Kale & Mushroom Risotto

I love this risotto!  It has just a hint of parmesan, rather than being driven by parmesan richness.  It is creamy, and a delicious side dish.  Add some grilled prawns and you’ve got a complete meal.

Risotto 6

This creamy risotto packs a vegetable punch with loads of kale and mushrooms.

  • 6 to 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2½ tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ¾ cup white wine or brandy
  • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

 

Place broth in a medium sauce pan and heat to a simmer; reduce heat and keep warm.

Clean and chop the mushrooms and kale. Mince the shallot.

Risotto 1

This photo may not show enough kale, but I usually have equal amounts of kale and mushrooms.

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, pot or Dutch oven, heat 2½ tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Add the shallot, mushrooms, kale, and ½ teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium, and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 3 minutes.

Risotto 3

Love the bright kale against the earthy mushrooms.

Add 1½ cups Arborio rice and stir to combine, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add ¾ cup white wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is almost evaporated, a few minutes.

Risotto 2

At this point, you’re ready to start adding the broth. Add ½ cup warmed broth to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat, gradually adding broth ½ cup at a time and stirring, until rice is tender but still al dente and sauce is creamy (you may not need all the broth). The process should take about 20 to 25 minutes.

Risotto 4

Stir in ¾ cup Parmesan cheese. Continue to stir until combined (or turn off the heat and cover the dish for a few minutes). Remove from heat and season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Risotto 5

This is very flexible – tonight’s version included crimini and Portobello mushrooms, but you could use any variety you like.  To make a vegetarian version use vegetable stock.  Make sure you love the flavor of your stock, so important to the finished product. This will lose its creaminess if you can’t serve it right away, so keep a little of the warmed broth if you need to soften it up a bit.

Moist and tender meatballs

I’ve made meatballs for so many years I can’t even remember when I started.  Then, over the last few years we’ve tasted some pretty amazing meatballs, most notably and surprisingly – in Mexico!  I decided I better start rethinking my meatball game.  After research and the usual taste testing, these won out.  They are so moist and tender you won’t believe the difference.  I like to make a double batch and freeze a bunch for another day.

Spaghetti & meatballs

One perfectly moist meatball, set on a bed of saucy tangled pasta – heaven.

 

 

  • 2 pounds ground meat (equal parts ground beef & ground pork)
  • 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup milk, any kind
  • 4 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes and/or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic cloves

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and coat it lightly with a nonstick spray.

Meatballs 2

Add the milk, eggs and seasonings to the panko first in order to have it all evenly distributed without overmixing your meatballs.

Meatballs 1

Next -get your herbs in there.

Meatballs 3

This is where the large fork comes in handy.  If you over mix the meatballs they will get tough, so this allows you to gently combine everything.

 

Place meat, crumbs, milk, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, onion powder, eggs, and your minced garlic in a large bowl, and mash everything together with a fork (this keeps your meatballs from getting overworked) until evenly mixed. Using wet hands if needed, form mixture into 2-inch meatballs (I used a 3 tablespoon scoop) and arrange on prepared tray. Roast for 12 minutes, until cooked through (you can cut one in half).

Meatballs 4

Ready to pop in the oven.  These were on the larger size so they took about 18 minutes to cook through.  Don’t overcook them!  Break one open at that point and check.

Meatballs 5

If serving with spaghetti – submerge meatballs into tomato sauce and allow to simmer until pasta is ready.

Always cook the pasta for the last few minutes in the tomato sauce to allow the sauce to coat all pasta.

Serve with plenty of parmesan to grate over top.

Thanks to Deb at Smitten Kitchen for these meatballs!

 

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

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At this time of year the tomatoes are plentiful, and I do not like to see any go to waste …. also don’t have quite enough time to can it all!  This is my go to, for whatever amount of tomatoes I have ripe at the time.

Fill a roasting dish with tomatoes, (roughly chopped, skin on), garlic, onion, sweet peppers and entire stalks of fresh herbs.  (I also sneak a few carrots in there) Drizzle over some good quality olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 350 for 2-4 hours, very flexible.  This also works in the crockpot.

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Allow to roast until reduced by about half.  Remove the stalks of fresh herbs, they have done their job …..

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Puree with immersion blender or food processor (if you use processor make SURE you have left room for steam to escape or this can be a nasty experience).  Stir in 1 small tin of tomato paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Depending on the acidity of your tomatoes, you might like to stir in a bit of sugar, but taste first.img_9396

It is easy to just put the cooled sauce in a marked freezer bag, and put it in the freezer to enjoy all winter long.

