What’s for Dinner? Risotto, step-by-step.


Pantry meals have been saving the day around here as recent snowstorms (and a good dose of laziness) have kept us from venturing out to the market. We’ve covered comfort foods from the pantry such as pancakes with homemade syrup, as well as winter pizza, and today I’m sharing another staple: risotto.

Chicken stock in the freezer, butter and cheese in the fridge, and rice, onions, and vermouth in the pantry, this is one dish I always have all the components for. And on blustery February days, risotto is the perfect one-pot dinner to stir together.

Add-ins always vary based on what I have or don’t have on hand. Frozen peas make a frequent appearance, as do leeks, butternut squash, and the occasional handful of dehydrated morel mushrooms. My mother brings me a few jars every time she visits; they’ve been picked from her Northern BC acreage and are truly a taste of home.

Basic Risotto, with a few favorite add-ins.

Recipes, methods and ingredients all vary for risotto, and I won’t go all Gordon Ramsay on you and curse if you don’t make risotto exactly my way. I would give you a warm squeeze, however, and encourage you to try my recipe, down to the last drop of vermouth.

It’s bloody good.

Staple Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup vermouth, or white wine
  • 1.5 litres (6 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
  • salt and pepper

Extras:

  • 1 cup dried morel mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Prep:

  • Grate Parmesan cheese.
  • Finely chop red onion.
  • Heat chicken stock to a simmer and locate a ladle.
  • Pour a bit of hot stock over morels and let stand 10 minutes. Then drain, reserving the liquid, and set aside. Liquid can be returned to the chicken stock.
  • Rehydrate saffron threads in a little hot stock, if using.

Method:

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 3T of butter and olive oil together over medium heat.

2. When butter is bubbling, add onion and stir to combine. Sauté onions for about ten minutes until soft and translucent. Stir occasionally, and do not allow onions to brown.

3. Add rice all at once and stir thoroughly. You want rice to be completely coated in butter and give each grain a chance to be toasted. This takes about one minute.

4. Add vermouth and stir well. Cook for another minute or two until most of the liquid evaporates.


5. Add several ladlefuls of hot stock to the rice. Be careful, as it will steam viciously. Stir well. Add saffron threads and liquid. Keep heat on medium and continue adding stock slowly and stirring thoroughly. Risotto will take about 15 minutes to cook. You may need more liquid, in which case, just add more hot water.


6. Taste risotto grains as you go along. When they are tender, but still with a slight bite to them, you can add the rest of the ingredients. Stir in morel mushrooms and most of the Parmesan. Stir gently to combine. Do NOT over stir, as risotto will become gummy instead of creamy.

7. Taste risotto and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. This is important to do after the cheese has been added, as it will contribute significantly to the saltiness of the dish.

8. Finish risotto with the last tablespoon of butter. Transfer to a serving bowl, if using, and top with remaining Parmesan. Dig in with a spoon and enjoy.

Grilled Portabello & Radicchio Bruschetta with Chevre


When it comes to grilling, I will willingly admit I am not the queen of the barbecue.

Perhaps it’s because I never made it all the way down the line to the grill when I worked in professional kitchens. I always got hung up on the fish station, just past the hot entrees. Roasted lobster tails, delicate quail breasts and juicy raw scallops all fell under my knife, but I never got to hear the sizzle of the grill as it marked slab after slab of red meat.


Then we lived in a downtown apartment for several years. There’s not much room on a tiny Plateau balcony for a barbecue, especially with all the herbs I grew. Again, no grill experience for this girl.

Eventually I found myself in semi-suburbia, with two kids, my trusty tongs from the old restaurant days, and –uh oh!– a grill.

Now, thanks to inspiration from the kind folks at Sobeys, who sent me a grocery gift card and practically propelled me in the direction my barbecue, I’m bringing you a couple of grilling recipes that I feel confident about.

First up is this bruschetta, my interpretation of a Sobeys recipe for a warm grilled radicchio salad. I can definitely stand behind this bruschetta, with it’s warm chevre, silky portabello mushrooms, and chewy bread.

Perfect for a warm summer night, all it needs is a glass of red wine to keep it company.

Grilled Portabello & Radicchio Bruschetta with Chevre

Don’t be nervous about the bitterness of radicchio. The grilling brings out this green’s sweeter side, and the balsamic vinaigrette add the perfect balance.

