4.22.2014

Risotto La Fritedda


This particular version of risotto is my mash-up of two Italian recipes, and not an authentic Italian dish.  
 
I was flipping through my Marcella Hazan cookbook, and came across a recipe for la fritedda, a Sicilian combination of peas, favas, fennel, artichokes, and onions.   I thought this would be a delicious topping to a classic risotto.  Plus, I’ve been on this kick of researching my family history, and we’re Sicilian, so I enjoyed pretending that maybe this was something my ancestors ate.  I have no idea if this is the case or not, but I know my grandparents finished their meals with fennel, so let’s go with it. 
 
Marcella, as always, is bossy about the ingredients, warning that you should really use freshly picked young peas, favas, and artichokes, lest you wind up with a weaker version of the dish. I’m inclined to agree with her, but as winter is never ending here and the farmer’s markets have yet to appear, I resorted mostly to the frozen stuff. Sorry Marcella. 
 
I did prep the artichokes myself, though I feel frozen would taste exactly the same in the dish, so that is what I call for in the below recipe. I probably wouldn’t use canned though, I kind of hate that watery, salty liquid they sit in. 
 
Risotto La Fritedda
We’re working with two recipes here, one for the risotto and one for the fritedda. You simply prepare them both and top the risotto with the fritedda. 
 
La Fritedda, adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
1 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
½ cup frozen fava beans, thawed
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
½ cup white onion, sliced thin
½ cup fennel, sliced thin, handful of fronds reserved for garnish
¼ cup olive oil
Salt
 
This can be done while making the risotto. Using a large skillet or heavy bottomed pan that can hold all the ingredients, put the onion, olive oil and fennel in and cook on medium low, until translucent. 
 
Once translucent, add in the artichoke hearts and cover the pot tightly. After five minutes, add in the peas and favas and cook another five minutes, tightly covered. You may need to add in small amounts of water to keep everything from sticking.  
 
Taste and correct for salt. Let sit until risotto is ready.
 
Risotto, from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth (if you need more, use water)
¼ cup chopped white onion
3 tbsp butter
½ cup Parmesan cheese
 
Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a small pot. 
 
In a large saucepan, melt butter and add onions. Saute until softened but not browned, about five minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast in the butter and onions for a minute or so. Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. 
 
Add in ½ cup of broth and stir until absorbed. Then add another ½ cup and stir again until absorbed. Keep going until the rice is creamy and firm to the bite, with no hard white center. It will take about a half hour.  
 
Mix in the Parmesan, top with the fritedda, and serve.  

4.17.2014

Recent Reads: Thrive, by Arianna Huffington

 
Photo from Amazon

A $22 credit appeared in my  Amazon account the day Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive, came out, so I immediately purchased it.  I’ve been attempting (and failing) to work my way through the ever-popular Lean In, and I wanted to see what Sheryl Sandberg’s peer had to say. Sandberg has a message of jumping into work, and Huffington has a metric of adding more balance to working hard, an idea I like better.

Huffington calls thriving the “third metric” of success, after money and power. She explains that she, and many other top CEOs and execs are considered “successful” based on standard parameters like money and power, but their lives reflect exhaustion, a lack of interpersonal connection, and poor health.  She says money and power are two legs of a stool, and without the third metric of thriving, a successful person’s life is unbalanced and they’ll eventually topple. 

The purpose of the book is to expound on what thriving actually means, and how we can attain it in our overworked, overscheduled lives.  Huffington divides thriving into four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.  Experiments, science, research, and personal stories (both hers and other high powered execs) underscore the importance of focusing on these four items in everyday life. 

My favorite chapter was the well-being one, which delves into the benefits of meditating, mindfulness, exercise, and connection.  Huffington talks about the idea of a centered place of peace being within each of us, and how to get there.  It’s a truth that’s seen in a lot of religions, including my personal one of Catholicism, and something I definitely need to continue to work on.   Reading this chapter, and the rest of the book, reminded me to put my focus on the moment I was living, and helped me to calm down a bit and stop jumping ahead to the future.  It alleviated some of the constant “rush-rush-rush” I feel in my daily life. 

It’s important to me to see a successful woman in charge of a powerful company discussing the need for us to all take care of ourselves. Too much connectivity, too much working, too much phones and Internet drives me a little crazy and I think has a lot of negative impacts on humanity, and a private sector leader getting behind the idea of calming it down could hopefully be the start of cultural changes.  

What I liked too about this book was that it was kind of an ode to her late mother.  Huffington’s mother seems full of wisdom and insight, and the little clips and stories added a great human touch to the book. 

Loved this one and recommend everyone read it!!

4.15.2014

Easter Menu

Easter will be at my cousins’ this year, but that hasn’t stopped me from putting together my own little Easter brunch menu. Below, some of my favorite recipes from this blog that make a perfect Easter afternoon.
 

The Menu:
What's on your Easter menu?

4.14.2014

Passover Coconut Macaroons

Today I have a last minute Passover classic for you- coconut macaroons. Perfect for throwing together at the last minute, since they take less than five minutes to put together and only 25 to bake. 


Coconut Macaroons, from Food Network Magazine
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 14oz bag sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted 

Preheat your oven to 325 and line two aluminum baking sheets with parchment paper. (I used a Silpat, which I do not recommend, as the macaroons stuck a bit).

In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, salt, and almond extract until combined. Fold in coconut until evenly coated with egg white mixture.

