Cupcake Mary, a knitterly friend, just gave me some of the most beautiful garlic I have ever seen in my life. She grew this hard-necked garlic herself, in her garden.
Clearly, she has skills.
This garlic has heft, it has volume. It has a physical presence in the room.
Each generously-sized bulb is almost bigger than the obnoxious small yappy dog that lives next door and occasionally escapes into our yard through a gap under the fence.
This garlic is also completely and entirely mine, since the British Guy does not eat garlic. At all.
So sad, poor guy... more for me.
Dave the Garlic Guy, my go-to source for all things garlicky, suggests that you store cloves in the freezer until ready to use, and then they are 1. really easy to peel, and 2. never ever going to sprout and send out those small, bitter green shoots.
I've done this with my regular garlic supply, and it works a charm, but these charismatic beauties deserve something special.
I was eyeing The Preservation Kitchen's Garlic Conserva longingly, but don't have a pressure canner (...yet).
There are lots of ways to achieve something similar with just a pot and a stove, so I chose a garlic confit recipe from Food and Wine that had a few extras thrown in for more flavor.
Peeling the cloves was the most complicated part, and as an added bonus the herby, garlicky oil is almost more delicious than the meltingly creamy garlic cloves are after their long, slow warm bath.
I drizzled - ok, sloshed - a large slick of this oil over some leftover cold grilled squash and eggplant, some sliced tomato, and a few torn hunks of buffalo mozzarella, and it was an absolutely divine dinner.
The cloves themselves are smooth and silky, spread like butter, and are great mashed into butter or mayonaise as a flavored spread, or used in any dish that needs a little garlic love.
If you want to keep the vampires away, a mayo made from some of the garlicky oil with a few cloves blended in would do the trick quite nicely.
From Grace Parisi at Food and Wine, more or less as written, except accounting for my giant garlic.
About 300 grams of cloves from 3 extra-large or 6 regular sized heads
2 cups of olive oil
6 sprigs of lemon thyme or regular thyme
2 small dried chiles
1 bay leaf
Peel the cloves, making sure to remove the thin membrane on the outside of the clove.
Put all the ingredients into a small pot, making sure the oil completely covers the garlic cloves.
Bring to a gentle simmer on medium-low heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the cloves are soft and a knife slides through with no resistance.
The oil should be very softly bubbling, not boiling, and the cloves should not brown at all.
As my mom says - 'It should be smiling, not laughing...'
Transfer to a clean container and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for up to 4 months.
When you want to use the cloves or the oil, remove from the refrigerator and let it warm up so the oil softens, or warm gently in a pan.
Shockingly, electrically, remarkably pink eggs and pickled beetroot make a vinegary, tangy and decidedly moreish snack.
Moreish being the British way to say that you can't possibly stop eating this tasty treat, you crave more.
It's just a little bit magic how deep ruby beets stain pristine whites what might be considered a lurid color on anything less down-to-earth than a pickled egg.
Pink pickled eggs elevate the regular pickled egg from common, even a little rough-and-tumble, pub snack to something decidedly more fun.
How can you not be fun when you are a pink pickled egg?
These pickled eggs would not be out of place sliced or quartered alongside some crustless cucumber finger sandwiches.
Strewn across a fresh green salad. In a chicken salad sandwich.
If you simply can't fight it, eat straight with a nice cold beer. Sprinkle with a generous shower of crunchy, flaky salt.
Try it the British way, liberally covered in freshly ground pepper or sloshed with some Worcestershire sauce.
If you're daring, drop one into a packet of potato chips (that's crisps to you Brits) and scrunch around, for a crunchy, salty, pickly, eggy treat.
Pickled Eggs and Beetroot.
1 tablespoon peppercorns (pink if you have them, for the color theme, or black)
2 sprigs fresh tarragon (I used Mexican tarragon)
6 small to medium beets, roasted (7 ounces, 200 g total)
6 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
For the pickling juice:
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water (including any beet juice from roasting)
1 tablespoon sugar
You will also need a sterilized, quart-sized canning jar.
To roast beets: wash the beets thoroughly to remove any dirt, and trim the greens to within an inch of the beetroot. Reserve the greens to eat like spinach. Rub each beet generously with olive oil and place in a small pan that they can all fit easily, but relatively snugly, into (for example, 7 or 8-inch square by 2 inch high). Add a slosh of water and cover the pan completely and tightly with aluminum foil. Roast on 350 degrees F for 45 minute to an hour or more, until a knife slides easily into and through the beet. If you check, and the beets are not done, recover tightly with foil and put back into the oven. When roasted, remove from the oven and cool until warm. While still warm, rub the beets and the skins will slide off. I wear rubber gloves for this, as te beets will stain your hands pink.
Cut the beets into quarters, if small, and eighths if large.
