Green Eggs and Ham

“How dare I tamper

  with a recipe that

  literally breaks every

  Masterchef contender

  and elevates all

  Italian nonnas

  to culinary sainthood?”

 

This recipe is one of my weekday staples for one major reason –  it takes only 5 minutes which coincidentally happens to be what you need to poach your eggs and fry your bacon!

The trick is to par cook your rice in a reduced amount of water so that the center still has some bite. But if you just cook that further in the pan with stock until it becomes creamy, you’ll end up with congee, because the additional liquid means that the rice will eventually absorb more water and lose its perfectly cooked center. To fix this, we want to keep the amount of time the rice spends in the pan as short as possible.

But how do we get the stock to become creamy and “one” with the rice without the 20 minutes of stirring? Oldest trick in the book – corn starch. While I’m usually not a proponent for thickening agents in sauces (I prefer to either go through the pains of reducing it, or I’ll add some sort of ingredient that is meaningful in more ways than just to add body to the sauce), starch is a perfect fit in this case because the creaminess of a risotto comes from the starches released from the rice through relentless stirring anyway.

So there you have it – a risotto that’s essentially been segmented into

a) perfectly cooking the rice, and

b) adding liquid and adjusting the consistency

And how dare I tamper with a recipe that literally breaks every Masterchef contender and elevates all the Italian nonnas to sainthood? I’m a fourth-year UW student who can’t find it in her to shovel out 20 minutes to make dinner after a long day of class, that’s how. So if you want to go all traditionalist/purist/conservative on me, be my guest, just know that I am hangrily jealous of all that time you have on your wooden-spoon-holding, risotto-stirring hands.

Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.

-Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

Kale and Arugula Risotto with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Arugula and Kale Risotto with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Serves 2 to 4

Herb Puree

  • 2 c lightly packed baby arugula
  • 2 c lightly packed baby kale
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. To make the greens puree, bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil and add the baking soda. The alkaline baking soda will help intensify the green colour of the herbs.
  2. Blanch the greens for 10-15 seconds, or until wilted.
  3. Fish out the greens with a slotted spoon and plunge into an ice-bath immediately and stir until completely cold.
  4. Drain the greens and transfer to a blender to puree until smooth. Add a splash of water to help the blades grab onto the greens if necessary, and be careful not to blend for too long – the heat caused by the friction from the blades will dull the bright green colour.
  5. Push the puree through a fine sieve and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days until needed.

Note: the water will separate out into a layer on top of the puree after a day in the fridge – I actually prefer to let the puree settle slowly in the fridge for that reason. When I use it, I can just pour out the clear liquid, and I’m left with an ultra-concentrated shot of chlorophyll.

Risotto

  • 1 1/2 c al dente cooked short-grain white rice, chilled**
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 c vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 batch herb puree (above)
  • Extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil, to drizzle
  • Poached eggs and fried thick-sliced bacon, to serve
  1. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the oil and garlic gently on medium heat until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the cold rice and stir to coat each grain in the oil.
  3. Add the stock, stir, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, meanwhile in a small bowl mix together the corn starch with 2 tbsp of cold water until smooth.
  4. Add the corn starch water and salt to the rice and stir until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the herb puree.
  5. Spoon into small bowls, top with a poached egg and a slice of bacon, then finish with a few drops of good olive oil.
  6. Serve immediately!

**to par-cook rice, reduce the amount of water by 25% to 33% depending on how much bite you like in your risotto. For example, 1 cup of rinsed uncooked rice should be cooked with 2/3 to 3/4 cups of water in the rice cooker (with additional water in the outer pot). If you don’t have a rice cooker, reduce the amount of water in your usual stove top recipe by the same amount. Once cooked and completely chilled, you can store the rice in the fridge for up to a week and turn it into risotto in under 10 minutes on any week night (or morning)! You’re welcome.

 

Resistant Little Heart

If you’re cooking for a woman, make a good risotto and a salad. If you don’t have time to make dessert, you can go and buy some macaroons to have later.”

-Wolfgang Puck

The man’s right. On so many levels that probably never crossed his mind when he said those words.

One. Women I know love risotto. While there’s evidently something very attractive about the idea of rice that’s so immensely creamy and sensuous that it becomes one with your tongue, I would argue that it’s the al dente heart of that rice, a proof of perfect sensibility and restraint, that makes risotto that much sexier than rice pudding. You can quote that.

Two. Women are defensive of their toys, I mean, kitchen. Because, just like how children are forever fearing that their out-for-the-evening parents are late to return because they’ve died in a car crash, we girls grow up to fear that boys will burn down our kitchens once 30 minutes pass. Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. But that doesn’t matter – risotto only takes 25 minutes, phew.

Three. Women love men who can cook. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. It’s just that everyone loves to have someone close who will, on the right occasions, cook for them. It could be a best friend, a brother, perhaps from a different mother, who cares? Who cares if they bought the dessert? They cared enough to make you risotto.

I cared enough to make risotto.

In all honesty, that’s all you need to make a good risotto. It’s not some pretentious art as gastromedia casts it. The only thing, which isn’t even difficult, is the constant stirring. Stirring increases the amount of the rice’s surface area which comes into contact with liquid, which in turn helps release the starch. This means you will have a very creamy risotto as the “creamy” texture is essentially the married portion of stock and starch.

