Thursday, June 12, 2008


Potatoes are such a versatile food. They are readily available in so many forms, but I'm talking about fresh, unprocessed potatoes. My favorite variety is fingerling potatoes. They come in a number of types and they all are delicious. Fresh dug potatoes from your garden are probably the best, but farmer's markets and some better grocery stores have them. Seek them out and expect to pay more than regular potatoes but they are well worth it.
I like to roast them in olive oil with just salt and pepper. They also make great mashed potatoes, but so do Yukon Gold potatoes which cost quite a bit less. Another great way to eat them is in a fancy potato salad with roasted cod or cold poached salmon. Try them any way you cook potatoes and you'll see what I mean.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Making Risotto

A great restaurant style dish to make at home is risotto. With a little bit of practice you can make it just like a pro. It does require quite a bit of attention so it may not suit every situation.
First of all, what is risotto? It is a northern Italian rice dish made by adding the liquid incrementally rather than all at once. My rice of choice is Carnaroli rice, although Arborio rice makes great risotto too and is easier to find.
The technique here is really important and should be followed for any risotto dish. Start by warming up your liquid of choice, water or stock, with wine or without. Seafood risotto is great made with shrimp stock. Risotto Milanese should be made with chicken stock, although you could substitute water or vegetable stock for a meatless version. Dice an onion and a little garlic and cook them in olive oil or a mixture of olive oil and butter, over a medium heat. You don't want any color on the onions. Stir using a wooden spoon until the onions and garlic are soft. Add the rice and stir well to coat it with oil. Then add about a cup of hot liquid and stir well. Keep adding the hot liquid a cup at a time until the rice is creamy with small al dente bits in the center. The entire process should take about 20 minutes.
Just about any risotto dish gets parmesan cheese and here is a good way to use the rinds reserved from blocks of parmesan reggiano. Toss a piece of the rind into the pan just as you begin to add liquid. It will give a nice depth of flavor and add richness to your risotto. A few sprigs of fresh thyme added in the beginning works really well too.
Risotto can change with the seasons: asparagus in the Spring; roasted tomatoes and sweet corn in the Summer; Butternut squash in the Fall. The Winter is the perfect time for seafood risotto. Try them all and be creative. If it goes with pasta it probably goes with risotto too.
Risotto can be made ahead of time, then reheated with a bit more liquid when you're ready to serve it. The basic technique is the same, just stop a little sooner and spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool in order to stop the cooking. Then return it to a pan with a little bit of liquid and reheat, season with salt and pepper, and serve.