Measure the peppercorns into the bottom of a quart-sized canning jar. Layer the beets and eggs into the canning jar, starting and ending with beets and making two layers of 3 eggs each. Add the tarragon sprigs to the canning jar, pushing them down the sides of the jar so the tops are even with or below the highest layer of beets.
Mix the vinegar, water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar is just dissolved, then pour over the beets and eggs, making sure all the beets and eggs are covered completely.
Allow to cool on the counter, cover with a vinegar-resistant lid (plastic or coated metal), then store in the refrigerator.
The eggs and beets are pickled and ready to eat after 2-3 days, but the pickling will continue to get stronger and the pink color will continue to get darker and soak deeper into the eggs the longer they are left to pickle.
In British pubs, these are kept, unrefrigerated, in giant vats on bar counters for God knows how long. If you prefer to have some measure of food safety about you, keep refrigerated and eat within 2 to 3 weeks.
Fish always feels like it requires a constant hands-on presence. In a frying pan, poked and prodded every few minutes to see if it's done.
Blink, and you've overcooked it, and it's rubbery.
It feels like work.
That's no fun.
Oil-poaching fish in the oven solves all of the problems at one time.
Oil poached fish is nothing new. There are scores of recipes.
They all have two things in common, though: oil, and fish.
[Tell me you didn't see that one coming...]
I used the oven temperature and time from Epicurious as a starting point, and went from there. This is easy - 5 minutes to assemble and slide into the oven, then it's just a matter of waiting. The fish is succulent and moist, absorbing the flavors of the garlic, tomato and parsley. The tomato turns sweet and chewy, the parsley crisps up and the oil exhudes a warm garlic aroma when you take the dish out of the oven.
The oil, by the way, can be used as a drizzle for the fish. If you have leftover fish, store it in the oil and it will stay moist as leftovers. When you've eaten all the fish, strain the remaining oil and store in the refrigerator. If your fish is spanking fresh, the oil will not become fishy, just garlicy-tomato-parsley-ey, and can be used for more poached fish, or in dressings or marinades.
It looks like a fancy dinner, it tastes like a fancy dinner, and no one else needs to know it was a breeze.
Oil-poached Cod with garlic, dried cherry tomatoes and parsley.
Serves 4 people, or 2 with leftovers.
1.5 pounds of cod or other firm white fish
2 cups olive oil - you don't need to use your best
1/2 cup dried cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 fresh garlic cloves, whole
salt and pepper to taste
You will also need an oven-safe container that the fish will fit rather snugly into.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F and place a rack in the center shelf.
Dry off the fish, salt and pepper it on both sides, and then place it into the oven-safe dish. If the fillet is long or dramatically different in thickness from one end to the other, you can fold over the thinner end to make the fish fit better and/or have a more even thickness.
Scatter the tomatoes and garlic around the fish, and the parsley over it. Pour over the oil.
Bake, uncovered, in the oven for 60 to 70 minutes - mine was perfect at spot on an hour.
Serve with a scattering of the tomatoes and parsley, a drizzle of the olive oil, and a wedge of lemon.
Make more than you need - this makes great leftovers!
The name, the crazy every-which-way twistiness - if Doctor Seuss had invented a plant, garlic scapes would be it.
Really, how can you take these things seriously?
Jammy Chicken's ode to Garlic Scapes in the manner of Doctor Seuss.
Green and curly, tall and twirly.
Scapes are thin and scapes are long.
Scapes, they sing a garlic song.
Garlic inside and garlic below, the scape is the place for garlic flavor to go!
Cut one down and eat it raw, cut two down and pickle it all.
Cut three down and make a paste.
Do not let them go to waste.
Add nuts and oil for pesto dishes.
You can spread it on some fishes.
Scapes, they are a summer taste.
Soon they'll be gone, don't hesitate!
- J. Chicken
Garlic scapes - I know they look odd and kind of crazy, but they really do taste remarkably like garlic, just not quite as sharp as a real zinger of a clove can be. They are difficult to find unless you grow your own garlic or have a source in a friendly farmer or farmer's market near you.
If you can get your hands on some, it is well worth it.
Scapes are harvested to direct all the garlic plant's energy into the bulb, rather than wasting some making a flower. My garlic guy says when you choose your scapes, you want the ones that are the lightest green possible. This guarantees fresh and delicate scapes. You can eat the entire thing, from the stem right through the bulge that is waiting to be a flower. The thin flower tip may be a little crisp - just snip off any dried parts, and your scape is ready.
Pesto is the obvious choice for big payoff with little work, and I used Dorrie Greenspan's recipe as a starting point. I wanted to add a little more depth with some smoky flavor. Since the British Guy has finally gotten grilling down to an art and a science, we've got the coals fired up every couple days around here. Toss on some scapes for a minute or two just to soften them up and give a little flavor. This is by no means necessary, but it adds a lovely touch. Careful you don't drop any through the rack - they're twisty little things and slip through faster than you can blink.
