Easy Bean & Squash Stew

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Sumptuous Black Bean & Butternut Squash Stew

For some reason, I have become enamoured with butternut squash. Readily available at my local grocery store, it stays fresh for a long long time on the kitchen counter so it has become one of my pandemic staples.  These days I try to get all my meals planned and food delivered or purchased just once a week — and I happened to have all the ingredients already for this dish.

Beans are a food group that I try to eat multiple times a week.  I rarely buy canned beans since I am at home so much now, and I can go from dried black beans to flavorful, plump cooked beans in 50 minutes thanks to my trusty pressure cooker.  If you want to try making beans from scratch, send me a note and I will send you detailed instructions on how to do this.  Remember, leftover beans freeze beautifully too.

When I saw this recipe in the Washington Post Food Section last December, I decided to make it pronto. I ended up with so much stew that I took half of the pot to my son and his family. I should add that leftovers are fantastic here, but I love to share my food with friends and family. 

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Stew. Adapted from Ruth Terry in Istanbul!

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients
  • 4 cups (26 ounces) peeled, seeded and diced butternut squash (3/4 inch)
  • ¼ cup good olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 11 ounces which is big)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced ½ inch (about 1 ¼ cups)
  • ½ large bunch (2 ounces) fresh cilantro leaves and stems, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 8 cloves garlic (I didn’t have any, but I am sure it would be good)
  • ¾ teaspoon dried basil
  • Three (15-ounce) cans black beans (about 5 cups), drained and liquid reserved (instead I did 1 ½ c black beans in my Pressure Cooker with 5 cups water and vegetables.  Send me a note if you want exact directions) 
  • One (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooked rice, quinoa or couscous, for serving (optional)
Instructions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the squash, 2 tablespoons olive oil and the salt and toss to combine. Spread over a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, or just until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring until the edges start to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn light brown, about 10 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, in a bowl of a food processor, combine the bell pepper, cilantro and garlic in a nutribullet or blender and pulse until very finely chopped and uniform but not fully smooth — this is your sofrito.

Add the sofrito to the pot and raise the heat to medium. Add the dried basil and stir until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the beans, roasted butternut squash and stir to combine.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and 1 scant cup bean cooking liquid or water.  Taste and add more salt, if needed. Bring the stew to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until slightly thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. If you prefer a thicker stew, simmer, uncovered, for a few more minutes, until your desired consistency is reached.

To serve, ladle the stew into shallow bowls or over couscous, quinoa or rice, and garnish with cilantro, full fat yogurt and a drizzle of fruity olive oil.

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Chicken Stew My Way

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Couldn’t-Be-Easier Chicken Stew

At the risk of sounding boastful, I am the queen of leftovers (or previously served/prepared food) meal preparation.  While in Seattle, I make three meals a day, seven days a week except the occasional times we are invited to dine with members of our “bubble”, aka family.  It’s nice to have a brief respite, but unlike most of you during this “stay at home” time, I do not miss restaurants at all.  Cooking is my stress relief, my creative time.  Bring it on.

If there were a TV show where a fridge could be loaded with normal fruits, vegetables and condiments and contestants could create a meal, I would win hands down.  I hate to brag, but that is my superpower: to be able to create delicious and beautiful meals with ordinary ingredients.  

This chicken stew came to be because I decided to try to make due with the ingredients in my freezer and refrigerator/cupboards rather than buying more food.  I had a pack of frozen boneless/skinless chicken thighs that needed to be used.  For the record I prefer chicken thighs with the bone in and skin on, but whatever.  

I also had half an onion, a parsnip, some crimini mushrooms, a bit of yellow pepper and about a quart of butternut squash chunks I saved while dicing the rest for risotto.  Oh, and fresh dill and limes and just a few cherry tomatoes.  And some cooked brown rice.

I decided not to use potato or carrots or garlic, because these veggies are way overdone in my opinion. 

I am pretty pleased with how this turned out and I’ll make it again and probably add some different vegetables (green beans?  Sweet potato?)  The sweetness of the squash complimented the other veggies beautifully and the colors looked appealing. 

