Pesto-ish Risotto

Every fall, black swallowtail caterpillars takeover my backyard basil plants. I needed to make this basil-loaded dish before sharing my plants with them. :/

This risotto was rich, creamy, and hearty. The absolute highlight of the finished dish was the crispy garlic and pan-toasted pine nut topping. Loved it.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Christian Reynoso. I adapted the original recipe to prepare it in a pressure cooker. Easy and elegant.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 5 to 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, divided
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (loosely packed) basil leaves (from 1 large bunch), torn into 1″ pieces
  • shaved or finely grated Parmesan, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 5 or 7 quart pressure cooker over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until grains are partially translucent, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cloves of garlic slices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add all of the unheated stock; stir.
  5. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat.
  6. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 7 minutes.
  7. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the pot under running cold water. (I used a quick release method.)
  8. Carefully open the lid, being careful of the steam. The stock should be almost completely absorbed but the rice will be covered with a thick layer of milky broth. (more stock can be added at this point if the risotto appears too thick)
  9. Meanwhile, cook the remaining 6 cloves of garlic slices, olive oil, and pine nuts in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts to turn golden around edges. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring often, until pine nuts and garlic are golden, about 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat; stir in turmeric and season with pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  11. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the Parmesan rind, if using, into the risotto. Season with salt, to taste.
  12. Stir the freshly squeezed lemon juice into the risotto and add freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  13. Stir basil into risotto.
  14. Ladle risotto, discarding the Parmesan rind, into shallow bowls. Top with garlic–pine nut oil and Parmesan. Serve.

Shortcut Chicken Fatteh

I have another rotisserie chicken dish to share. Rotisserie chicken meat is used as a shortcut to prepare this delicious Middle Eastern dish. I also used store-bought pita chips in the topping. It was very quick to pull together on a weeknight- fast, crowd-pleasing comfort food. 🙂

The topping was the absolute highlight. Quite often, the bread is layered in the base of this dish. This adaptation reverses the sequence in which the finished dish is plated so that the bread and nuts provide a crispy contrast to the brothy base. Great.

The recipe was adapted from everylittlecrumb.com. I used fresh herbs and pita chips in the topping. I also modified the method and proportions and made the lemon-garlic-yogurt sauce ahead of time to heighten the flavors.

Chickpeas and/or roasted eggplant cubes can be substituted for the shredded chicken to make a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 6

For the Chicken & Rice:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, meat shredded
  • 4 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 cup white rice (I used Aahu Barah Basmati rice)

For the Topping:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 loaves pita bread, cut into cubes (can substitute store-bought pita chips)
  • 2 cups yogurt (I used a combination of whole milk yogurt and fat-free Greek yogurt)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon, or more, to taste

To Garnish:

  • paprika
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or almond slivers, toasted
  • 3 to 4 T chopped parsley and/or mint
  • olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. Prepare the chicken by shredding the rotisserie chicken meat.
  2. In a sauté pan, warm the shredded chicken meat in 2 cups of the chicken stock; keep on low heat until serving so the chicken warms through.
  3. Cook the rice in the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock.
  4. To Make the Pita Chips: Toast the pita bread in the oven by placing in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, and drizzling well with olive oil and tossing to combine. Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown, and set aside. (I substituted store-bought pita chips, broken into cubes.)
  5. Mix together the yogurt with the crushed garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Stir well to combine. (I made this in advance and kept it in the refrigerator.) Adjust the seasoning and amount of lemon juice, to taste, before serving.
  6. Assemble by placing the rice in the base of a deep serving dish. Pour some- or all of- the chicken stock over the top, and scatter the shredded chicken evenly.
  7. Dollop the garlic yogurt on top and smooth out, then top with the crispy pita chips.
  8. Garnish with paprika, chopped parsley and mint, and toasted nuts. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Arugula Salad with Peaches, Basil, Goat Cheese & Pine Nuts