Many recipes use almonds as the nut of choice, but I think that English Walnuts stand up to the sharp scape heat much better and add a woodsy flavor. Olives provide some salt and some body, and olive oil does the rest.
Grilled Garlic Scape Pesto.
Makes about 2 cups (470 ml).
20 scapes (about 160 g)
11-12 large green pitted olives (60 g)
2/3 cup English Walnuts (75 g)
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons or more olive oil (186 ml)
pepper to taste
You will also need a food processor and a grill.
Toss half of the garlic scapes in a little oil and grill them until lightly charred, then allow to cool. These can be grilled in advance and kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Toast the walnuts in a frying pan on medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until warm and just beginning to brown. Allow to cool.
Chop the grilled and fresh scapes into 1-inch (2.5 cm) long pieces, and add to the bowl of a food processor with the olives and walnuts. Process until chopped very finely, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
Add 2/3 cup of olive oil and process until well-combined. Add additional oil as required to achieve the consistency you prefer. I used 2 more tablespoons of oil.
Add pepper to taste.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months.
A gal can only eat so many sandwiches before things get a bit dull.
Since I take lunch to work almost every day, I have five opportunities each week to explore non-sandwich lunch options.
My lunch bill of rights:
I shall not have to suffer from a leak in my bag on the walk in to work.
Who wants a backpack drenched in olive oil, or tomato soup? Or worse, a marinated laptop?
I shall not have to assemble something complicated in the early morning when I am not at my best.
I have a hard enough time keeping the toothpaste and face cream separate, let alone making something that requires coherent thought.
I shall not harm any electronics in the eating of the lunch.
Let's face it, I am going to dribble. And let's face it, I eat at my computer. I don't want to run the risk of shorting out my computer when I do. [Sometimes, though, I am surfing E! online, so it's not as bad as you might think, the whole eating at my desk thing.]
I shall not have to eat uninteresting food.
Lunch is a shining moment of peace and solitude in the middle of mostly crazy, hectic, sometimes laughably insane days. If I'm not looking forward to it, what's the point?
And if it's healthy, too? A double win.
If only celebrity gossip could take the place of exercize, I'd be totally set.
Quinoa Salad with Salt-Preserved Lime Pickles.
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish.
1 cup quinoa
1 blood orange
8 dried apricots
1 green apple
1/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts
6 to 8 pickled lime wedges
2 tablespoons pickled lime oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper
Cook the quinoa. First, rinse the quinoa, then put into a pot with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and cover with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all the water and is fluffy and light.
While the quinoa is cooking, peel and cut the blood orange into wedges or rounds. You could also use regular oranges or canned mandarin oranges if you want, but the juicy citrus is an important contrasting flavor in the salad, so do use something.
Core the apple and chop into 1 cm pieces. Chop the lime wedges and apricots into small, 1-cm sized pieces. Coarsely chop the pistachio nuts.
Make the dressing by mixing the oil from the pickled lime jar with the lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper. If the lime wedges in the pickle jar are exposed by the dropping oil level, top up with a little more oil for storage.
While the quinoa is still warm, mix in the dressing and other ingredients. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if desired.
Serve warm, or cold.
Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
I refuse to affirm this particular upcoming calendar event as an Actual Holiday by acknowledging it with a full and proper name.
I realized late last night that my post on Orange Flower and Custard Cream Heart Sandwich Cookies (OFCCHSC), while delicious and lovely, might be generating a false impression of me out there in cyberspace.
You should know, I am neither cutesy nor overly sentimental.
Nevertheless, this holiday that glorifies cute sentimentality with pink sparkly cards and chocolates and flowers is out there looming. I thought I'd try to make something that captures my take on the whole ridiculously overblown yet culturally ingrained thing it has become in a more realistic way than heart sandwich cookies.
I should warn you that this post is not suitable for vegans, vegetarians, or those with a delicate temperament. It is definitely carnivorous, and deals with some of the inside bits that most people never, ever see, let alone cook, or eat.
No, not awful, but offal.
To be more precise, Lamb Heart.
See there, how we've arrived at an ironically relevant and and yet vaguely inappropriate topic?
A much more accurate reflection of me, I think, and now I feel better about applications to this whole V-Day theme.
So, if you are still reading after the offal heart thing - and thanks for sticking around, all three of you - let me say that I was expecting it to be, well, gross. Like slasher movie gross.
But you know what?
It looks like meat (but, well, heart-shaped, obviously).
It feels like meat.
It tastes like meat - really, really good steak, actually.
Funnily enough, or perhaps rather predictably, the closest Nigella gets is Devil's Food Cake.