Here is what I did, if memory serves me correctly:

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stew

Serves 3-4


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Ingredients
  • 1 ½ Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 ½ lb (about 5-6) boneless skinless chicken thighs, dried and seasoned with salt, pepper and smoked paprika
  • ½ onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10 large crimini mushrooms cleaned, destemmed and sliced into 6 chunks each
  • ¼ yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped into large pieces-about 1 inch thick
  • Handful of fresh dill, stems and all
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 cup chicken broth  (I cheated and made this with Better than Bouillon)
  • ½ Tbsp dry vermouth, which I always keep in my fridge to use when white wine is called for in recipes
Instructions

Dry the chicken thighs and season with a bit of salt, fresh ground black pepper and smoked paprika.

Heat the pressure cooker, then add the oil and wait until it is hot  Sear the chicken thighs a couple minutes on each side until browned a bit.  Remove the thighs with tongs to a rimmed plate so juices can collect.

Add the onion, mushrooms, pepper  and parsnip and saute five minutes.  Top the veggies with the chicken thighs and pour any juice that has collected into the pot. Top with the cherry tomatoes and dill, pour broth and vermouth over the top.

Pressure Cooker Ready!

Secure the lid and bring to high pressure for nine minutes. Manually release the pressure and remove the top, placing the chicken on one end of the platter and the veggies on the other end.

There will be some amazing juice left over in the pot, at least a cup.  You can serve this as is but I thickened mine a titch with a teaspoon of cornstarch whisked into two tablespoons of cold water

I then poured this slurry into the hot juice l while it was still on low heat to thicken it .  I served the juice in a gravy boat but it could be combined with the stew.  Oh, and I put a scoop of heated brown rice on the bottom of my stew and had some fresh challah to dip in the juice too.  It tastes like a four star meal. 

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Mint-Stuffed Brownies

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Moist, Marvelous Mint-Stuffed Brownies

This week I really had a craving for mint brownies, but the thought of making a buttercream and then waiting to top the pan of brownies with ganache seemed like too much work.  And then a lightbulb went off!  I remembered a Cooks Illustrated brownie recipe from long ago that incorporated York Mints in the center.  I happened to have a bag of York MInts in my candy drawer (yes, I have a dedicated candy drawer for my grandkids …and for me) so this was very, very easy and really good.  I still prefer my original mint brownies, but I’ll make these again on the fly.

Mint Stuffed Brownies (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

Makes 16 pretty nice sized brownies

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Ingredients
  • 1 stick salted butter (¼ lb)
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • ¾ cups regular flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup minus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar (measure 1 cup and remove 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 16 York Peppermint Patties, unwrapped (1 ½ inch diameter)
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, making sure it is tucked into the corners and has at least one inch sticking up all around. Spray the foil with Pam.

Melt butter and chocolate together in a saucepan over low heat.  Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.  

In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir to combine.

Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla together.  Add cooled butter/chocolate mixture. Stir in flour mixture.  Do not overmix!

Pour about half of the batter into the foil-lined pan.  Top with the peppermint patties, having the flat side facing up so the top is even.  Pour the rest of the brownie batter over the patties and smooth it out.

Almost ready for the oven!

Bake 30-35 minutes until just set (Because of the candy, a toothpick won’t tell you if it is done.)  Remove to a cooling rack for two hours until cool.  Grab foil and remove from the pan to a cutting board.  Cut all the way through into 16 brownies and serve.  (Brownies will keep in an airtight container for up to three days or can be frozen for two months.)

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Shirazi – AKA Chopped Vegetable Salad

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Sublime Shirazi

My daughter-in-law invited our family (all adults are vaccinated!) to their home today for breakfast and to celebrate the Persian New Year, Nowruz.   Nowruz means “New Day” and features many lovely traditions including celebrations, parties and food – LOTS of food.   It’s not a religious holiday but a universal celebration of new beginnings: wishing prosperity and welcoming the future while saying goodbye to the past.  That’s why families use this time to deep clean their homes and closets and to purchase new clothes. Nowruz is a month-long celebration, filled with festivities, craft-making, street performances and public rituals. So having a Persian breakfast and gathering around the table with our Seattle family felt right.

Our Nowruz Celebratory Spread

My assignment was to bring a “chopped Israeli” salad.  I did a little research and am calling it Shirazi in honor of my amazing Persian daughter in law and to honor the Persian New Year. I ended up kind of winging it and keeping the ingredients simple and limited to what I had in my house.  