I have a quite a few summer recipes to share. 🙂  I loved this simple salad so much, I had to post it first. I’ve already made it a couple of times! It is composed of many of my seasonal favorites. Bright, fresh, creamy, crunchy and absolutely perfect.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Lidey Heuck. I used half of the dressing. I made the salad with white peach slices, but it would also be wonderful with sliced nectarines or mango. The author also suggested substituting cherries, strawberries, plums, raspberries or even cherry tomatoes. Lovely.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer or side salad

  • 1/4 cup (4 T) pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 to 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 T champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 2 ripe peaches, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
  • 2 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup), plus more to taste
  1. In a small sauté pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, tossing often, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. (I used a small cast iron skillet.) Remove from the heat.
  2. In a small liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. (I used 4 T olive oil and 2 T vinegar but used about half of the dressing on the salad and reserved the remaining dressing.)
  3. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Pour just enough dressing over the greens to moisten, and toss to coat.
  4. Add the peaches, basil, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts and toss to coat.
  5. Toss gently and serve immediately.

Greek Stuffing

I have gone to a hair salon owned by a lovely Greek family for many years. Beyond being a relaxing experience to just be there, we often discuss food and new restaurants- it’s great. After hearing about this Greek Thanksgiving stuffing for almost as many years, I finally got the treasured family recipe. 🙂

This dish is reminiscent of one of my son’s favorite rice and meat dishes, Thai One-Pot, with a Greek twist. It incorporates cinnamon, raisins, roasted chestnuts, as well as pine nuts.

My friends eat it as part of their Thanksgiving feast, but it is also hearty enough to be served as a main course. We ate it for dinner with roasted broccoli on the side. I modified the original recipe by using fresh mushrooms and ground turkey instead of ground beef. It was very unique and delicious!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup flat parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 24 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup white Basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 13 oz organic roasted, peeled chestnuts, crumbled lightly
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pound ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 turkey liver or 2 chicken livers, finely chopped
  • 1-2 T ground cinnamon
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 T freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a 14-inch skillet.
  2. Add the chopped celery and onion; sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley, and continue to sauté for another minute.
  3. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the rice: In a medium pot, bring chicken stock, rice, and 1/2 tsp salt to a simmer. Add the chestnuts, crushed tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins, and cinnamon stick; mix. Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes. (I used an enameled cast iron pot so that I could use it to finish the dish.)
  5. While the rice is cooking, add the olive oil to the hot 14-inch skillet, followed by the ground meat and chopped liver.
  6. Season the meat with 1 T salt, 1/2 T black pepper, and 1 T ground cinnamon. Cook until no longer pink, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  7. When the rice is tender, remove the cinnamon stick.
  8. Add the onion, celery, and mushroom mixture to the cooked meat, followed by the cooked rice mixture. Stir to incorporate.
  9. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Ottolenghi’s Zucchini “Baba Ghanoush”

I knew that I had to make this as a special appetizer after seeing it on Chef Mimi’s blog. It sounded so interesting- a baba ghanoush without eggplant or tahini, but with zucchini, yogurt, and Roquefort cheese. The charred zucchini resembled bananas when they were peeled; cooking it this way gave it smokiness.

It may not be absolutely beautiful, but it was absolutely delicious. Ottolenghi describes its appearance as “rather like a volcanic eruption.” 🙂 It was a little bit time-consuming to prepare, but was worth every bit of time and effort.

This recipe was adapted from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used French whole milk plain yogurt instead of goat’s milk yogurt and used regular chile flakes instead of Urfa chile flakes. I also crumbled the cheese rather than grating it. I definitely plan to make it again- we loved it. Incredible.