The traditional devilling method is to quickly cook the offal and make a sauce of mustard, heavy cream, and Worchester Sauce. Traditionally, Devilled Kidneys were a Victorian breakfast food. This version is not traditional, in that I gently simmer the heart in red wine and tomato sauce for 2 hours to make it meltingly tender, then add the traditional ingredients.
Also, I suggest you have this for dinner, but if you really have your heart set on eating it for breakfast, who am I to stop you.
I'll wait while you tissue up those tears of laughter.
This version is more of a Red Devilled Heart, I suppose, but it is still rich and meaty and tasty.
If you're already an offal-eating fan, or merely want to give it a try, this Devilled Heart is a delicious way to transition into some nose-to-tail eating.
One heart serves 2 as a light dinner.
1 lamb heart
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup tomato passata or sauce
1 bay leaf
generous grind of black pepper
1/2 tablespoon grainy mustard
1/2 tablespoon paradise jelly or currant jelly
1/2 tablespoon Worchester Sauce
2 tablespoons heavy cream
parsley for garnish
toast to serve
You will also need a small pot with a lid.
Clean the heart and cut away any white connective tissue. Cut the heart in half, and each half into 4 slices.
Melt the butter in a pot and brown the heart pieces, then add the wine, passata, bay leaf and pepper.
Bring to a simmer, then pop on the lid and turn to the lowest setting and very gently bubble for 2 hours, until the heart is tender and yielding. Allow to cool slightly. Remove the heart from the sauce and slice thinly.
Return the pot with the sauce back to the stove and add the mustard, jelly, and Worchester Sauce. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to melt the jelly and thicken the sauce. Add the heart slices, simmer for a minute or two until warmed, and remove from the heat.
Add the cream, stir, and spoon over toast to help sop up the rich and flavorful sauce.
Garnish with a generous sprinkle of chopped parsley for color and fresh green flavor, and accompany with a robust red wine and a spicy salad such as arugula.
We have a freezer full of pig. Well, technically, we have a freezer full of half a pig.
Plus an entire lamb, including the head. But that's another story.
We were inspired to go the whole hog, if you pardon my pun, by an overdose of Hugh and his pigs.
Which is cuter? Hard to tell, really.
We got this half-pig, or rather this pig that was cut in half, from a local farm in the fall. We now have 80 pounds of various pig parts in the freezer. Each package is so neatly wrapped in white paper, like lumpy, meaty presents just waiting to be opened. Our half a pig makes for a rather lot of packages. The labels are small, and they're all stacked up, so it's hard to aim for something in particular.
Usually we just reach in and grab for the one that catches our fancy.
Today's grab was tenderloin.
Here in the heartland, we take a tenderloin, or t-loin, as we affectionately call it, pound it flat, dredge it in bread crumbs, deep fry it. Then, we stuff it in a too-small bun, so its embarrasing pulchritude overflows the inadequate bread mitt we use to keep a grip on the hot, crispy hubcap of a meal.
That has a certain appeal, I will not deny.
But sometimes tenderloin would like to be treated with a little more respect.
And that is truly where pork comes into its own. It has a sweet, mild taste that pairs well with a variety of flavors, but it can stand up to a little bit of heat, too. I found it hard to resist the glowing combination of green apples, orange apricots and pink peppercorns, topped with a golden zesting of Meyer Lemon. It's a veritable rainbow of colors that cuts through the dreary winter weather and also makes a surprisingly complex combination of flavors - sharp, tart, citrusy, with zing from small pops of scattered pink peppercorn.
When stuffing a tenderloin, you want to make as much surface area as possible to spread the filling onto. I used a knife to cut open this 2-pound pork loin roast with tenderloin, a little like unfolding a book. It naturally fell open along the muscle bundles, and then I cut lengthways from the center to the left about two-thirds of the way through, and from the center to the right, about two-thirds of the way through, and opened up each side.
If you have a thinner tenderloin you may only be able to cut it once, but be careful not to cut completely through the meat, as you want to be able to unfold it. Your tenderloin may not fully wrap around to meet in the middle. If you want to further increase the surface area, you can pound it a little flatter with a meat tenderizer or flat-bottomed heavy pot.
All that's left to do is apply the stuffing and tie up the tenderloin around it, and you have a showstopper of a dinner.
Pork Tenderloin with Apple, Apricot and Pink Peppercorn Stuffing.
Serves 8 to 10.
One 2 pound pork tenderloin or loin roast
1/2 pound breakfast sausage or other mild sausage
1 Granny Smith Apple
1/2 cup dried apricot
1 Meyer Lemon
1 generous tablespoon pink peppercorns
Salt and pepper
You will also need a large roasting pan and kitchen twine.
Assemble the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl. Zest the lemon, and juice half of it. Core and chop the apple into 1-cm sized pieces, leaving the skin on. Chop the apricots into 1-cm sized pieces. Remove the sausage from the casing, if necessary. Combine all the ingredients together. The mixture will not blend well, but the fruits will mix into the sausage meat. Add the pink peppercorns and mix through.