Shirazi or Chopped Vegetable Salad

Serves 10-12

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Ingredients
  • 3 pints of red cherry tomatoes – cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 English cucumbers – unpeeled, seeded and chopped finely, same size as tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion – peeled and diced the same size as tomatoes
  • 6 radishes – chopped same size as tomatoes (not in most recipes but I had 6 hanging out in my fridge)
  • 1 ½ green peppers – seeded, chopped same size as the tomato
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro (can substitute parsley or mint)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped dill 
  • Juice of 2 ½ large limes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste-it takes a lot of salt so add slowly and taste
Instructions

Dice cherry tomatoes by cutting them in half, then each half into fourths.  I use a small serrated knife for this.  Put the tiny pieces of cut tomatoes in a colander while you chop and prep everything else.  Keep shaking the strainer to get rid of extra juice and seeds.  Once you add the tomato to the salad ½-1 hour later – watch carefully and discard seeds that have accumulated at the bottom if you can toward the end. It should be the last thing you add.

Wash the cucumber (do not peel).  Cut the cucumbers in half longitudinally, remove the seeds and make cuts the long way, about four per half.  Then dice finely and put in a large bowl.  

Peel and dice the purple onion the same size as the cucumbers.

Seed and remove the core and inner membrane from the green peppers.  Finely dice the same size as the cucumbers.

De-stem and dice the dill, and chop the cilantro (you can include the stem with cilantro).

Finally, add the drained tomato pieces and gently mix everything together.

A half an hour or less before serving, add the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the salt or pepper or add more herbs if you feel it is necessary.

A couple of notes:
  1.  The only hard part of this salad prep is chopping the vegetables uniformly and smallish. We are talking about ¼ inch.  I have made this type of salad many times and to me it is easier to start with cherry tomatoes than with other types.
  2. This salad does not keep well once dressed.  The lime juice and salt draw a lot of juice from the vegetables and it looks less appealing.  If you have leftovers, drain them and keep in the refrigerator, then add more lime juice and olive oil if needed. 
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Overnight Grab and Go Oatmeal Bowls

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Easy Peasy Overnight Oatmeal!

Because I’m typically up by 6:30 in the morning, I often forego a proper breakfast.  After my house-made coffee drink, I am ready to tackle the day until maybe 10 am.  So make-ahead breakfast items or snacks really speak to me for the days when I am really hungry mid-morning – or even in the afternoon and don’t have the time or energy to start cooking. 

There are lots of combinations out there for make-ahead oats, and the following is my favorite which, you won’t likely be surprised to learn, evolved from trial and error.  Turns out my grandkids love this as well, and the jars are easy to pull out of the fridge – and perfect before virtual school on the mornings I supervise Zoom classes.  I enjoy preparing a hot breakfast, but when the kids would rather sleep a little later but have to eat before classes start, this is a winner. And they make great, filling afternoon snacks too!

Overnight Grab and Go Oatmeal Bowls

Ingredients 

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(Per pint jar – I usually make four at a time)

  • ½ cup milk (I use unsweetened coconut milk but any dairy or nut milk will work) 
  • ⅓ cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats) 
  • ⅓ cup plain unsweetened yogurt or if you prefer to use flavored yogurt OMIT the sweetener
  • 2 teaspoons ground flax seeds or chia seeds
  • A dash of  ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tart apple with skin on – core and dice or grate
  • 1 tablespoon chopped toasted nuts
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut 
  • 2 tablespoon fresh blueberries or raspberries or other fruit of your choice. 
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup when serving (if desired)
Instructions

I usually line up my jars and begin with the coconut milk, measuring ½ cup into each of the jars.  Next, add oats, then yogurt, flax seeds, cinnamon, and apples.  Stir together.  Top each jar with coconut then chopped toasted nuts.  Do not stir.  Put the lids on and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight (I actually have eaten mine three days later and the oats are still good!). 

When ready to eat, add in some berries or other fruit of your choice such as diced peaches or plums.

