Category:  Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains)

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Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On November 9, 2011 0 Comments

On Thanksgiving Day, while sipping some “vino” with my guests, we’ll make this risotto together. It’s so easy – every time a cup of broth is added to the rice, I’ll pass the wooden spoon to one of my friends so they can do the stirring, aka “all the hard work”.

By adding bits of butternut squash to this “delizioso” risotto, you’ll find a sweet surprise in every spoonful. And with a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, this first course is to die for. Buon Appetito!

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 (as a first course) / 8 to 10 (as an appetizer course)

Ingredients:
3 cups freshly diced butternut squash (raw)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 pound Arborio rice*
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
0.250 grams saffron powder (not saffron threads)*
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt & ground black pepper, to taste
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1. In a 2 to 3-quart saucepot, combine squash with cold water (add enough water to cover the squash).

2. Bring to a boil. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and cook 7 to 8 minutes until squash is fork-tender.

3. Drain squash and set aside in a bowl.

4. Meanwhile, in an 8 to 10-quart stockpot, heat the oil. Add onion and garlic; sauté on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until onion is translucent.

5. Stir in the rice and 1 cup of broth. Cook, on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Repeat adding one cup of broth at a time and cooking 2 minutes until broth is absorbed.

6. Stir in the wine and saffron; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until wine is absorbed.

7. Stir in 1 cup broth; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until broth is absorbed.

8. Repeat broth addition and cooking instructions 5 to 6 more times or until rice is tender-firm (not overcooked).

9. Stir in the butter, salt and pepper. When butter has been absorbed, add the squash, stirring until warmed through.

Serve immediately in individual bowls. Ask guests to add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (optional).

Wine pairing suggestion: Chilled Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio (whites).

*Arborio rice and Saffron powder can be found in most supermarkets or in specialty foods stores.

Text & Photograph © 2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Cuban Black Beans & Rice

Cuban Black Beans & Rice (Moros y Cristianos or Congri)

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains), Vegetables On July 29, 2011 0 Comments

The Spanish name for this rice dish is “Moros y Cristianos” – Moors and Christians. The black beans represent the “Moors” and the rice refers to “Christians”. The dish’s name may be inspired by early Cuban settlers’ referral to the Islamic conquest of Spain in both the 8th and 15th centuries. Another version of this dish (rooted in the African Haitian culture and later brought to Cuba) is known as “Congri”, wherein “congo” is the black bean and “riz” is the rice.

Whatever the origin or the name, the light infusion of onion, cumin and oregano elevate this rice dish to that of a refined delicacy. I’ll also share this – once my Cuban friend, Maria Elena, explained the process for making this seemingly difficult dish, it suddenly became quite simple to me.

Active prep time: 35 to 40 (for the beans); 15 to 20 minutes for the rice
Inactive prep time: Overnight soaking (for the beans)
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 cup dry, uncooked black beans
6 cups cold water
2 whole bay leaves
½ medium white or brown onion
1 clove garlic, whole
¼ green bell pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup long grain, uncooked rice
¼ teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 1½ teaspoon salt

1. Rinse the beans in cold water and drain. Place beans in a 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl with 6 cups cold water. Cover and soak on a countertop or table overnight.

2. In a 6-quart saucepot, combine the soaked beans (including soaking water) with the bay leaves.

3. Bring to a boil and cook, semi-covered, on low heat 35 to 38 minutes or until beans are tender but not broken or mashed (the beans should simmer or boil gently).

4. Drain the beans and set them aside in a bowl. Reserve 2 to 2½ cups of the cooking liquid in a small bowl. Add enough cold water to measure 3 cups liquid altogether. Set aside.

5. In a food processor, finely mince the onion, garlic and ¼ of the bell pepper; set mixture aside.

6. In a 12-inch, nonstick skillet heat the oil. Stir in the onion mixture and sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until onion mixture is translucent.