Open the tenderloin up according to the directions above, until you have a rough rectangle. Squeeze the remaining half lemon over, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Distribute the stuffing ingredients evenly down the center of the tenderloin.
Cut a piece of twine that is 5 or 6 incles longer than the width of the tenderloin. Work it under one end of the tenderloin, and gently bring the twine up and tie it off. The tenderloin may not meet at the top, and that's just fine. Try to keep the stuffing in, but also to tie fairly snugly. If any stuffing squeezes out, just stuff it back in again. Continue to tie until the entire tenderloin is bundled up in a long, narrow roll.
You can refrigerate the tenderloin, rolled, for up to a day. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Make a snug nest of aluminum foil that fits around the tenderloin, to catch the juices. Place the tenderloin and foil nest in a large roasting tray. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 35o degrees F and roast for a further 45 minutes, until the meat registers 145 degrees F. Baste with the juices every 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, place onto a warmed plate, cover, and allow to rest for 10 or 15 minutes before serving.
Remember to remove the twine before you eat!
Make a gravy with the juices if you want, and serve with a green salad.
Leftover fish is always a dilema, isn't it? The prospect of having to reheat that once perfectly done fillet conjurs images of dry fishy flakes yearning for better days.
And yet, the leftovers, they must be used.
Instead of just making do, make them into something great, something completely new.
Repurpose, rather than recycle.
Fish cakes are a fantastic way to take those extra fish bits and create a brand-shiny-new dinner worthy of the spotlight all on its own. You could, of course, start out by cooking the fish specifically for these cakes, and they are good enough that you may want to do that, but dragging out the leftovers and classing them up in such a fashion makes you look like you deserve a medal.
Or at least a slightly boozy drinkie.
And a well-deserved drink it is, too.
I've used halibut because that's the leftovers we had, but salmon, cod, or a mix of any firm-fleshed fish would work. If you don't have enough leftovers from one meal, save more than one dinner's worth in the freezer until you cumulatively acquire the necessary amount. Or, if you don't have the exact amount, simply scale the rest of the ingredients up or down accordingly. This is an extremely flexible, forgiving recipe.
The methodology? Toss some bits and bobs in a bowl, mix, fry. That simple.
And the Bloody Mary Sauce?
Why, oh why, didn't I think of this earlier?
Bloody. Mary. Sauce.
I could have been eating Bloody Mary Sauce for years. I have been so deprived.
Not only is it fun on a plate, it is just the acid bite to really kick those fish cakes into spectacular. Not too boozy, but the bacon vodka adds a meaty, smoky undertone that lifts up the fresh, clean fish.
No one need ever know that this was leftovers.
Shhh... I won't tell if you won't.
Halibut Fish Cakes
2 cups coarsely flaked cooked halibut or other firm fish
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup mayonaise
1 tablespoon dried parsley
generous grind black pepper
generous pinch salt
You will also need the following:
several tablespoons flour
one egg, beaten well
about 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
a few tablespoons olive oil
Mix all ingredients for the Bloody Mary Sauce. This can be prepared ahead. Refrigerate for up to a week.
Mix all the ingredients for the fish cakes together until well-combined. Scoop out 1/4 cup portions and form into inch-thick patties. Fish patties can be placed in a container and covered, then stored in the refrigerator for up to a day.
Take the first fish cake and dredge in the flour to cover completely. Then, dip in the egg until it is completely covered. Finally, place in the bread crumbs and gently press crumbs onto the sides, top and bottom, until all surfaces are well coated.
Place the coated fish cake onto a plate. Continue coating each additional fish cake in flour, then egg, then crumbs, until they are all coated.
You can now refrigerate the fish cakes for 20 or 30 minutes if you prefer, or start frying immediately. The cakes are more fragile if not refrigerated, but not dangerously so.
Put a large, flat bottomed frying pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, put 2 tablespoons of oilve oil in and swirl to coat the pan fully. Place the fish cakes in the pan, leaving about 2 to 3 inches between each cake. You will need to get in there with a spatula to turn them, so do leave some room. You may need to fry the cakes in two separate batches.
Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the crust is brown and crisp. Turn, and cook the other side. Add more oil if necessary. Remember, the fish is already cooked, so you are just crisping the patty surface.
Serve the fish cakes hot, with lashings of the Bloody Mary Sauce, and a nice green side salad. Garnish with wedges of lemon.
Celeriac is all over the place right now. I keep coming across it unexpectedly in the veggie aisle and getting a scare, because boy howdy is it ugly.
Lumpy, hairy, rooty, brown bulbous kinda ugly.
As in, not pretty.
But you chop off all that outside stuff and the inside is an ethereal white, smelling clean and sharp and faintly of anise.
