Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus

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I think risotto might be one of my most favorite foods in the world. It’s creamy, delicious, and usually at least a little bit cheesy. Plus, I feel like it’s a little bit of a labor of love. You don’t stand in front of the stove for a long time to make a dish for some one you don’t like – if you have to feed them at all, you go with something that takes way less of your time than risotto. [See our earlier post Bay Scallop Risotto for how I tried to woo Selim with my “fancy” risotto dish.]

Furthermore, I love risotto because it’s basically a blank canvass. The basics of a risotto are simple – short grain rice (usually Arborio, at least here in the US), slowly cooked in hot liquid, with frequent stirring. Generally, the dish goes like that: start with chopped onions sauteed in butter or oil, followed by the addition of the short grain rice. Then follows some wine and a hot stock, stirred until the grains of rice absorb the liquid. Of course there are some specific types of risotto: think risotto alla milanese with saffron and Parmesan cheese, or risotto al nero di seppia, a striking black dish made with squid and their ink. But for us at home, aside from the basic framework above, risotto is yours to customize!

Tonight’s dish is meant for two as a side dish, instead of the heaping main dish portions I frequently make. (Not gonna lie though – it was a pretty large side for two people.) Certainly you can upscale for a main course if you’d like though.

I’m actually pretty proud of this dish. I really enjoyed it. And I made it all by myself – didn’t follow any recipes or get inspiration from anywhere. A lot of times when I don’t have the guidance of a recipe (or Selim), I under-season things or just don’t combine flavors all that well. Not this time! All the flavors combined beautifully and it’s full of flavor! I hope others enjoy too!

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Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2+ cups vegetable stock
  • 1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups asparagus (roughly 1 bunch), chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 3oz gouda cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Instructions: 
  1. Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a medium pan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until simmering.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the oil and cook for 3 minutes, until the onions have just begun to soften.
  4. Add rice and stir to coat in the remaining oil. Toast for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour in the wine. Stir frequently until the rice as absorbed the wine.
  6. Add the rosemary and black pepper to the dish.
  7. Lower heat slightly to a medium-low.
  8. Now begin adding the warm vegetable stock, one ladleful at a time, to the pan. Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Repeat step seven over and over.
  10. Once the rice is expanding and getting creamy, taste a grain after every ladle or two. Once the rice has softened, but is still a smidge too al dente to eat, add the asparagus to the pan.
  11. Resume adding stock by the ladleful and stirring, but cover the dish the first time after you add the asparagus for just about 2 minutes, so the asparagus steams a bit.
  12. The rice is done when the dish is creamy, but each individual grain still retains its shape and a very slightly al dente texture.
    • Try this suggestion for a little more concrete/visual detail – or just eat once you think it’s ready!
  13. After your last ladle of stock has been absorbed, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and lemon juice.
  14. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as you like. (We didn’t use any salt in ours.)
  15. Serve with a bit more cheese or rosemary on top if you like!
Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

 

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Citrus Chili Cucumbers

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I love cucumbers, but I basically eat them the same two ways over and over. (See: Fresh Avocado & Cucumber Salad & Mama Z’s Cucumbers) I’ve had this cucumber recipe pinned for literally years, but have never made it. It’s been pinned more than 119,000 times! Apparently everyone likes a nice cucumber… I’m glad I finally tried them. These cucumbers are different from my go-tos, which makes it a nice change. I usually don’t think light and fresh cucumbers need something like oil topping them, but it works well here.

Citrus Chili Cucumbers

(Adapted from Our Life in a Click blog, via Pinterest)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 large cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients minus the cucumbers themselves.
  2. Pour liquid over top of the cucumbers.
  3. Eat! Marvel at how easy it was to make this delicious snack.

Mama Z’s Cucumbers

Update 7/1/17: Soooo… turns out my memory was faulty. After talking with Jon and our other friend/my old roommate Terry, we think I mentally combined Mama Z’s recipe and Terry’s. Too lazy to change the title and the whole post, so we’ll just pretend – but give a quick shout to Terry and my muddled brain as well! 

There are some recipes that are so simple, I feel like you can barely call them “recipes.” These cucumbers fit that bill. I have to share them though, because they’re so easy to make and delicious – I’d hate to hold out on the precisely 17 people who follow this blog and are probably desperately wondering how I like to eat my cucumbers 😂😂

My friend Jon taught me how to make these cucumbers years ago, and I’ve been addicted ever since. He learned this quick snack from his mother. I’m pretty sure I still make them they way I was taught… but it was awhile ago. Hopefully so, otherwise I guess I’ll have to change the title of this post🤞🏼🤞🏼 These cucumbers will just take you a minute or two to make and are perfect for lunches or a light snack. Even better, just adjust the proportions for as many cucumbers as you want!

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Mama Z’s Cucumbers

(Recipe from my friend Jon’s mom!)
Ingredients: 
  • Cucumbers
  • Equal parts:
    • Low sodium soy sauce
    • Rice wine vinegar
  • Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions: 
  1. Slice your cucumbers.
  2. Mix together equal parts of soy sauce & rice wine vinegar. [ie: 1 tbsp soy sauce + 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar; 1/4 cup soy sauce + 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar; etc]
  3. Combine the cucumbers with the liquid and place in a dish you can cover and refrigerate.
  4. Top with a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper flakes (as little or as much as you like in terms of spiciness).
  5. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before snacking.