Yield: Serves 6 as a starter or as part of a mezze selection

  • 5 large zucchini (about 2.75 pounds/1.2 kg)
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 T (15 g) coarsely crumbled Roquefort cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 T (20 g) pine nuts
  • pinch of chile flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed in a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp za’atar, to finish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • warm naan, for serving
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet lined with foil and broil for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking, until the skin crisps and browns nicely.
  3. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel off the zucchini skin, discard it, and set the flesh aside in a colander to drain. The zucchini can be served warm or at room temperature.
  4. Put the yogurt in a small saucepan with the Roquefort and egg. Heat very gently for about 3 minutes, stirring often. You want the yogurt to heat through but not quite reach the simmering point. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. Melt the butter in a small sauté pan with the pine nuts over low heat and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the nuts turn golden brown. Stir in the chile flakes and lemon juice and set aside.
  6. Put the zucchini in a bowl and add the garlic, a scant 1/2 tsp coarse salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Gently mash everything together with a fork and then spread the mixture out on a large serving platter.
  7. Spoon the warm yogurt sauce on top, followed by a drizzle of the warm chile butter and the pine nuts.
  8. Finish with a sprinkle of za’atar and serve at once with warm naan.

One Year Ago: Vegetarian Harira

Two Years Ago: Mushroom Spinach Soup with Middle Eastern Spices

Three Years Ago: Orecchiette with Carrot-Hazelnut Pesto

Four Years Ago: Saffron Pappardelle with Moroccan Spiced Shallot-Butter Sauce and  Clams Casino

Five Years Ago: Israeli Couscous with Spinach & Onions

Grilled Swordfish with Za’atar Salsa Verde

I love a fresh herb sauce. This Middle Eastern variation on a classic salsa verde brightened up the grilled fish. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with sautéed collard greens and green kale on the side.

This dish was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alon Shaya. I used homemade za’atar. I also used swordfish in lieu of red snapper, grilling instead of broiling, and modified the proportions in the salsa verde. Healthy and tasty. 🙂

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 6-ounce swordfish steaks, patted dry
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Toast pine nuts in a 400 degree oven (I used a toaster oven.) or a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop, if desired.
  2. Heat a gas grill or broiler. Season fish with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with coriander.
  3. Drizzle 1 T oil onto one side of the fish, flip and repeat on the opposite side. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill fish until cooked through, about 3-4 min per side for a 1″ thick steak. (Alternatively, place fish on a small rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, about 8–10 minutes.)
  5. Meanwhile, mix together cilantro, parsley, garlic, za’atar, red pepper flakes, and remaining 4 T olive oil in a mini food processor or small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir lemon juice and pine nuts into salsa verde and spoon over fish.

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Herbed Pappardelle with Asparagus & Burrata

My husband and I are obsessed with burrata- especially with asparagus. Such a heavenly combination!

Naturally, as I am also such a pasta fan, this dish caught my eye right away. It was fresh and especially wonderful to make in backyard herb season. This recipe was adapted from a Food and Wine “staff favorite” recipe, contributed by Grace Parisi. I doubled the asparagus, substituted fresh pappardelle for fazzoletti, and omitted the chervil. Yum!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 3/4 cup parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 2 T snipped chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 T tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 T chervil leaves, plus more for garnish, optional
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound fresh pasta sheets, cut into 3-inch squares (fazzoletti) or fresh pappardelle
  • 1/4 cup raw pine nuts, preferably Italian
  • 8 to 10 ounces burrata or buffalo mozzarella, cut into cubes
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the 3/4 cup of parsley with the 2 tablespoons each of chives, tarragon and chervil (if using). Pulse until chopped.
  2. Add the lemon juice and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the oil to the herbs and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the asparagus in a colander and ease it into the boiling water. Blanch the asparagus just until bright green, about 2 minutes. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Shake dry.
  4. Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  5. In a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the pine nuts and toast over moderate heat until golden; transfer to a plate.
  6. Add the pasta, herb puree, asparagus and the pasta water to the skillet. Cook over moderate heat, tossing well.
  7. Toss in the cheese and pine nuts.
  8. Transfer to bowls and garnish with whole herbs.

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