It's what celery wishes it smelled like, if celery weren't so agressively celery-smelling.
And there's this haze of austerity, puritanical cleansing, lurking about right now, brought on by holiday excess and new year re-evaluation, that the clean and calm of celeriac seems to resonate with.
Maybe it's the white, or the crunch of crisp slices, or the subtle palate-cleansing flavor, but raw celeriac just feels like it is supremely good for you. And we'd all like to feel like we're doing good for ourselves, especially right about now, in the long, cold stretch out of winter.
This is a riff on Celeriac Remoulade, which is a French classic, and more often than not uses some combination of mayonaise and mustard in various proportions for a dressing. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall adds red onions for a little acidic bite to compliment the celeriac crunch, and I decided to quick pickle them. This mellows the sharpness and also highlights the remarkable pink color, making this dish a riot of pastels.
Hugh also makes a dressing using creme fraiche instead of mayonaise, which results in what I think is a cleaner-tasting and less sticky finish. The dressing is a gem in and of itself, and can be used on any robust salad or vegetable, or even spread on a sandwich in lieu of mayo. You can make creme fraiche remarkably easily, and it's dead useful in all kinds of things from sauces to baking.
Creme fraiche scones? Delightful! I'll be sharing those soon.
So, whatever cleanse you're on, even if it's just a mental cobweb sweep-out, take the time to apologize to your body for being such a jerk last year and treat it nicely for a while. Ease back into the real world with something light, crisp and healthy.
Then have another glass of wine.
Celeriac, Caper and Pickled Red Onion Salad.
Modified from a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Guardian column.
Serves 6 to 8 as a side salad.
one head celeriac (about 300 g)
1 small red onion
50 g capers, brine-packed
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
a squeeze of lemon
Creme Fraiche Dressing
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon roasted garlic, chopped (I use the kind in a jar)
1 tablespoon grainy mustard (more if you're a super fan of mustard)
1 teaspoon sugar
fresh ground black pepper
You will also need a mandoline or vegetable peeler.
To prepare the dressing, add all of the ingredients except the oil to a food processor and process until you have a thick, well-blended mixture. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until it is incorporated and the dressing is a creamy emulsion. Store in the refrigerator until needed. Keeps for up to a week. Bring back to room temperature before using.
Prepare a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon. Cut off the rooty, fibrous, brown and lumpy skin of the celeriac. Peel the white inner flesh into very thin slices with a vegetable peeler or mandoline. As you peel, drop the slices into the lemon water. Store in the lemon water until ready to serve.
Finely slice the onion into half-moons and rinse, shake a little to dry off, and put into a bowl with the white wine vinegar. Marinate the onions in the vinegar for about 30 minutes.
When ready to serve, strain and dry the celeriac. Strain the onions. Arrange the celeriac on a large, flat plate. Scatter the onions on top.
Drizzle the dressing artistically over the celeriac and onions, then scatter the capers and thyme leaves over. Generously grind over the pepper and sprinkle with flaky salt.
Serve any extra dressing on the side.
The undressed celeriac will keep for a day or two, but once you assemble the salad it's best eaten immediately.
Organic limes on sale, a passing glance at a recipe in a cookbook, a sudden desire to play with salt.
Maybe it's a retaliation for all the tooth-achingly sweet overload of the holidays, but I'll take a mouth-puckeringly sour pickle in an instant these days. Can't get enough cornichons. In fact, I am starting to salivate just thinking about it.
I've fallen onto this fad roughly 150 years too late, plus or minus a decade or so. Lime pickles have had their heyday come and go, and have quite an illustrious literary pedigree to show for it, featuring in Little Women (chapter 7, apparently).
I have no recollection of even wondering what lime pickles were while I was reading Little Women in 7th grade. I guess I was not inquisitive enough about citrus. I did get an A on the book report. And I do like a good pickle.
Modified from Nigella Lawson. Makes about 2 cups of pickles.
2 large or 3 small limes
1 1/2 cup coarse salt (I used kosher)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
6 small dried chili peppers
approximately 1 1/2 cups olive oil (not extra virgin) or other neutral oil
You will also need a 1/2 liter sterilized jar for storing the pickles, and a 9 or 10 inch square non-reactive baking tray or glass container.
Cut the limes into 8 or 12 slices (quartered, then 2 or 3 slices each), depending on the size of your limes, aim for less than a centimeter maximum width of rind on each slice.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup salt on the bottom of your tray, then arrange the limes on the salt in a single layer.
Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of salt over the limes evenly. They will not be completely covered. Put this in the freezer for a minimum of 12 hours, but longer is fine.
Remove from the freezer after the allotted time and thaw completely. Put the limes and salt in a collander and, using very cold water, rinse all the salt off. Pat the limes dry with a towel.
