Sunday, March 27, 2011

April Showers Bring May Flowers: Spring Risotto

As you may know, Spring is here in Seattle! I love to see all the tree lined streets with blossoms, while pups trot about, dancing in the spring showers. NO MORE cozing by the fire, it's time for walks outside and farmers market outings, trading in Uggs for rain boots, and new dishes! Baby veggies are practically jumping out of the ground into my shopping basket. A radish here, a pod of peas there…wait. Peas don't live underground. Heh, baby carrots do, though.
I chose the recipe below, based on what I have been focusing on the last couple of weeks, which is collecting recipes for my new job, which I started in January. I got into an in depth discussion on risottos (and as many of you know, one of my favorite things to make) and decided to try out a new food pairing that is: zucchini+prosecco+grana padano

Spring Risotto with Prosecco and Young Zucchini

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, warmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 shallots, diced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup Prosecco
2 cups young zucchini and squash, cubed
Large dollop of Creme Fraiche
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano cheese

Simple Elegance

Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium pot. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Cook shallots until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice and a pinch of salt. Sauté until rice is coated in oil, 1 to 2 minutes. Add prosecco; bring to a simmer, stirring, until rice has absorbed most of the sparkling wine. Add 2 ladles of stock to rice; simmer, stirring, until rice has absorbed most of stock. Continue adding stock, allowing rice to absorb it before adding the next ladleful. Add a ladle of stock when you can see the bottom of the pan as you drag your wooden spoon through the risotto. Add the zucchini/squash in during the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Cook until rice is al dente and mixture is a little loose. Stir in butter. Turn off heat. Stir in cheese. Garnish your fine meal with a dollop of creme fraiche and some 1980's zucchini shavings a la Wolfgang Puck.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Agave Granola

(Goodbye Fall and Winter)

Nelle's Homemade Agave Sweetened Granola
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup diced dried candied ginger

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix all the dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey, applesauce, vanilla, and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey-apple-oil mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes, about 45 minutes. Place sheet on drying rack. Stir granola a bit to cool. Mix in candied ginger.

Serve this little treat with greek yogurt or simply munch it when you want to feel whole.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Simple Tomato Tart

Greetings, friends!
There has been a great many items made in the past week, and I would love to share them with you. Some are projects that take 1-2 hours…some are simple tasks that produce a delicious and sumptuous treat in mere minutes. THINK of the time that you waste, slaving over lamb lollipops, when you could be making a rustic and seasonal bite that inspires a summers eve in Tuscany.
Please introduce (or, reacquaint) yourself to frozen puff pastry.

Obviously, there is a multitude of things you could be doing with this product; the most difficult would be making the actual puff pastry itself. The easiest application would be to simply open a box and adorn with delicacies, bake, and serve…which is what I did, errrr.

The reality is this: You could throw a fantastic cocktail party with a couple of these tarts, mixed olives, fine cheesery, and charcuterie. I'm not going to lie, I am pretty fun at parties and if you ever have one, please invite me?

Begin with the following items;
  • One sheet frozen puff pastry (thaw out for 30 min on the counter) Do not try to unfold the puff pastry when it's frozen, or it will crack. Unfold when defrosted only
  • Assortment of heirloom tomatoes or farmers market/homegrown. Try to get an assortment of colors and shapes from large to cherry tomatoes. Whatever you do..please don't use watery/tasteless/grainy fruits. This tart only has ONE LIFE. Please do not waste it on a dull sad sack of a tomato
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt and Pepper
  • Herbs (I used a basil olive oil to drizzle upon the tart: Basil+ Olive oil mixed in the mini food processor) you may sprinkle on fresh thyme, oregano, or marjoram leaves or chop some basil finely and toss with tomatoes.
  • Do not add salt at this point, season only with black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicon mat, and lay the puff pastry down.
Score a 1/2 inch border along the pastry to create a ledge and then use the tines of a fork to prick the inside of the border. Pricking the pastry with a fork will prevent it from puffing up too much.
Lay your tomatoes in a decorative pattern on the pastry, careful not to overlap the fruit, otherwise sogginess will ensue. Some of the larger tomatoes I had were a little hollow, so I layered with another slice. This did not effect the crisp end product.

Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil, herbs, and black pepper. If you are making the basil oil, dollop some on the tomatoes right when you take it out of the oven so the basil stays bright.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Finish the dish with a generous dashing of fine sea salt.

I had to make a mini one all for myself.
Party Size!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Muscovy Duck Salad at DeLaurenti's Specialty Food and Wine

I love this store.
If I could change my name to Nelle "DeLaurenti's Specialty Food and Wine" Bruce, I would.
Instead I will settle for perusing their aisles, munching on my favorite panino (mortadella on grissini with olive oil), and looking forward to my Christmas stocking (NO, I am not 6 years old but I did swallow a cherry pit today..) which is always filled with specialty food items goodies.