7. Add the beans, rice, 2½ cups liquid, oregano, cumin and the lesser amount of salt. Stir once.

8. Cover and cook on low heat (without stirring) for 15 to 20 minutes.

9. After 15 minutes taste the bean and rice mixture. If rice is not fully cooked, sprinkle ¼ cup of the liquid over rice mixture, cover and cook an additional 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt level, if necessary.

10. Serve alongside any meat, fish or poultry dish or as part of a vegetarian meal.

Wine pairing suggestion: Chilled Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or Trebbiano (whites).

Text & Photograph © Nancy DeLucia Real 2011

Penne with Cilantro Pesto & Edamame

Penne with Cilantro Pesto & Edamame

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On April 28, 2011 0 Comments

ENTER OUR KITCHEN, WATCH & LEARN

Although I don’t enjoy getting my hands full of dirt, I love grabbing kitchen shears and heading to my husband’s organic herb garden. Just last week, I looked for some fresh basil so that I could make traditional basil pesto, but harvested bunches of parsley and cilantro instead. By adding edamame to my novelty pesto sauce, I created this aromatic and exotic pasta dish.

Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes (for pesto); 8 to 10 minutes (for cooking pasta & edamame)
Makes: 1 to 2 cups Cilantro Pesto
Serves: 4 to 6

For the Cilantro Pesto:
2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed
2 cups lightly packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and hearts removed
1½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole, natural almonds (skin on)
½ cup extra virgin olive
½ cup vegetable oil

1. Measure cilantro and parsley leaves; set aside.

2. In a food processor, grind the garlic and the salt.

3. Add cilantro and parsley leaves and process until finely chopped.

4. Add the almonds and grind.

5. Combine both oils in a measuring cup and, with motor running on low speed, pour the oils in a slow, steady stream until a paste or “pesto” forms.

6. Transfer the pesto to a glass jar and gently spoon extra vegetable oil on top to seal (this prevents blackening). Cover with a tightly fitting lid and refrigerate.

For the Pasta:
1 pound penne pasta (or other short variety)
¾ to 1 teaspoon salt
1 to 1½ cups frozen edamame
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (optional)

1. In a 5-quart saucepot, bring 3½ cups water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt; cook on medium-high, uncovered, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. After 8 minutes, add frozen edamame to the pasta during the last minute or two of cooking.

3. Meanwhile, spoon 2/3 cup Cilantro Pesto into a large glass or porcelain serving bowl; set aside.

4. When pasta and edamame are cooked and drained, toss them immediately with the pesto in bowl. Taste and adjust salt and extra virgin olive oil level. For a creamier consistency, add 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream.

5. Serve in individual bowls. If desired, sprinkle lightly with Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese – too much cheese will conflict with the distinct aroma and flavor of cilantro.

Wine pairing: Chilled Pinot Grigio (white) or Bordeaux (red).

Notes: If a stronger cilantro flavor is desired, change the amounts of cilantro and parsley – use 2½ cups cilantro and 1½ cups parsley leaves.

Each time pesto is taken out of the jar, be sure to add a thin layer of vegetable oil to remaining pesto in jar. Seal the jar and refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Text and Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Hot Mac N' Cheese Wheels

Hot Mac N’ Cheese Wheels

In Fun Foods, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On January 21, 2011 2 Comments

Yesterday, I received lots of compliments on this classic American dish. I must say that my gourmet colleagues and friends at the museum definitely have “the palate”. As stated by one Mac N’ Cheese connoisseur, Lilit, “First, I tasted the Parmigiano, then the Gruyère … and the sharp Cheddar, which lingered – BTW, I love Gruyère.” When I asked Jen (another expert on this dish) if the Cheddar stood out too much, she stated, “That’s what I really liked about it – the sharp Cheddar taste!” Noelle, an initiator of the Mac N’ Cheese rage at our workplace, chimed in with, “Your Mac N’ Cheese was to die for! And the hint of jalapeño was perfect!”

I softened the blow on the jalapeño by adding a mere tablespoon, but I normally triple the amount – hence the name of this fabulous dish – Hot Mac N’ Cheese Wheels. So when you get the wheels rollin’ on this recipe just tweak it your way and have fun!