Arrange the limes in a container that will hold all the slices and has at least an additional inch of space above the uppermost lime.
Starting with 1 cup of oil, mix in the spices and pour over the limes.
Continue to add as much oil as necessary to completely cover the limes. They must be fully submerged or they will mold. Close and store in a dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating, to allow the lime pickles time to absorb the spices.
Don't think about this in the literal sense.
Really, don't. Especially now that I just told you not to.
Do know, however, that no toads were harmed in the making of this dish.
Think of it like pig in a blanket, instead.
Also don't think about that in the literal sense, though it is closer to reality.
What this is, is a rustic and olde-worlde name for a tasty and fast classic English pub food:
Yorkshire pudding and sausage, cuddled happily together in one baking pan.
This is a perfect quick dinner, using some zesty Italian sausage or bratwurst. Trade those in for some maple breakfast sausage and our Toad could make a spectacular breakfast or brunch. If you're lucky enough to get your hands on proper British bangers, go for it!
It comes together in a snap, and requires very little effort or time. It's easily doubled and can feed a crowd. Really, all it needs is a heavy baking pan and some good sausage.
Embrace British cusine, and serve up some toad-in-the-hole!
Vegetarians? Skip the Toad and just make the Hole, like a giant savory popover.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound thick sausage
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Find a heavy baking dish (ceramic, metal) that the sausages fit into with some clearance on all sides of every sausage. The more space the more crispy Yorkshire pudding you'll get. However, you don't want the sausages to be lost in a giant pan. Aim for cozy over crowded or empty.
Pour the oil in a baking dish and tilt to coat the bottom. Add the sausage and toss well to coat. Bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes.
Now, prepare the batter. Put the remaining ingredients in a blender, food processor or miniprep processor, and blend until smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides after a minute to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
Take the pan with the sausage out of the oven and pour the batter over and around the sausage. Return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes, until the batter is puffed and golden.
My fall fantasy: crisp frosty mornings, sharp blue sky, crunchy leaves and giant steaming bowls of tomato soup.
My fall reality: cold damp mornings, grey cloudy days, soggy leaf piles and giant steaming bowls of tomato soup.
Perfect either way, really. Mostly because of the tomato soup.
Mind you, this is not instant open a can and eat soup.
It takes time. Kind of a lot of time, really.
But it is so much better than any other tomato soup I've ever had that honestly, it's worth every minute.
Plus it totally does justice to all those tomatoes you've stored from the garden and are just now ripening.
What, you say? Fresh tomatoes?
Pick those tomatoes when they are green, leave the stem on, and wrap individually in newspaper.
Store in a cool place. I use my unheated laundry room.
Check every few days. You may get this...
Or you may get this...
Looks like tomato soup making time to me!
Roasted tomato soup.
Modified from Back to Brilliant, Y'all by Virginia Willis.
3 pounds of ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup red wine
salt and pepper
Heat oven to 450 degrees C.
Cut the tomatoes into large pieces and trim out the core. Leave the skin on.
Set up a fine sieve over a big bowl. Channel your inner toddler and squeeze the seeds out of the tomatoes into the sieve. When you're done seeding the tomatoes, squish as much tomato juice from the seeds as possible. Save the juice and discard the seeds.
Put the cut and squozen tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, in a single layer, and sprinkle on the brown sugar.
Bake until almost all the juice has evaporated and the tomatoes are starting to crisp ever so lightly on the edges. This will take from 25 to 35 minutes. Check often because they go from perfect to charred rather fast.
When done, take them out and let them cool for a few minutes. Then, start on the next phase.
Put the butter or oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and nutmeg. Add a pinch of salt. Don't knock yourself out chopping the onion into teensie tiny pieces, we're just going to puree it later. Cook and stir frequently until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the flour and stir constantly for about a minute or two, until the flour is thoroughly coating the onions and has lost a little of its raw taste. Add the chicken stock a little at a time and continue to stir vigorously in order to get rid of all those flour lumps.
Add the tomato juice, wine and roasted tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then turn to medium-low and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir regularly, because the bottom may catch.
Use an immersion blender and puree the soup. I like it very smooth, but you can leave it chunky of you prefer.
This freezes really well and can keep you in soup all winter long.
Serve this with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche if you want. Make this into the best cream of tomato soup ever by stirring a big spoonful of heavy cream into each bowl.
Consider Autumn sorted!
Here we are, two weeks after first starting this cabbage-based experiment, and the purple sauerkraut is coming along nicely. Meaning, I could let it continue to ferment some more, but really I want to eat it. Now.
Stick a fork in it, it's done! (har har)
The kraut has a crisp and toothsome texture that you just don't get in commercial products. It also definitely retains some of its original cabbage-y-ness that gets lost probably with the heat treatment from commerical sauerkraut. This may not be a selling point for you, but if it is not I would doubt that you are going to eat sauerkraut anyway. If you like cabbage, but not kraut, this may change your mind.