Fish Cakes with Feta & Olives

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Not going to lie to y’all. I have no idea what kind of fish I used to make this dish. I was trying to eat through some of our freezer foods and pulled this out. It’s tilapia, maybe? So we’ll just suggest you use any white fish of your choosing. This was another of those recipes that I threw together out of the refrigerator (and freezer) ingredients and ended up pretty happy with. The cakes are just a bit crisp on the outside and nice and moist on the inside. The flavors work well together I think. I ended up topping mine with a little bit of hummus; Selim added a dash of hot sauce. If I’d had some, I would spread some tzatziki on top of mine – that would’ve been perfect!

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Fish Cakes with Feta & Olives

Ingredients:
  • 10oz white fish
  • 4oz feta, crumbled
  • 10 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6-8 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Slide the fish into the pot, lower heat, and cover. Allow fish to poach for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove fish and pat dry.
  4. Break up the fish in a large bowl.
  5. Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  7. With your hands, scoop up a full handful of the fish mixture. Form into a ball between your hands. Place on the cookie sheet, and press down lightly with the heel of your hand to create the patty.
  8. Repeat step 7 for each patty.
  9. Bake for a total of 30 minutes. Flip halfway through, so each side cooks for 15 minutes.
Makes 6 patties.

Kimchi Braised Chicken with Noodles

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As you can tell, we enjoy braised chicken.  We make it more often than the handful of posts on our blog.  It’s simple, tasty, and always makes leftovers for lunches or a quick dinner later in the week.  I think kimchi scares a lot of people… fermented cabbage, anyone?  It’s alive and continues to ferment while sealed up, further breaking down the vegetables and adding flavor to the various spices contained within that swollen jar.  Ally had dog-eared this recipe a while ago, and we didn’t know what to expect.  We were both expecting a bit of sourness from the fermentation products of the kimchi, some smokiness from the bacon, acidity from the tomatoes, and of course a touch of sweetness from the white wine.  The ingredients, each lending their own simple tastes to the finished product, which has a unique complexity that will make you wish you made a double batch.  For more spice, try adding some of your favorite hot sauce (sriracha would go well), some cayenne, or a a few pinches of chipotle spices for a smoky heat.

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Kimchi Braised Chicken with Noodles

(Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, February 2016 issue)
Ingredients: 
  • 5 slices of bacon, sliced
  • 3 lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz (by weight) grape tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups kimchi, with juices
  • 8oz egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Place a large Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until slightly crispy.
  2. Remove the bacon to the side to a paper towel lined plate, retaining the bacon fat.
  3. Add the garlic and tomatoes into the dish. Lower heat slightly and cover. Stir occasionally.
  4. After ~5 minutes of cooking, the garlic should be browning and the tomatoes getting wrinkly. Using the back of your slotted spoon (or whatever utensil you’re cooking with…), press down on the tomatoes until they burst.
  5. Pour in the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the dish.
  6. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by half.
  7. Now return the bacon to the dish, along with the kimchi and chicken. Bring to a simmer. Then lower heat & cover.
  8. Braise over low-medium heat for an hour, uncovering once roughly halfway through to stir.
  9. After this time, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Increase heat slightly, ensuring that the tomato-kimchi liquid comes to a fast simmer. Cook for ~20 more minutes. The liquid will reduce. Break apart the chicken as it begin to fall apart.
  10. Towards the end of the braising time, cook egg noodles. Boil in a pot of salted water until al dente.
  11. Once pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  12. Return the pasta to the cooking pot and top with butter, 1/4 cup of cooking liquid, and salt & pepper to taste. Toss until pasta is covered with buttery liquid. Add a little bit more cooking liquid if you think it needs.
  13. To serve, top a serving of noodles with generous spoonfuls of chicken and tomato-kimchi sauce.
Makes 6-8 servings

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Mint Chocolate Bars

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I had a great month of May in terms of a rotation I was doing for school. I loved it and learned so much! On my last day, I wanted to bring a little treat for the staff who taught me and worked with me for the past few weeks. I couldn’t decide what to make, but ruled out cookies because the hospital frequently provides trays of cookies that are pretty darn good. And I’m generally exhausted during the middle of the week, so I wanted to make something pretty simple. I came up with the idea for these, essentially extrapolating from a thought of Rice Krispy Treats! These are so easy to make and are delicious!! You can’t go wrong. You could easily throw these together for some sort of last minute get-together or other situation.

(Also. I forgot to take pictures. So all you get is a quick shot of the 2 bites I saved for Selim.)

Mint Chocolate Bars

Ingredients: 
  • 1 standard sized box of Mint Oreos
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 bag of large marshmallows (5 cups)
  • 20 pieces Andes candy, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. Place the Oreos in a large plastic bag and smash with a mallet. Don’t smash them too finely.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
  3. Once butter is melted, add the marshmallows and cover. Keep on low heat.
  4. Remove the lid every 3-4 minutes and stir. The marshmallows will melt and eventually combine with the butter.
  5. Once the butter and marshmallows are melted and combined, pour in the crushed Oreos. Working quickly, stir to coat the cookies in the marshmallow/butter. Remove from heat.
  6. Lastly, add the chopped Andes candy. They will quickly begin to melt. Stir ASAP to get the candy spread throughout.
  7. Scoop the mixture into a glass baking dish (8×8). Spread out evenly.
  8. Allow to cool entirely. Once cooled, slice with a sharp knife.
  9. Try not to eat them all before you share with friends!
Makes ~25-30 bars, obviously depending on how large you cut them.