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Chili – Perfect for Cold Nights and Remembering Family

So this post was originally published way back in 2011. And I actually re-posted it again in 2015. Which should tell you how much I adore this recipe. But what really had me thinking about this post – aside from craving a hot bowl of deliciousness during these dark, cold days – is my sisters. I’m sure so many of you can relate … craving family connections is simply a part of life these days. So it’s my hope that this nourishing recipe brings you some warmth – or inspires you to look into your own recipe collection to find something that strengthens your connections to potentially distant family.

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three sisters

I grew up in a family of five children – two boys and three girls. I am the oldest of the sisters and the only grandmother so far.    Our mother taught us all basic culinary skills and we are constantly emailing recipes and new ideas back and forth.  When we get together – the kitchen is inevitably the place where we congregate, cook and catch up.

When I turned 40 my two sisters Susan and Kay decided to celebrate by taking me on a trip to San Francisco.  That first year we allowed Kay’s youngest son “Baby Joel” to accompany us and it’s hard to believe that he is soon going to be 21 years old. Every year since that first trip we’ve maintained this tradition. It has become sacred time for us, and we do not allow anyone other than blood sisters to come.  We haven’t missed a year – not once.

Throughout the years we have traveled  to places like Sedona, New York, Aspen, Baltimore and Virginia, to name a few. I have no doubt that the coming years will bring us to many new and exciting locales. Ironically, it was a vacation I was least enthusiastic about that remains one of my fondest memories.  In both 2008 and 2009 I was coerced into going to a knitting convention in Baltimore. I had in mind a gaggle of gray haired ladies, clicking away with their needles and gabbing ad nauseum about knitting and purling.  I was pleasantly surprised to find how entertaining and inspiring these women were. Many were young, some were older but the beautiful garments they created inspired me to focus again on knitting.

After the convention we drove to Virginia to a place called The Meander Inn and Plantation. Susan, Kay and I looked out the car windows at verdant, rolling hills and arrived at this magical place, feeling immediately transported to the old South. We stayed three nights, enjoying the historical feel of the town and the relaxing pace of life. We even experienced an indulgent wine maker’s dinner featuring wines from the region.

Susan, Kay & Marilyn in front of the Inn

For me, the highlight of the visit was the cooking school where we learned how to make “sophisticated, Southern cuisine.” There were two full days of classes led by their chef and Suzie Blanchard, executive chef and owner of the Inn. We learned how to prepare apple pie, stuffed butternut squash, English muffins, focaccia, apple cinnamon cheesecake, and a honey and pine nut tart.  Surprisingly, one of my favorite things we made was chili.  Chili is chili, you might think.  I quickly learned that this is not the case. The Meander Inn recipe has quite a kick.  It has lots of warm spices and yields a huge pot of satisfying, perfectly seasoned chili.

As with most dishes, I altered the chili recipe to make it my own. I decreased the cayenne and red pepper flake quantities for my family, and added black beans in addition to the red kidney beans; I use fresh cooked beans. This recipe makes an enormous amount which can seem overwhelming. However it freezes beautifully and is the perfect dish to defrost and reheat on cold winter days.

And now, here comes the chili!!

Chili Meander

Chili Meander

Serves 10-12

Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (Use more if you like a lot of kick)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼  tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1-15 oz can rinsed black beans, or 2 cups fresh cooked
  • 1-15 oz can rinsed red kidney beans, or 2 cups fresh cooked
  • 1-28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1-28 oz can tomato puree
  • Salt to taste
Instructions

Heat oil in very large dutch oven (or non stick large pot) over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano and cayenne and cook until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Increase heat to medium high and add half of the beef and cook, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon until no longer pink and just beginning to brown – about 3-4 minutes.  Add the rest of beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon until no longer pink, another 3-4 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bring to a boil, then change the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Remove cover and simmer 1 more hour, stirring occasionally,   If it gets too dry, add a bit of water.  Adjust seasoning with salt.

This chili is especially delicious served with corn bread and a crisp salad!!

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Stir Together Cinnamon Tea Bread 

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Simply Scrumptious Stir Together Cinnamon Tea Bread

If you are looking for a “no mixer needed” quick bread that uses oil instead of butter and can be sliced to have with your morning coffee or tea, or used as a dessert for last-minute distanced gatherings, search no more.  Most of you will have all of these ingredients in your kitchen, so this can be assembled in about ten minutes, baked another 50 minutes, then voila! No mixer needed – another bonus for me. And this isn’t over-the-top sweet. Win-Win-Win … too many to count.

