles and Potato puree

2 pounds small (5-inch-long) zucchini
1 pound russet potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups chicken broth
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Creole seasoning (we like Emeril's Essence)
2 cups bay scallops
1/2 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup corn kernels
1 tsp parsley (optional)


If you have one of those gadgets that turns vegetables into noodles, use it on this zucchini. Otherwise, use your vegetable peeler to make thick linguini-like ribbons, or use a mandoline to cut the vegetable into julienne strips.

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat half the oil in a large pot, then saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic,and  potatoes and cook 2 minutes more. Pour the broth over it all. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until tender.

Pour half of the vegetable mixture into a food processor or blender (more or less, depending on your appliance size) and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot and stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Keep hot. You can make this part ahead of time if you like.

Bring a pot of water to boiling and then add the zucchini "noodles" and corn. Cook for about 30 seconds or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.

Sear the Creole seasoning, scallops, zucchini noodles, and corn in the rest of the oil, shaking regularly for 2 minutes, or until the scallops are just cooked through. To serve, pour the vegetable puree into individual dishes and top with zucchini noodles, corn, and scallops. Drizzle with the half-and-half, then sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.


Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken

>> Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jessie, you're going to love this chicken - it is fast, easy, and just a little spicy. It's pretty healthy, too, if you use low fat cheese and bake the chicken rather than fry it.


2 large chicken breasts
2 small jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/3 of a small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 oz. low fat cream cheese
1 tbsp milk
1/2 cup low fat cheddar or pepper jack cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of bacon


Place each chicken breast on a cutting board and put your (non-cutting) hand on top of it. Cut through the edge nearly through to the other edge, then open it wide like butterfly wings (this is called "butterflying" the meat). Using a mallet, pound out the butterflied meat until it is thinner. Sprinkle with the garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a cooking pan.

Closing stuffed chicken breast

Stir together the cream cheese, milk, cheddar, and jalapenos. Spread half of the mixture onto one side of each chicken breast. Place half of the pepper strips on each breast. Fold it in half and pound the edges together with a mallet so that it holds together better.

Putting toothpicks in stuffed chicken breast

Stick a few toothpicks through the edges of the meat so it stays together while cooking, and the filling doesn't leak out. Wrap a slice of bacon around each breast. Heat a frying pan to medium heat, and brown the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Place in the oiled pan and pour 2 tbsp of water over the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is firm and no longer pink. We ate this with mashed potatoes and steamed zucchini, and it was great!

Serves 4.


Roast Duck with Sweet Cherry Reduction

>> Monday, July 27, 2015

Roast Duck with Sweet Cherry sauce

I'm always thrilled when a food I love suddenly becomes so trendy that I can find it anywhere! I have had a longtime love affair with duck, and luckily so does Joe, so he understands my desire to eat it early and often. Now duck fat fries and duck breast are on lots of menus, and "duck confit" is something I hear coming out of the mouths of ordinary people. Woo hoo!

Sweet cherries seem a little late this year because the Great Lakes region, unlike the rest of America, is having the coldest, rainiest summer I can ever remember. It's fabulous mosquito weather. If you are having trouble finding (and pitting) sweet cherries, frozen ones are good, too.

Fruit is always good to pair with duck because the meat is rather oily and a little tartness sets it off perfectly. The first time we made this roasted duck recipe, I wished I had made about twice as much sweet cherry sauce to freeze for later. I can think of about ten other things I'd like to pour this sauce over.


1 4 lb. duck
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup Merlot
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 cup pitted and halved sweet cherries
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put roasting pan on lower oven rack and fill with 2-3 inches of water. Oil a poultry rack and place in the pan with the bird on top, breast side down. Rub with the remaining oil, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast duck for 1 hour, basting occasionally.

Turn duck breast-side up and roast until dark brown, about 25 minutes per pound in total. The internal temperature should be at least 140 degrees when finished. Let it set for 15 minutes before carving it.

While the duck is roasting, make the cherry sauce.  Heat the oil in a small pot and then add the shallot. Saute until tender. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Put half of the sauce into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, then stir into the sauce.

Serve the duck with sauce drizzled over it, and pass the remaining sauce.

Serves 4-6.


Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

>> Monday, July 20, 2015

Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
The leftovers on my desk the following day. Yum - but yet again I apologize for photo quality.

Last Friday, I went to a Thai restaurant for lunch with my friend Peg - the first time I've seen her since school let out and the teachers let down their hair. With acclimating to my new job, prepping work for my July art show, and getting some new social justice initiatives going at our church, I haven't had any girlfriend time in a LONG time. It refreshed my heart like always.

I admit that I love sticking to favorites in Thai restaurants, even more so when the menu is longer than two pages and I can't make up my mind. I was certain there was Tom Kha Gai (chicken and coconut soup) in my future until the waiter set down bowls of clear mushroom soup. My script was rewritten and the "Drunken Noodles" description sounded wonderful.

It was so good that I went home and looked up recipes immediately. I learned that it got its name from the spicy umami that goes well with lots of beer or probably any other drink you like. Some people also say it's good for a hangover, but I didn't test that theory.

Thai birds-eye chiles for Pad Kee Mao
Thai birds-eye chiles. Tiny little pepper torpedoes.

During my research I also discovered the mouth-watering blog High Heel Gourmet, where the author shares stories about life in Thailand and California along with authentic recipes and lots of wit. She also gave me the most wonderful tip about scrambling eggs in a wok so they don't soak up all the sauce. You'll see it below.

While I toned down the heat and changed the recipe toward my own tastes, it's pretty close to several recipes written by Thai cooks. We made it without meat one night, but of course you can add whatever you like!

Remember, anytime you're cooking something in a wok or with a stir-fry method, the whole process goes quickly. Have everything ready to go and lined up next to the pan so you can toss it in when it's time.


For the sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white pepper

For the stir fry
1/2 lb chicken, shrimp, beef or pork, thinly sliced against the grain (substitute firm tofu if you like)
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp canola or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Thai birds eye chili
2 jalapenos, sliced (2 peppers tasted just hot enough for me, but I like spicy)
1 tomato, sliced into thin wedges
1 onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 cups mixed vegetables, like carrots, broccoli, green beans (try the Asian foot-long beans!), bok choy, sliced green onions, or anything else you like
4 cups thick rice noodles
3 eggs
1 cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely chopped


Dust the meat with the cornstarch to tenderize it and seal the surface. The cornstarch will also thicken the stir-fry sauce. Set aside. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Soften the noodles according to the package directions. If the directions are in a language you can't read, soak the noodles in hot water until soft, stirring occasionally so they don't stick together. Drain and use right away.

Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk them.

Heat a large wok and high heat, and then add the oil. When the oil shimmers toss in the garlic and cook until tender - about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables and cook until they are starting to get tender. Then add the meat. Stir and cook until all edges are seared. 

Stir in the noodles and toss the ingredients together. Pour on the sauce and toss some more until the food is well-coated.

Turn the heat down to slightly. Move some of the noodle-veg mix away from the side, then pour in the eggs. Flip the noodles on top of the eggs and count to fifteen. The noodles are holding the heat over your eggs until they are somewhat cooked.
High Heel Gourmet says: "The counting is the time the eggs need to set a little. If you crack the egg and start to stir-fry right away, the egg will just disappear and leave the fishy smell and fishy taste behind…yuckkkkk! This is how I get the eggs to look like I just scrambled them and added them to the wok."
Toss the egg with the noodles. Finally, throw in the basil leaves and toss until they are slightly wilted. Serve in bowls, with lime wedges if desired.

Serves 4.

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