Serves 4 as a light lunch

  • 1 pkg (350g) Compliments Organic Portabello mushrooms*
  • 1 medium head radicchio, sliced into 8 wedges
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Sensations by Complements Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena*
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted (or 1 T. capers)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 Complements French-Style loaf, cut diagonally into 1-inch slices*
  • butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup chevre or soft cheese of your choosing


Brush mushrooms and radicchio lightly in olive oil and grill over medium heat until mushroom are soft and radicchio is wilted. Remove from grill and roughly chop.

Transport to a bowl and add the olive oil, balsamic, olives and parsley. Toss together and season with salt and pepper.

Butter bread lightly and grill until slightly charred. Transfer to a pizza pan or heatproof serving platter.

Lower the heat on the grill.


Mound radicchio & portabello mixture on top of grilled bread and dot with chevre.

Place pan with bruschettas back on the grill and lower the lid of the barbeque. Turn off grill and allow the cheese to soften and the entire bruschetta to warm.

Pour wine, serve bruschetta and enjoy!

*Disclaimer: So, yep, the folks at Sobeys sent me a gift card and I went shopping for ingredients! Everything to make this meal was purchased at my local IGA, including the Complements products.

You can find plenty more inspiration for summer meals on their website.

Meatless Monday and ‘Kitchen Scraps’ Giveaway Winner!


Before I divulge the winner of my Kitchen Scraps giveaway, let me first give you your Meatless Monday inspiration. (If you’re visiting for the first time, you can read here about our forays into vegetarian cooking and how we got started.)

This week’s recipe is over at Simple Bites, and is an old family favorite. Can you guess what it might be by the ingredients assembled in the photo above?

Head here the get the full story and a simple, seasonal meatless recipe.


Thank you to all who left comments on my interview with Pierre Lamielle!

In the end there can be only one winner, and that person is chosen by random.org.

So, the winner of the award-winning cookbook ‘Kitchen Scraps‘ is…

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Gale Reeves!
Congratulations, Gale! You have been notified via email.

Thanks again to everyone for reading and entering the giveaway. Remember, even though you didn’t win, you can still catch Pierre’s work and recipes on his blog, Kitchen Scraps.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! I’m off to assemble a fondant-covered, three-tiered, vanilla-bean layer cake that is supposed to serve 80 people this afternoon at my nephew’s baptism celebration. Tootles!

Meatless Monday: Asparagus & Tomato Pizza with Pesto


I feel oh-so-lame telling you to go elsewhere after you’ve been so kind to drop by Under the High Chair, but the staples of today’s Meatless Monday recipe are a still a click away.

Last week was hot, dang hot. Fortunately, I was prepared, thanks to my post on Warm Weather Batch Cooking over at Simple Bites. Both pesto and pizza dough were stashed in the freezer, making Monday’s meatless option pretty obvious.


Roll dough, slather with pesto, top with mozzarella, snap a few asparagus spears on top and finish with diced fresh tomato. Cook pizza on the barbecue to help keep the house cool, plus get that charred, crusty bottom on the pizza that is so, so good.

Serve on the shady back deck, with strawberry limeade made from the first local berries and the not-very-local limes. Toss your crusts to Mr & Mrs. Mallard who flew in half-way through dinner and stayed for dessert.


Head here for the pizza dough and pesto recipes. You probably won’t want to miss the Strawberry-Limeade either.

Friends, I do believe summer has arrived.

Meatless Monday: Falafal & Pita


In case you missed this full disclosure communiqué, we are now embracing one meatless meal a week, in conjunction with the official Meatless Monday movement.

We’re actually eating more like 2-3 meatless meals a week, and so far there are no complaints.

Let me just state for the record, Meatless Monday was no invention of mine. Apparently there was some confusion on the subject, and I can’t take credit for this global crusade.

(Wordless Wednesday isn’t mine either, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few people thinking that is was my creation.)


Chickpeas. Yep, I mashed them, seasoned them, shaped them into patties and baked them with a bit of bacon fat. Which felt weird. Like I was defeating the purpose of cooking vegetarian. But the falafal tasted amazing.

We stuffed the patties in organic whole-wheat pitas, crammed fresh vegetables in along side and enjoyed everything topped with sour cream. Tzatziki would have been even better.

Head over to Chow Vegan for the recipe, but please, don’t compare photos!


One note on the recipe: I didn’t have a sprig of fresh herbs in the house (recipe calls for parsley & cilantro) so I threw a handful of dried mint from my mother’s potager into my mortar and pestle and crushed it up. It always amazed me how these home-grown, home-dried herbs retain their fragrance and flavor.

The mint was subtle and delicious in the falafal. I would use it again.

Enjoy your Meatless Monday! Its a holiday here in Canada–and I’m in the mood to grill. Please pass along ideas for fabulous vegetarian grillables!