Tabouli Salad

This tabouli salad is made with quinoa, so a complete meal for a vegetarian option, or serve alongside a grilled chicken breast …. or tonight’s choice – chicken wings with a Pomegranate Molasses Barbecue Sauce …. yumminess.

Tabouli Salad

1 cup quinoa – rinse well
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn in rustic pieces
1 small bunch kale, very finely chopped (remove stem)
1/2 English cucumber, cut into fine quarters
1 cup finely chopped assorted colored sweet peppers
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (pickling instructions below)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp orange zest and 2 tbsp fresh orange juice

Pickling red onions: Thinly slice red onions and pour boiling water over for 10 seconds – drain off, and cover with fresh squeezed lime juice and a sprinkle of kosher salt. They turn such a great color.

Tabouli
Place the rinsed quinoa in a medium sauce pain, ccover with 1 3/4 cup cold water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and cook until water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 18-20 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork and let it cool.

In a large bowl toss all prepared vegetables and the cooled quinoa.

Dressing
Combine zest and fruit juices, drizzle oil slowly in to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss with prepared Tabouli Salad and taste …season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Tonight tabouli salad was also made with some grilled zucchini and served on a fresh bed of spinach

Tonight tabouli salad was also made with some grilled zucchini and served on a fresh bed of spinach

Torn and Tossed Garlic Bread

Everybody loves the crunchy crust and soft tender bits of garlic bread – why not get more of it?

Torn garlic bread is crunchy and soft all at the same time.

Torn garlic bread is crunchy and soft all at the same time.

I had a loaf of sourdough bread and half a loaf of French bread – rather than tear it I cut it all into approximately 2 inch pieces.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, stir in 2 garlic cloves and 1 small shallot – both chopped fine. Naturally, use more garlic if you feel so inclined (and everybody is eating it…).

In a large bowl combine the melted butter, garlic and shallot mixture – add in the cubed bread, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

This is great made earlier in the day too, just let it sit and absorb all those flavours.

When you are ready to serve, spread cubes on baking sheet – take care not to overcrowd the pieces. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes just until the outside is nice and crispy, golden brown.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve – everybody will love it!

Serve this with as any side dish, or with your favorite soup or salad.

Sweet Basil Pesto

I think one of my favorite herbs is basil – always makes me think of summer and freshness – drinking Holy Basil Tea right now in fact!!

Basil Pesto

3 cloves garlic

4 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1/3 cup finely grated best quality parmesan cheese

2 tbsp lemon juice

2/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

drop garlic cloves into food processor while it is running, continuing with basil, pine nuts, parmesan, lemon juice and salt.  Pulse after it is finely chopped, and with motor still running slowly add oil – scrape down the side of the bowl a few times. Do another couple pulses just to make sure it is all finely blended.

This keeps easily in the fridge for up to a week, and will store well in freezer also.  Either freeze in small containers, or in ice cube trays.  Once they have frozen in the trays, pop them out and store in a ziplock bag.

This makes an amazing pasta dish – toss it with freshly cooked pasta, adding either a bit of the pasta cooking water or heavy cream, whichever is your preference that night!  

Other suggestions:

Pizza topping, with prawns and carmelized red onions – sprinkle with fresh spinach

Blend with butter and spread on french bread for an alternative to garlic bread

Top a grilled steak with a tbsp of pesto

blend 1 tbsp with 2 tbsp red wine vinegar & 5 tbsp olive oil for a salad dressing

Grill Roasted Pasta Sauce

I love the flavour that comes out of the vegetables right out of the garden – give them a grill before simmering this pasta sauce and you will be treated to that flavour all winter long.  

30 roma tomatoes, halved

12 cloves garlic, peeled

5 small onions, unpeeled and sliced very thick

3 sweet red peppers, whole

Grill all vegetables until you get nice grill marks and the garlic and onions are soft, lightly browned.  As soon as the sweet peppers are charred, put them in a ziplock bag or a tightly covered bowl and allow to steam for 15 minutes – remove the skin and seeds.

Put all tomatoes with the vegetables in a large pot and simmer until tender. 

Add:  

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp chopped fresh or dried oregano

3 tsp white sugar

3 tsp salt

Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer just until all flavours have had a chance to blend well.  Make sure to taste it and adjust seasonings if you need a little more.Image

Either freeze in freezer safe containers, or process in hot water bath.

 

To preserve in hot water, canning bath – fill jars to within 1 inch, cover with hot seals and rings.  Process in hot water bath 35 minutes for pints.

This recipe makes about 7 pints.