Active prep time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1 pound pasta (short variety)
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely minced white or brown onion
1 to 3 tablespoons finely minced jalapeño pepper (optional)
1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk (whole or 2% reduced fat)
Dash ground nutmeg
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped green onion or chives (for garnish)

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2. In a 5-quart mixing bowl, combine the Parmigiano Reggiano, Cheddar and Gruyère cheeses. Reserve 1 cup for the topping.

3. In a 5-quart saucepot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil.

4. Stir in the pasta, 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook, uncovered, on medium heat 8 to 9 minutes or until pasta is “al dente” (crunchy tender) – do not overcook.

5. While pasta cooks, melt butter in an 8-quart saucepot on medium-high heat. Immediately stir in the onion and jalapeño pepper and set heat on medium.

6. When onion is translucent, quickly whisk in the flour followed by the cream and milk.

7. Bring cream-milk mixture to a simmer, about 1 minute.

8. After 1 minute, whisk in the cheese mixture (minus the reserved portion), the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and black pepper.

9. Using a wooden spoon, stir the cream-cheese mixture until it comes to a simmer.

10. When cream-cheese mixture comes to a simmer, gently fold in the cooked and drained pasta to combine.

11. Carefully transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture to a buttered 10 X 13-inch baking dish – sprinkle top evenly with reserved cheese.

12. Place baking dish with macaroni and cheese on a rack set in center of oven and bake 20 minutes.

13. After 20 minutes, change oven setting to “broil”.

14. Broil top of macaroni and cheese for 5 minutes or until the Hot Mac N’ Cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately, garnished with green onion or chives.

Wine pairing suggestion: chilled Pinot Grigio, Bordeaux (whites); or Malbec, Bordeaux.

Note: If the cheddar cheese flavor is too strong for you, replace it with 1/2 cup Gruyère or Mozzarella cheese.

Pasta in photo: DeCecco® Rotelle (Italian for “wheels”).

Text and Photographs ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Gnocchi Duo

Gnocchi Duo

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On November 4, 2010 0 Comments

In Italian cuisine, gnocchi are treated as a first course and are featured among the pasta dishes on a menu. Classic gnocchi are made of potatoes and flour and served with different sauces. Since it’s difficult for me to be limited to one sauce and one flavor, I serve gnocchi with a duo of sauces. This recipe calls for a tomato sauce and a walnut-olive oil drizzle over the gnocchi. It’s simple to make and a delight to the eye and palate.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 3 to 4

Ingredients:
One pound (16 ounces) ready-made gnocchi (vacuum-packed or frozen)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup tomato sauce, made ahead (see tomato sauce recipe for spaghetti, previously published on this blog on 8-25-10)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dash ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly ground walnuts
4 walnut halves (for garnish)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. In a 5-quart saucepot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and salt.

2. Cook on medium-high heat, uncovered, until gnocchi rise to the surface (about 3 to 4 minutes).

3. Transfer saucepot to a cool surface. With a slotted spoon, gently remove gnocchi from water, dividing them equally among three or four dinner plates.

4. Working with one plate of gnocchi at a time, drizzle one tablespoon of the oil on half of the gnocchi, followed by some black pepper and a sprinkle of walnuts.

5. Garnish with a walnut half. Spoon some tomato on other half of the gnocchi in plate and garnish with a parsley sprig.

6. Repeat with remaining plates of gnocchi. Ask each guest to add their own cheese.

Wine suggestion: Bordeaux (red or white).

Note: Do not overcook gnocchi, as they will become mushy and fall apart. When buying gnocchi, you may have to experiment with different brands until you find one that you like.

My favorite Italian brands are: Ferrara® and DeCecco®. Both varieties are vacuum-packed and found in the pasta section of supermarkets or international markets.

As for a frozen brand, I recently found La Salteña® gnocchi at an Argentine market/restaurant called Buenos Aires, located in Van Nuys, California.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real