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.

Ethiopian Chickpea Stew (Shiro Wat) & Stewed Collard Greens (Gomen Wat)

My sister introduced me to Ethiopian food many moons ago. Ever since, we have really enjoyed eating at Ethiopian restaurants but I have never prepared any dishes at home. After receiving collard greens and parsley in my CSA share, this seemed like a fitting menu to try. It could be served any time of year. For us, it was a perfect meal to serve on a rainy and cool June evening.

I loved the brightness that the grated ginger, lemon, and chopped fresh chile added to the tender, stewed collard greens after cooking. The chickpea stew recipe utilizes the genius technique of incorporating ground red lentils to thicken the base.

The recipes were adapted from 177milkstreet.com. I changed the proportions and decreased the heat intensity. I served it over rice with dollops of whole milk Greek yogurt to offset the spice. I also omitted the fresh chile garnish in the chickpea stew. In a restaurant, these dishes would be served with injera, Ethiopian flatbread.

Yield: Serves 4

For the Stewed Collard Greens (Gomen Wat):

  • 1 1/2 T ghee
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 T minced fresh ginger, divided
  • scant 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 pound stemmed collard greens, cut into 1/2-inch ribbons and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chicken, vegetable or beef stock, divided
  • 1/2 to 1 Fresno or serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Berbere Spice Blend: (you will have a little extra)

  • 1 T smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 1 /2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • scant 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • heaping 1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil, ground or crushed into a powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin

For the Chickpea Stew (Shiro Wat):

  • 2 T red lentils
  • 3 T ghee
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 to 10 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 2 T Berbere Spice Blend (above)
  • 2 15.5-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño or Fresno chile, stemmed and chopped, optional (I omitted it)
  • cooked rice, for serving, optional (I served both dishes over white Basmati rice)
  • whole milk Greek yogurt, for serving, optional
  • injera (flatbread), for serving, optional

To Make the Stewed Collard Greens:

  1. In a large pot over medium, melt the ghee. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. 
  3. Stir in the garlic, 1 tablespoon of grated ginger, the cardamom and turmeric. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
  4. Add about half of the collards and cook, stirring, until slightly wilted, then add the remaining collards.
  5. Stir the stock and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the collards are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. (I cooked it for 30 minutes.)
  6. Off heat, stir in the chopped chile, lemon juice and remaining 1/2 tablespoon ginger.
  7. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving dish.

To Make the Spice Blend:

  1. In a small bowl or jar, stir or shake together all ingredients until combined. The berbere will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot for up to 2 months. (I used a recycled glass spice jar.)

To Make the Chickpea Stew:

  1. In a spice grinder, pulse the lentils until finely ground, about 10 pulses; set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium, melt the ghee. (I used a low and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  3. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and berbere. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have given up their liquid and the mixture is beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chickpeas, ground lentils, 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Boil over medium-high, then reduce to medium and cook at a simmer, uncovered and stirring often, until the sauce clings to the chickpeas and the desired thickness and consistency is achieved, about 15 to 20 minutes. (If serving over rice, cook the rice at this time.)
  6. Off heat, stir in the parsley and chili (if using).
  7. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve the stewed collard greens and chickpea stew with injera or over rice topped with a dollop of yogurt, as desired.

Kuku Paka (Chicken & Coconut Curry)

I was happy that the weather cooled down a little bit so that I could sneak this dinner into our springtime menu. The sauce was beyond creamy and delicious. Typically, this dish is prepared with charcoal-grilled chicken; I loved that this recipe was adapted to make using the broiler instead- perfect in cooler weather.

This recipe was adapted from Let’s Eat by Zaynab Issa, via Bon Appétit. It is a wonderful version of this popular East African-Indian chicken curry. It gave my son, who is studying World History in high school, a moment to review the impact and influences of the Indian Ocean trade routes prior to 1450 with our family. 😉 In Swahili, the trade language formed across the Indian Ocean, Kuku means chicken and Paka means to smear, to spread, or to apply.

