Monday, January 31, 2011

Risotto, My Friend

Hello everyone.  My name is Samantha, and I have a Risotto Weakness (or should it be addiction? Undying love for? Inclination to always seek out…? BFF-hood with?)
I confess: I have made risotto many-a-times and have yet (yet!) to put any of them upon the pages of this little blog here.  I am ashamed.

I have pondered life over a bowl of Risotto al Barolo with crumbled brown sausage (it was gasp-worthy, I promise) as well as a classic risotto with white wine and butter.   My mother’s risotto with roast lamb is, truly, swoon-worthy, but finally, FINALLY, I am here to provide you with a solidly good risotto recipe.  One that I’ve tweaked a bit and will continue to tweak due to this weakness/addiction/undying love for issue of mine when it comes to risotto.  But, I promise, it is a good recipe.
I borrowed this from Fresh 365 Online which is a lovely, sunshine-y, seasonal-inspired site of delicious vegetarian-inclined dishes (the authors of which, of course, got it from Gourmet).  And while this Leek and Cauliflower Risotto was very, very good, I propose replacing a half-cup stock with ½ cup white wine in addition to a smattering of more veggies…asparagus? Mushrooms?  The options are endless, but that’s what’s so great about this little gem.  It's not only good as-is, but would be good with whatever tweaks fit your fancy.  It is quite the platform to jump off into adventurous risotto journeys with.

January 2011 has already been an awesome the kick-start for the rest of the year, and I hope your month has been the same.  If not, at the very least, this risotto could edge things along a bit.
(Side note:  for those who might be confused, this is not a pasta dish, so my promise not to post more pasta is still valid.  End note.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A (Re)Introduction to Pesto

So most people know pesto as the standard basil, pine nuts, olive oil and parm, right?  But there’s this mythical area called Trapani on the island of Sicily that has a different kind of pesto:  Trapanese.
I want to go here.  Now.
(Courtesy of
Not to be confused with those whimsical acrobats, trapeze swingers, Pesto Trapanese is delish.  I first read an article about it two winters ago in Gourmet and it sounded divine, especially since it reminds you a bit of the fresh taste of summer.  Basil, toasted almonds, parmesan cheese and tomatoes?  Love at first read, I tell you.

I’ve made Pesto Trapanese off and on for dear ones the past few years, and every time it’s met with rave reviews from vegetarians and non-veggies alike.  I usually bust out some whole wheat pasta (goes well with the nuttiness of the pesto.  And the nuttiness of me), and have found that a whole box of spaghetti or linguine is just a bit too much… boil it all up if you like but add the pasta a bit at a time and toss everything together to make sure you get all the pesto you want and it doesn’t dry out. 
Don’t forget:  Too much pasta + not enough pesto = a sad, sad moment for all.

Obviously I’m still on a pasta kick, as it is January and all, and we all know how I feel about carbs, but I promise this will be the last pasta recipe for a while.  I foresee some delicious stews and desserts on the horizon.  I’ve also been rocking out to this album by Rick James on my new record player (thanks for the awesome Christmas present, fam!) while putzin’ around in the kitchen and it’s been quite the culinary-musical adventure.  Hey-o!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Brunch

So here’s an interesting observation.

Winter = cold = fill your belly up with pasta.

Am I the only one that carb-overloads during dark and cold months? Seriously. It’s easy, warm, and there’s always, always leftovers of a bit of plain ole’ boiled pasta to sit in your fridge. They seem like such sad little things, really, that have nowhere to go and nothing to dress up for.

Usually that leftover Tupperware of penne pasta gets tossed out after a week or so…because, seriously. What can you actually do with it? But no longer.

I introduce to you…the weird-sounding but good-tasting Penne Frittata with Ricotta and Basil!

I spotted this originally on Cup of Jo when she had a brunch with the folks over at Sunday Suppers… who in turn borrowed the recipe from a one Ms. Martha Stewart. Quite the route this frittata took to get to me, but it has, indeed, arrived.

I’m a big bruncher. I think I’ve mentioned this before…like here, and here, and here. I’m also a huge fan of frittatas, and am always looking for new ways to approach this favorite of mine. And while pasta in a baked egg dish might sound weird, it doesn’t actually taste weird. Instead, it tastes like cheese and basil and is quite a stunning little dish in its rustic simplicity.

With some crusty bread and salad, this is your new lunch. Or dinner. With some coffee and fresh fruit, it's your new breakfast.  The versatility of frittatas is pretty endless, and I’m excited to put to good use those little pasta leftovers that no one seems to want.

So this weekend, when you’re schemin’ for something good for a Saturday late-morning breakfast, and have nothing but some cheese, basil, eggs and a few sad pasta noodles, throw this little doozy together and call it a day. Which is what Martha did, and things seem to be working out pretty well for her.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Patience, the Virtue

For Christmas, I decided to make Homemade Vanilla for myself, my girl Kari, and my Mom, the fellow bakers in my life. But I forgot the one thing required to turn the simple combination of vodka and a vanilla bean into real, delicious, baker’s vanilla.


8 weeks, approximately. 8 WEEKS! Considering I didn’t make my bottles of Vanilla till about a week before Christmas, we’ve got some serious time on our hands. This stuff won’t be ready till the very end of February which is practically March. Sheesh. So much for my well-planned homemade goodies, but I’m actually looking forward to the wait. Because good things come to those who wait, to those who have been gifted with that most difficult of virtues, patience. (Or so they say, but I really have no choice in the matter here.)

But in this waiting period, as the vodka is steeping with that one lovely vanilla bean to create something entirely new, things will be happening in my life.

Some things will be great and refreshing, and some things might be hard and stressful, but always, no matter what comes my way, there’ll be a bottle of Vanilla waiting. Waiting to be used in future cookies or cakes, breads and ice creams, and I cannot wait to have this one sure thing finally reach that perfect Vanilla-ness to start exploring with.

Awww...look at Dolly envying the vanilla

So, my anchor of 2011 is a bottle of Vanilla. While I can already tell this will be one amazing year of growth, opportunity, and living, my bottle of Vanilla will also be getting better with age and time. I kind of like having that reminder in my cupboard to think of whenever I feel I might be falling behind in the rat race or if I’m being too impulsive with things.

To the New Year, and to all of your exploits in and out of the kitchen!

And to whatever your bottle of Vanilla may be.