Ah. The cheeses, the meats. The CHEESES AND THE MEATS. Then there is fantastical array of vinegars, mustards, oil packed tuna!, olive oils, cookies, spices, pastas fresh (a la Ethan Stowell) and dried. I could go on, but perhaps you would like to know why I babble on?
I frequently visit the store's website in hopes that they will call for my employment one day. On other days, I view up to date information on the latest shipment of white truffles or, on occasion I view recipes.
Since last week was a special event, I decided to opt for a new and exciting meal, one of which I have no experience whatsoever cooking.

(click link for recipe)
As DeLaurenti's is your friend. It does yield some extra fat, but said fat can be used in many dish after your consumption of the initial salad. I recommend roasted potatoes in duck fat. Or scrambled eggs (in a bit of DF) finished with truffle salt. Then go ahead and pop some champagne.
I duck-gress...

A brief word about these breasteses;
Muscovy duck originated in Brazil and is more lean and flavorful than its more commercialized counterpart, the Pekin duck. Do pay attention to what type you are buying, because finding Muscovy or Moulard is a fancy fowl treat!

Muscovy Duck, prepped for searing

I would like to add, that I really could of used one of those fat splatter shield things while searing this duck, because though it's a leaner duck, there is still a lot of fat rendered in the pan as well as rendered into my face *Oh the hot oil* as I peered upon the progress.

Achieve a crust by searing each breast, fat side down to start. Then, finish in the oven for 3 min per side @400 degrees

(Take a moment to open some wine prematurely)

While the breasts sear (should take less than 10 minutes) you may choose to drink wine or assemble the dressing.
I chose both.
Literally, the best dressing for simple greens are a combination of the following foundation items;
  • A FINE olive oil
  • Acid (vinegar or lemon, I often use both)
  • Generous S&P (please only use fine, course sea salt and coursely ground pepper. Anxiety will occur if table salt/bottled pepper is let near a vinaigrette)
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Shallot (and or garlic, though none was used in this recipe)
This formula comes together in a matter of moments with a mini food processor, blender, or cave man age bowl and whisk. In general, try to have the salad err on the more acid-idy side. No one likes to eat an oily salad, it has been documented:

Gather salad accouterment. Be sure to choose a fine goat cheese for this salad, since there are not many other ingredients. The marinated beets are deliciously spiced with rosemary, ginger and lemon, but also evoke some holiday spices as well. Cinnamon? Cloves? They reminded me a lot of Pickle Me Nelle Onions

Assemble your fine creation and thank the DeLaurenti's Gods!

Enjoy with a Provençal rose. A favorite pastime of mine in the summer months, is to end each sentence with;
"enjoy with a Provençal rose"

and so I shall.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dark and Stormy?

Hardly dark...and not yet stormy in July.

Hello friends!
Happy hour time is upon us. Before I head out to dine on sushis, I thought I would share a recent cocktail that has come across my way... The Dark and Stormy!
Though the suns shine and the birds chirp here in the 'natchee, we get a little hot when we occasionally step out of our air conditioned box.
So, on a recent trip to DeLaurenti's, I came across some ginger beer that made me think of this classic beverage.

Please engage in cocktail mode, and make one for yourself!
  • Garner some ice cubes and throw them into a glass. Use reckless abandon.
  • Pour 2oz of dark rum ( I experimented with a rum from Barbados, which is a bit lighter than the traditional, perhaps, Jamaican rum used) into a cocktail shaker. Use a water bottle from a local european cycling touring company if you should lack a shaker.
  • Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon wedge and 1 lime wedge, leave citrus carcass in the glass for good measure
  • Top off with a ginger beer. (commercially available bevies come in 6.8 FL oz.)
  • Garnish with a lime wheel
  • Dont be afraid to top yourself off with a rum floater. Heh!
  • Serve in Provençal Bee Tumblers

Todd likes it...
'nuff said.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cherries Galore!

hi! i'm a cherry
and I want to be baked.
Happy Day!
This post reflects on the lush properties of cherries, one of my favorite things to wear, and eat in the summer time. When one makes a cherry dish or wears a cherry outfit, there is something that is very american and brooks brothers-ish about it. This is why I only wear my cherries to certain events where the spirit of americana is classy and cheerful.
Continuing on with this theme, baking a cherry dessert can be very rewarding and does lead to a heightened sense of patriotic do-goodery.
Once upon a summer night, I was invited to a dinner party in the very cherry worthy area of Madison Park. My two friends Sara and Kari had prepared delicious dishes and I was to bring a dessert.

I thought to myself... non other than a cherry clafoutis will do, sir!

So I began my cherry quest, which started at Prey's Fruit Barn in Leavenworth, WA. They have a HUGE flag flying out front in the summer time, signifying that cherries are, in fact, a most American fruit.
Traditionally, the clafoutis is made with a super simple batter and UN-pitted cherries. I was kicking myself, friends, because though I do respect the nature of this dish (rustic, originated in southern france, peasant food) I did not want my guests to have to fumble with their tongues to produce a cherry pit each time they took a bite. THUS, the cherry pitter enters the picture.
Long story short, I saw the pitter at Prey's, thought it was a great idea, and decided to (not buy one there on the spot) buy one in Seattle.
I have yet to find a cherry pitter in Seattle. #CHERRYFAIL
Perhaps the blog gods will purchase one for me?