The original recipe recommends using boneless thighs but notes that any cut of chicken, or a mix of breasts, tenders, or drumsticks (with pieces of similar size), could be substituted. A mix of vegetables can also be used in lieu of chicken to create a vegetarian version. I served it over rice with steamed spinach. Fast and fabulous.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemons, divided (one for marinade & one for serving)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more (or 2 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika or Kashmiri chile powder
  • one pinch or dash of cayenne pepper (omit if using Kashmiri chile powder)
  • 2–3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 large)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1 medium jalapeño or 1–2 green Thai chiles, seeded and ribbed
  • 1/4 cup (packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) heavy cream (can substitute nondairy milk or additional coconut milk)
  • Basmati rice and/or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Finely grate the garlic cloves into a large bowl with a Microplane; alternatively, a garlic press can be used.
  2. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze juice into the bowl; discard seeds.
  3. Mix in 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 tsp Diamond Crystal) and the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper (or Kashmiri Chile powder).
  4. Add the skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 10) and toss to evenly coat.
  5. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the curry base.
  6. Coarsely chop the onion, tomato, chile(s) (depending on how spicy your chiles are and your heat tolerance), and cilantro. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend or process until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place an oven rack in the highest position. Heat the broiler. (I set my oven to Broiler+Max at 500 degrees.)
  8. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a high-sided skillet or large pot over medium. (I used a large, low, and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  9. Add ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground turmeric. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  10. Pour in purée and add 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal). Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, until raw onion smell subsides and curry is paste-like in consistency, 15–20 minutes.
  11. Arrange chicken on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, charred in spots, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest parts registers 165°, 14 to 20 minutes. (I placed the chicken “skin side down” for 7 minutes, flipped each piece over and cooked an additional 7 minutes.)
  12. While the chicken is cooking, shake the can unsweetened coconut milk to ensure coconut cream is incorporated, then add coconut milk to curry and stir well to combine. Curry should be pale yellow. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until warm and slightly thickened, 5–10 minutes.
  13. Once chicken is finished, add chicken and all of the pan juices to the curry and reduce heat to low; mix well to combine. Stirring constantly to prevent curry from breaking, dribble in the heavy cream.
  14. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
  15. Serve the chicken and sauce over Basmati rice garnished with additional cilantro.
  16. Cut remaining 1 lemon into wedges. Serve kuku paka with crusty bread and lemon wedges for squeezing over at the table, as desired.

Maqlubeh (Palestinian Upside-Down Chicken & Rice)

I have a Maqlubeh (Maqluba) recipe collection. :/ I have always wanted to make this beautiful, multi-layered, flavor-packed dish but was hesitant because it is a bit of a project. This streamlined version inspired me to finally try it. I even made it on a weeknight! (admittedly a little ambitious…)

This recipe was adapted from 177milkstreet.com, contributed by Courtney Hill. I substituted boneless, skinless chicken thighs for bone-in. I also used unsalted butter and chicken stock.

When presenting the finished dish, the platter is gently shaken to create cracks in the rice. The cracks reveal the aromas as well as the chicken and vegetables inside. I absolutely loved it- and drove my family crazy talking about it all evening. 😉 Although it could be served as a complete meal on its own, I served it with roasted asparagus and broccoli as well. It is classically served with a tomato, cucumber and yogurt salad. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 cups white Basmati rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs (about 6) or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3), trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup raw slivered almonds
  • 8 ounces cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 to 10 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 to 3/4 medium eggplant (about 8 to 12 ounces), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock
  1. In a large bowl, combine the rice and 2 tablespoons of coarse salt. Add water to cover by 1 inch, then set aside.
  2. Prepare a lidded pot that measures 9½ to 11 inches in diameter and 4 to 6 inches deep. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.) Cut 2 rounds of kitchen parchment the size of the pot. (I cut the rounds slightly oversized so that it had a little bit of a lip.)
  3. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  4. Set the pot over medium and heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering.
  5. Add the chicken “skin side” down and cook until browned, about 7 minutes for boneless or 10 minutes for bone-in. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  6. Remove the pot from heat. Place 1 parchment round on the bottom, then turn to coat it with fat.
  7. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the parchment-lined pot, then sprinkle evenly with the almonds.
  8. Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer, then rinse under cool running water and drain again.
  9. Scatter 1 cup of the rice in a thin, even layer over the almonds.
  10. In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining rice with the cauliflower, garlic, melted butter, cumin, allspice, turmeric, nutmeg and 1 3/4 teaspoons each salt and pepper. Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture, then distribute the remainder in an even layer in the pot.
  11. Place the chicken and accumulated juices (if using boneless, skinless chicken) in the pot, slightly nestling the pieces into the rice-cauliflower layer; discard any accumulated juices (if using bone-in chicken).
  12. Shingle the eggplant slices over the chicken in an even layer. Sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup rice-cauliflower mixture.
  13. Pour the stock into the pot (it will not fully cover the eggplant), then bring to a boil over medium-high. Set the second parchment round over the food, the cover the pot with the lid. Cook for 5 minutes, reduce to low and cook, undisturbed, for 35 minutes.
  14. Remove the pot from the heat, uncover and let stand for 15 minutes.
  15. Remove the parchment (and accumulated liquid on the top), then invert a serving platter onto the pot. Holding the platter against the pot, carefully invert the two together; leave the pot overturned on the platter and let rest for about 10 minutes. Slowly lift off the pot and, if needed, remove and discard the parchment.
  16. Gently shake the platter to create cracks in the top of the finished dish.