Yum!

Stir Together Cinnamon Tea Bread 

Makes one loaf or about 12 slices

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Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup dark brown sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾  cup white sugar 
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup 2 % milk
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil because that is what I had in my kitchen at that moment
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle and spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with Pam, making sure the corners are well coated   In a small bowl, mix together ⅓ cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and ¾ cup white sugar. Combine egg, milk, and oil and add to the flour mixture. Stir until just moistened.

Pour a third of the batter into the pan and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle with half of the reserved cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. Repeat with the next third of the batter and top with the other half of the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture.  Use the final third of the batter to top the bread.  Draw a knife (like waves) through the batter to marbleize it a little. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for ten minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in foil and let the bread sit overnight before slicing.

Cooks note: I think a couple of teaspoons of grated orange rind would be a nice addition.

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Warming Breakfast Loaf

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Wonderfully Warming Breakfast Loaf

This is a simple, easy to stir together breakfast loaf cake that includes fruit and vegetables: carrot, zucchini, banana…so that is healthful, right?  Maybe not so much, but this sure hits the spot smeared with butter! And don’t we all need a little extra warmth and comfort these days?

I believe I initially found this recipe in a magazine, and then the Seattle Times printed it with a few minor changes.

Get out your box grater, a big bowl and a spatula and go for it.

Warming Breakfast Loaf

Makes a 9 x 5 loaf cake, enough for 10 nice slices

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Ingredients
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup avocado oil (canola works too, but I avoid it)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup grated zucchini
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • ¼ cup mashed banana
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with an oven rack in the center of the oven.

Spray a 9 x 5 bread pan with nonstick spray.  I always put a piece of parchment paper that fits the bottom in there, and then spray the parchment again. 

In a large bowl combine the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, until the mixture is smooth.

Stir in the flour mixed with baking soda and baking powder. Then stir in the zucchini, carrots, banana and walnuts until mixed.

Scrape the batter into your prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Place the bread pan on a cooling rack for ten minutes and then gently turn the pan over to remove the loaf.   Serve warm with salted butter.  Leftovers are great toasted the next day.

Enjoy!

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Pressure Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto

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Beautiful Butternut Squash Risotto

Years ago, so many many years ago that now it seems like a lifetime, my sister Susan and I went to Tuscany together. Our kids were all still young and living at home, but we managed to spend a little over a glorious week there.  On four of the days, we toured around in the morning and then returned to a villa at 4pm for a cooking class.

Most of the food we prepared at Tutti a Tavola was not fancy or difficult to make.  We made lasagne using dried noodles, pepperonata, tiramisu, limoncello, bollito misto and risotto.

The risotto recipe contained fresh pumpkin and required at least a half hour of standing at the stovetop stirring constantly.  For me, that is a non-starter and so I took the basic recipe and adapted it for my stovetop pressure cooker, subbing peeled and diced butternut squash for the pumpkin. This is a seven minute preparation that requires no stirring and comes out better than ever!

One thing I learned in Italy was to use liberal amounts of good olive oil when cooking.  Do not hold back – this imparts a marvelous flavor and a glorious silky smooth texture.  

I still order a case of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Italy and use it for most everything and then give a few bottles to relatives who cook and who appreciate the gift. Mine is from my teacher Mimma’s vineyard – the Muricciaglia winery in Tuscany. It is so beautifully green and really earthy tasting – Olio d’Oliva delizioso!

The BEST EVOO

This January, I made this on a Sunday night for my husband and me.  Because we always dine at home, I try to create a nice atmosphere with flowers, napkins, beautiful food and theme music-here. For this dinner I found “Romantic Italian” on a playlist.  Somehow it makes eating a lot more fun and elevates whatever I make to restaurant quality.

Risotto con la Zucca (AKA Risotto with Pumpkin)

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients
  • ½ – ¾ of a large butternut squash, peeled and seeded, dice into ⅓-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbsp good olive oil for the squash
  • 2 cups of Arborio Rice (can be substituted with “Short Grain White Pearl” rice)
  • Another 2 Tbsp good olive oil for sauteing onion/rice
  • 4 cups (or 1L) of chicken or vegetable broth (lazy me, I use Better than Bouillon and boiling water)
  • 1 onion (or 1 cup, diced) or ¾ cup diced shallots 
  • 1 swig of white wine or dry vermouth (about 1 ½ Tbsp)
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese to finish
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions 

First, mix the diced squash and 3 tablespoons olive oil with some salt and pepper, and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes – until softened but not overly done.