I move on to the brutal reality of pitting each cherry by hand with a pairing knife. This laborious process goes better than I had imagined, since all 10 of my digits are still attached and I am still able to type and open string cheese wrappers.

Fun Cherry Facts:
  • Rainier Cherries can sell for up to $1 EACH in Japan? (source: the internet. But I kind of believe it).
  • Rainier Cherries are known as the "white cherry" in the cherry world, due to their light colored flesh
  • The Rainier Cherry was created by a COUGAR
  • Crows love cherries and they will do anything to eat them. Even kill a bald eagle.

Cherry Clafoutis
Adapted from
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
6 eggs
6 tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 c milk
2 tbsp. kirsch (cherry brandy)
Pinch of fine salt
3/4 c flour
3 c black and Rainier cherries, pitted any way you know how
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Generously butter a 9" cast-iron skillet or baking dish. Combine vanilla extract, eggs, sugar, milk, kirsch, and salt in a blender. Blend for a few seconds to mix ingredients, then add flour and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Literally the easiest thing to make ever!
until frothy!

add a flavoring; I used cherry brandy but almond flavoring (extract or Amaretto works well too).

2. Pour batter into buttered skillet, then distribute cherries evenly over top. Bake until a skewer inserted into batter comes out clean and a golden brown crust has formed on top and bottom of clafoutis, about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar and delight in the flavor!

This cherry dessert is so very easy to make and impressive to present at the table. Serve with a high end ice cream or alone, dusted with powdered sugar. A clafoutis may also be made with a variety of other fruits such as plums, pluots, apricots, pears, berries, peaches, and apples! Mmmmm, a pear clafoutis with cardamon. This is a dish that will warm my table in the fall.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Arancini di Riso

Hello Blorg (blog world)!
Today is a celebration of some really tasty bits, which is a result of a fabulous (and simple) dinner last night.
The dinner was risotto, one of the sister's Bruce favorite things to make in a pinch. There was a time when a white wine was omni-present in my hand whenever I was cooking, so Al and I naturally gravitated towards the risotto…only a 1/2c of wine needed, the rest is for the cooks!
For those of you who don't get what I am gearing at already….leftover risotto can be made into a fried friend, stuffed with whatever your heart desires.

Since the "summer" months have come upon us, and me being the ever popular party goer that I am, I have been on the hunt for delicious cocktail sized items that are ever so lush to munch upon while drinking bubbles and the like. Thus far, I have determined that the following are acceptable to eat (while getting your nails done at Julep, for example);
Strawberries bathed in dark chocolate ganache
Green Goddess Dip with blanched veggies
Mini Crab Cakes (baked in a mini muffin tin, tee hee how cute)
Mini Frittata bites
Wow, I happen to have a picture of all 4…

All made for Sam and Lauren's wedding weekend!
Berry Special occasion...
AND….now for the actual blogista section
May I present to you…the "little orange rice ball!"
Arancini di Riso is named such for the resemblance to an orange and the traditional filling of risotto Milanese (made with saffron, so a yellowish/orange tint reveals itself).
These arancini can be made small or large (as you can see I chose an actual size of an orange) to be popped in the mouth or cut with a knife and fork like a sophisticate, respectively.

Believe it or not, I spent at LEAST 20 minutes scouring the Italian wing of my cookbook library, only to find the guidelines for these balls in my trusty 'ol Everyday Italian. WTF Mario?

Here we go:
  • Make Risotto
  • Wait one day. Or if you are a hog, wait at least a couple of hours for the rice to cool, which makes it easier to form into a ball
  • Set up breading station (2 eggs, beaten and Japanese (panko) breadcrumbs)
  • Determine how big or small your arancini will be, then fill a pot with oil so that they will be submerged
  • Heat oil to 350 degrees. You will want to maintain a temperature of 350-375 throughout the process. Use a candy thermometer to determine this. You are not a wizard.
  • Prepare fillings! I chose pancetta with fresh mozzarella and feta with fresh mint. You could literally hide a rusty nail inside of of these things and I would still probably eat it.
  • Begin standard ball formation/stuffing mechanism
  • Assemble the dipped and breaded balls onto a nonstick surface, and await the plunge
  • Plunge (with a spider skimmer to avoid splashing of molten oil) for 3-4 minutes. Resist the urge to look directly over the bubbling pot of oil.
  • Examine your crispy browned specimen with splendor and awe!
  • Immediately sprinkle artistically with the finest of salts

These arancini would be perfectly paired with a slender glass of bubbles to cut the crispy outside… revealing the creamy, cheesy inside.
Now get out there, spend the $3.75 for a gallon of vegetable oil and BE SOMEBODY. Somebody with arancini.
Lastly, if you have any other interesting ideas for arancini fillings, please leave a comment. Comments are how I know i'm still alive and not having some Vanilla Sky freak out moment.