One-Pot Coconut Chicken Rice

This one pot dish was creamy, flavorful and absolutely delicious. The spices had a great balance with the richness of the coconut milk. I served it with roasted asparagus on the side. It was a perfect springtime dinner.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Shayma Owaise Saadat. I modified the proportions and method. I also swapped spinach for the kale. I increased the amount of leafy greens but would add even more next time! The original recipe notes that canned chickpeas can be substituted for the chicken to make a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
  • 2 T grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium or 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 9)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 13.5-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 6 to 8 cups of thinly sliced spinach or 4 cups Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise into strips
  • store-bought sliced pickled red chiles, for serving, optional
  • lime wedges, for serving, optional
  1. Place rice in fine mesh sieve set inside a medium bowl; pour in cold water to cover.
  2. Agitate rice with your hands until water is cloudy. Drain and repeat until water is almost clear (about 3 to 5 times). Drain.
  3. Pour in water to cover rice by 2 inches; let soak 30–45 minutes.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy pot with a wide base over medium-high. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  5. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 1 minute.
  6. Using paper towels, pat the chicken dry.
  7. Add chicken, turmeric, cayenne, and 2 teaspoons of salt to the shallots and garlic. Cook, turning and moving around chicken thighs as needed, until chicken begins to turn opaque, about 2 minutes.
  8. Pour in 3/4 cup water and bring to a simmer.
  9. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, turning chicken once, until chicken is cooked through and very tender, about 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the lid of the pot and wrap it with a kitchen towel, securing the corners up and over the top of the lid with a rubber band.
  11. Drain the rice and add to pot with chicken, then add coconut milk and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil.
  12. Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook, undisturbed, 15 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat. Remove towel and lid. Remove towel from the lid.
  14. Arrange spinach (or kale) in an even layer over chicken and rice and cover with lid. Let sit until wilted, about 10 minutes.
  15. Top with chiles, if using. Serve with lime wedges.

Khoresh Bademjan (Persian Tomato & Eggplant Stew)

This is an absolutely incredible vegetarian stew. Traditionally, this dish is made with lamb or beef, but the author described this version as just as savory without the meat. I absolutely loved it. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Andy Baraghani. I substituted American globe eggplant for the smaller Japanese eggplant and incorporated Campari tomatoes. I also used fresh lime juice instead of dried black limes. We ate the stew over brown Basmati rice with warm naan on the side. Wow. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 8–9+ T vegetable oil, divided (I used canola oil)
  • 2 globe eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, cut into 1-inch rounds OR 6 small Japanese eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 10 Campari tomatoes, cut into eighths OR 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb), seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups stock (can substitute water)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 3 lemon omani (dried black limes) or 2 T fresh lime juice (see Note)
  • cooked basmati rice, parsley leaves, plain yogurt, and flatbread, for serving (I served brown Basmati rice, Greek yogurt & warm naan)
  1. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high.
  2. Working in batches, cook eggplant in a single layer, adding another tablespoon of oil if pan looks dry, until deeply browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer to a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt. (I added an additional 4 tablespoons of oil to cook the second batch of globe eggplant slices.)
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to same pot and cook onion over medium to medium-high, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, 8 to10 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle turmeric and cinnamon over and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened in color, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes; cook, still stirring, until tomatoes have burst and mixture is very thick, 5 to 9 minutes.
  8. Nestle eggplant into sauce and season lightly with salt.
  9. Pour in stock and 3 cups of water; bring to a simmer.
  10. Pierce dried lemon omani with a paring knife and add to pot. (If using lime juice instead, add when dish is finished cooking.)
  11. Cook, gently stirring occasionally, until thickened and eggplant is almost creamy in texture, 40–50+ minutes. (I cooked mine significantly longer to achieve my desired thickness.)
  12. Divide rice among bowls; ladle stew over. (I served the stew over brown Basmati rice.)
  13. Top with parsley and yogurt and serve with flatbread. (I served it with warm naan.)

Coconut Chicken Curry

This dish was a home run in my house. Everyone really enjoyed it. I served it over brown Basmati rice with warm naan and steamed spinach on the side. Perfect weeknight comfort food! It does take a while to cook but it is mostly unattended. Letting the finished dish sit for 20 minutes after cooking allows the flavors to soak into the chicken- perfect.

This recipe is from Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy of Burma Superstar in the San Francisco Bay Area and their book “Burma Superstar,” via The New York Times, adapted by Genevieve Ko. I used Maharajah curry powder and additional garlic. I also had Greek yogurt available to temper the spice.

Yield: 8 servings

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