And at all costs, keep tasting – that’s key to catching your perfect al dente!

I remind you that you should

stir up the gift of God

which is in you through

the laying of my hands.

-2 Timothy 1:6

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As much as I love risotto, I think I would still appreciate it more if it goes along with several varying textural components, not to mention a even coverage of all the flavour bases. Here, aside from the creaminess and al dente of the rice, there is equally the buttery firmness of the halibut, the crunchiness of its skin, as well as the near-transparent crispness of the fried basil and ginger. The acidity of the lime is hardly detectable in the finished dish, but it is crucial to the balance of flavours – it’s what keeps you coming for another bite without feeling weighed down.

Ingredients for the green basil risotto, serves 6:

3 tbsp coconut oil

1 c diced white onion

1 1/2 c short grain rice, do not rinse this!

2-3 tbsp green curry paste, depending on its strength

4 c unsalted chicken/vegetable stock

1 can unpasteurized full-fat coconut milk

1 c gently packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 lime, juice only

sea salt, to taste

To make the risotto, melt the coconut oil in a deep saucepan or small pot. Add the onions and sweat them until soft, being careful not to brown them. Tip in the rice and stir until the grains are evenly coated with oil and are translucent. Stir in the curry paste until fragrant.

Pour in 1 cup of stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue to add stock, 1 cup at a time, still stirring and keeping the heat low for about 15~18 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree the fatty portion of the coconut milk with the basil and lime juice to a vibrant green milk shake. Chill until needed. Stir the remaining watery portion of the coconut milk into the rice.

Once all the stock has been absorbed, taste your risotto and see if you like the doneness. It should be very creamy, but still retaining a bit of nutty texture in the center of each grain.

Incorporate the coconut basil mixture and take away from the heat. Spoon onto warmed plates and top with the seared halibut, fried basil and ginger (follows).

Ingredients for the crispy-skinned halibut, fried basil, and ginger:

2/3 c mild vegetable oil, for frying

12 ginger slices, thinly sliced with a mandoline or very sharp knife

18 fresh basil leaves

1 lb thick halibut fillet, cut into 6 neat portions

sea salt

To make the fried garnishes, heat the oil in a small saucepan until a chopstick’s point submerged bubbles vigourously. Add half the ginger slices and fry, spooning the oil over the slices occasionally until golden and crisp. Take them out and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the ginger.

To fry the basil, lower a couple basil leaves to the hot oil – be careful, it will sputter. Fry for 5-10 seconds, until crispy and bright green. Drain on paper towel.

For the halibut, blot the portions dry with paper towel and season the skin side generously with sea salt. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat.

Add a couple spoonfuls of the basil frying oil to the pan and swirl to coat in a shimmery layer.Place the halibut portions (don’t crowd the pan, do it in two batches if you need to), skin-side-down in the pan and leave them there for 3 minutes, to really crisp up the skin. Flip them over and cook for another 1-2 minutes, you want to see a thin line that is still translucent beige along the sides. Transfer them onto the plate, keeping the skin side facing upwards, and allow to rest for a couple of minutes before plating.

Plate up and serve with a salad as WP suggests or, if it’s a chilly day where you find yourself, consider steaming some green beans and yellow zucchini to brighten up your day!

Enjoy! (And for once, dessert is optional!)

LBFM

It’s the first full day since the spring forward! Those of you who haven’t advanced your clocks by an hour, make sure you remember to get on that so you won’t be late tomorrow for any important date (or school or work)!

An extra hour of sunshine means, for me,

a relaxing apres-dinner walk with my mum in a hazy sunset while hearing the first honks of the returning Canadian geese.

a little less stress about starting my runs at 3pm.

better light in which to enjoy the most loving meal of the day.

What do you do with your extra bit of sun?

Where there’s a gain, there’s a loss, in last night’s case, it was an hour of sleep. Not too bad, for an 180 extra hours of sunshine over the next six months!

So since I sort of have a short day, I think it’s fair that this post be kept short and sweet.

Arancini are deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with cheese, herbs, and/or meat. As deep-frying nearly never happens in my kitchen, I made a baked version that’s just as crispy golden, and with the same ooey-gooey cheese filling of fresh mozzarella.

You can use any leftover cheese risotto, set in the fridge overnight, to make these, and just serve with a simple green salad and cold marinara sauce for a light dinner!

IMG_6558

There’s no recipe, really, but here’s the idea:

Set up a dredge station. Put 1 cup each of rice flour and crushed cornflakes in two separate bowls. Season the rice flour with salt and pepper, and the cornflakes with lots of grated parmigiana, italian herbs, and more salt. Crack an egg into the third bowl and beat it lightly, adding a couple tablespoons of water.

The complete assembly should be, from right to left: 3 cups cold risotto, 20 mozzarella cubes, cup rice flour, beaten egg, crushed corn flakes, baking sheet sprayed with a little oil.

Now, use an ice cream scoop to scoop out similar portions of risotto. Push a cube (2 cm) of mozzarella into the center of each portion and seal the opening shut by shaping the risotto between your hands. Roll the risotto balls in the rice flour, then dip it in the egg, finally, coat it completely with the corn flakes and set on the baking sheet. Repeat until you use up all your risotto. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden, crispy, and the center is piping hot.

Serve immediately with a cold, tangy marinara sauce for dipping!