Using a tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop heaping tablespoons of mixture onto baking sheet. Push together with your hands if necessary to keep it neat. 


Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned.  Let cool fully on baking sheet. 



To decorate, melt chocolate chips in microwave. Once macaroons are completely cooled, use a fork to drizzle melted chocolate over macaroons. Let set until dry and serve. 

4.10.2014

Spring Sides: Green Beans and Favas with Parmesan


This is an example of a dish born on the spur of the moment. My family was coming for dinner and I planned to make a side of roasted broccoli, only I completely forgot to pick up the broccoli at Shoprite. 
 
Not inclined to go back there, I rummaged around the fridge and found some fresh green beans, and frozen favas. I decided to combine the two in the simplest way possible: a simple sauté with garlic, topped with Parmesan. 
 
The result was bright and springy, and the Parmesan was a great touch. I shaved it over the dish with a vegetable peeler, and it melted deliciously into the hot beans.  I think we all fought over the pieces with the most cheese! 
 
One note- I used a bag of frozen shelled favas from Trader Joe’s, but I prefer favas shelled twice, so after blanching I went through the ridiculous step of secondary peeling. I’m a perfectionist, I wanted to see the bright green!
 
This makes a perfect Easter side dish.
 
Green Beans and Favas with Parmesan, by me
Serves 6 as a side dish
 
1 lb skinny green beans
1 cup frozen pre-shelled fava beans
Parmesan cheese, to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 big cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl filled with cold water and ice. 
 
Drop in your green beans, and boil for 1-2 minutes, until they just lose their vegetal taste but remain crisp. Lift out using a skimmer and immerse immediately into ice water.  Keep water boiling. 
 
Add fava beans to boiling water, and cook about 3 minutes. Remove to ice water and let cool completely.  Peel second shell, if desired. 
 
At this point, beans can be prepared a day ahead. (I like to store them in the skillet I’m going to cook them in, so when my guests are over I can just pull out the whole thing and go).
 
When ready to cook, combine olive oil butter in skillet and melt over medium high heat. Add pepper flakes and garlic, and sauté until garlic is golden brown. Add green beans and sauté 5 minutes, until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
 
Place in a serving bowl, and using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan cheese over the beans. (Alternately, use grated cheese). Add as much as you want, and enjoy!

4.09.2014

Passover Recipe Roundup

Passover is around the corner, and though I’m not hosting, I wanted to provide a roundup of some of my favorite Passover recipes. This is a meat menu, so no dairy here.
 
Saveur's tahini dip with crudites is a great healthy, non-dairy appetizer.
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I don’t start a Jewish holiday dinner without making Smitten Kitchen's matzo ball soup. Everyone loves it, and it's super easy.
 photo matzoresize2_zpsaac87d64.jpg


I know brisket is traditional (and here’s my favorite brisket recipe), but I love the idea of serving a chicken tagine, like Food52's,'s, instead. Like brisket, it can be prepared in advance and reheated, but chicken is a little lighter for the springtime (and a change of pace from every other Jewish holiday).

Couscous makes a perfect (and easy!) side dish for that, as does a nice springtime roasted asparagus


Potato kugel, like the one here from Food and Wine, is substantial, especially if you have vegetarians attending, and can be made the night before.
 
Round it all out with a salad of your choice and a stack of matzo, and serve some classic and simple coconut macaroons for dessert.
 

 
**Please note I am not Jewish and my husband’s family is not observant of any dietary laws so this menu works for us. If anything is really nonkosher, my apologies!

4.04.2014

Fashion Friday: Caring for Leather Boots

I don’t know about you, but I consider good shoes an investment. I spent close to $300 on my Frye boots, intending to get at least five years’ use out of them.  So far, they’re holding up well, though it takes a little effort on my part. 
When spring arrives, I like to handle all the maintenance on my boots to ensure they’re put away in good shape and ready to go in the fall.  
Here’s my tips on caring for your leather boots:
Remove winter:

I live in an urban area, so road salt has attacked my favorite shoes. 

The good news is, it’s easy to remove these salt lines yourself. Simply mix equal parts white vinegar and water together, dip a clean cloth in them, and rub along the salt lines. Then, dip another clean cloth in water and go over one more time. Let the boots dry, and the salt marks will be gone. 
Condition the leather:  

Invest in leather treatment products and regularly condition your leather. Certain brands, such as Frye, sell products formulated to work best with their materials. 
Take bigger fixes to a pro:
This is a good time to have any non-DIY repairs done: resoling, fixing zippers, touching up ripped seams. Repairs can take your shoes out of commission for up to a week, have them done when you won’t want to wear the shoes.
Find a reputable cobbler (seriously- don’t just go to the cheapest dry cleaner, find an actual cobbler), and bring your shoes over. Depending on what you need done, it could cost you upwards of $50. But if the boots cost $300, and the repair gets you another couple of years, it’s a good investment. 
You can also have your cobbler take care of the conditioning and stain removal above, for an additional cost. 
Storing: 
I like to use boot shapers to help my boots hold their shape, otherwise they wind up tossed and creased at the bottom of my closet. If you still have the original shoebox, keep them in there as well, to avoid dust.  I also toss a little Gold Bond in the shoe to keep them fresh.  Cedar boot shapers would accomplish that too.
Finally, if you’re purchasing any new boots in end of season sales, it’s a good idea to take them to a cobbler before you wear them and have a thin rubber strip added to the sole to protect it and prolong its life.