Meanwhile, in the pre-heated pressure cooker on medium heat add the two tablespoons oil and onion or shallot. Sauté the onion or shallot on low until it becomes translucent (about 5-10 minutes).

Add the rice and lightly toast it to release the starch. When you add the Arborio rice to the onions/shallots, the rice will turn from solid white to translucent as it absorbs the oil and onion juice, then in about a minute back to white. Wait until just a couple of grains look golden and your rice is toasted! 

Add a swig of white wine and un-stick any grains from the bottom of the cooker and stir the rice until the wine has fully evaporated.

Add the broth to the onions/shallots, mix and close the top immediately.

Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker.  For stove top pressure cookers: Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker indicates it has reached high pressure, lower the heat to maintain it and begin counting seven minutes pressure cooking time.

When time is up, open the cooker by releasing the pressure

The risotto should appear just slightly too wet. Stir, and the rice will continue to absorb the extra liquid in about 30 seconds. If the rice is still very wet, put the open pressure cooker back on a medium flame, without the lid, and finish cooking it this way – stirring often – until it reaches the right consistency. For a classic finish, melt two tablespoons of butter and grated cheese and stir in right before serving. Adjust for salt and pepper 

I add the cooked tiny cubed cooked butternut squash right at the end too.  By the way, this works with diced broccoli as well or a combo of broccoli and squash.

Leftovers reheat beautifully or you could add some egg and breadcrumbs, coat with panko and saute for a different meal.

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Brown Rice with Black Beans & Cheese 

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Hearty & Delicious!

The Winter Solstice…  It is the shortest, darkest day of the year and a day when I inevitably breathe a sigh of relief because from that point on, the days begin to get a little lighter.  Seattle is pretty far North, rainy and grey during December, so the sunrise happens close to 7 am and by 4 pm it is nearly dark.  In these days of isolation and staying at home, this is not good. Thankfully – I nearly always find solace in my kitchen.

Yesterday I pulled out a bunch of saved recipes I wanted to try at some point and stumbled upon “Cheesy Rice and Beans” from Kate McDermott’s blog tucked away in my stash.   I got right to work. I decided to use brown rice since I like the nutty flavor and I used black beans – although next time around I will try freshly made pinto beans.  I grated all the cheese by hand.  My two older Seattle grandsons, who are in my bubble, helped me make a double batch of this so that they could take a casserole dish home.   We donated some to Jakey boy and family and still had some left for the two of us here.  

My daughter called me after a harrowing day of work, and said it smelled so good she wanted to get rid of her kids, put on a bathrobe, crack a beer and eat the entire thing!  This dish is surprisingly good and filling.  All you need is a little fruit and a green salad or roasted vegetables.  It reheats beautifully and I see no reason why it wouldn’t do well in the freezer.  My entire bubble gave it a thumbs up.

Brown Rice with Black Beans & Cheese 

6-8 servings

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Ingredients
  • 2 ½  cups already cooked brown rice  (I do mine in the pressure cooker)
  • 2 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 2 brown-skinned onions peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups 2 % milk
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon  of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans rinsed and drained or 2 cups home-cooked black beans, drained.  You could use pinto or kidney beans as well. 
Instructions

In a large skillet, add olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onions are barely browned. 

In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Stir in milk. Add dry mustard, nutmeg, salt. Mix the cheeses together but save ½ cup to sprinkle on top of the casserole.

Add cheese, onions, rice, and beans to the liquids and mix together.

Grease a 9×9 casserole pan with olive oil. Turn the rice, cheese, and bean mixture into the pan. Sprinkle ½ cup of cheese on top.

Bake at 375F for 40 minutes. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Cook’s note:  As long as you are messing up the kitchen, I think it is good to make a double batch of this!  The original recipe says to use whatever cheese you have on hand. Colby, Monterey Jack, Fontina, Mild Cheddar, Pepper Jack are all fine.

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