Home-made sauerkraut is remarkably less sauer ... er, sour ... than any other kraut I have had. I am tempted to take my nextbatch to the 4 week mark and see how tangy I can make it, but even at a week or two, this makes a really flavorful and mellow sauerkraut. And the color, my goodness!
Plus, it totally cures flu in chickens.
Tho I am not sure feeding sick chickens chicken soup would be an option.
Some thoughts on the process - more salt is not better.
Mason jars are not optimal because the mouth is quite narrow.
If you go into large-scale production, here's a slightly modified procedure that may be easier, though you will need a mallot to pound the cabbage into the bowl. Interesting.
I used to hate it when my mom made sauerkraut for the holidays. Shw would put it on the stove in the morning on Turkey Day and let it cook for what seemed like hours. It stank up the house to high heaven. Bleh.
Chemical warfare. Torture.
Well, either I am turning into my mother, or I simply can't escape my European peasant farmer roots, because I somehow became one of those people.
I eat sauerkraut.
And I like it.
And now, I am making it.
Like, Make make. From a cabbage. Dude.
You see, I've developed a fixation on this site, espousing the return to traditional foods. Nourished Kitchen.
Real food. Pre-industrial revolution. (I say this as I sip my morning coffee, made with Coffee Mate. The closest that comes to real food is when it sat next to the carrots in my grocery bag. But anyway.)
Red cabbage, meet thine transformation.
I followed the steps found here for making sauerkraut, improvising a little. Making kraut requires time, but most of that is hands-off. It is satisfying and super simple easy. The finished product is cabbage and salt transformed by lactic acid fermentation, increasing vitamins C and B and healthy food enzymes. Plus it's an awesome color.
You, too, can now torture non-kraut eaters with this jewel-toned bonanza of goodness.
Homemade purple sauerkraut.
Based on instructions from Nourished Kitchen.
Yield depends on the size of your cabbage, around 20 ounces for mine.
1 small to medium head of purple cabbage.
2 heaping tablespoons of sea salt.
Pinch of celery seed and fennel seed, ground (optional).
Do not wear white during this procedure. Trust me on this.
Quarter and core the cabbage, then slice as thinly as humanly possible. You can put it through the food processor, but I didn't think it was worth the extra cleaning for such a small amount, so I sliced it by hand.
In a non-reactive bowl, combine the cabbage and the salt. Using clean hands (rings removed), squeeze the bejesus out of that cabbage. Squeeze! After about 30 seconds you will start feeling the moisture come out of the cabbage, and by the end of 5 minutes the cabbage should be fairly rubbery and there will be quite a bit of purple juice in the bottom of the bowl.
Also, your forearms will be quite tired.
Add in the pinch of ground spices if you want.
Take a large, clean mason jar and pack in all the cabbage as tightly as possible. Pour over the remaining juice, and if you see any air bubbles in there, use a pointed stick (I have a trusty metal shish kebab skewer) to remove the air.
The cabbage should be mostly covered by the juice. However, we want to make sure that the cabbage is completely covered by the juice, and not exposed to air, because we are making an anaerobic chemical reaction here, folks.
Here comes the niftyness: Take a clean plastic bag and put it into the top of the mason jar, leaving the top open. Make sure the bag does not leak, before you put it in the jar, ok? Fill that bag with water so the jar is mostly, but not completely, full. If necessary, gently ease your finger into the sides of the jar to press the bag down and remove any air at the cabbage-bag interface. The bag should be pressing the cabbage down into the salty juices and there shouldn't be any air in the jar. You can seal the bag so you don't accidentally spill the water.
Cover loosely, and put this jar somewhere out of the way. I use the steps to my basement. Now, you're ready to wait. At a minimum, one week, and up to 4 weeks if you want some seriously fermented kraut. Taste a little after the first week and see if you like it. When it hits your kraut sweet spot, move it to the fridge or other cold storage and it should keep for 6 months.
Also, when it's fermenting, never put a lid on this. If you seal the top and pressure builds up - from the little anaerobic microbes doing their fermenting thing - the jar could blow up. Foods that blow up are kinda cool, but cleaning up the mess of exploding purple kraut is most certainly not.
They are born from a jar, crunchy and tangy, as if by magic.
Some are round, some are long, all are delicious.
And not until recently did I ever consider making my own.
I thought it would be hard.
I thought it would be complicated.
I thought it would be time-consuming.
I was so wrong it's almost embarassing.
Quick pickles are, well, quick.
And tasty. And delicious.
And still magic.
Sweet Pickles, and Sour Pickles.
Modified from Maine Classics by Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier.
3 pounds mixed cucumbers and zucchini (I used 8 small cukes and 4 medium zukes)
4 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 heads of garlic
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon salt
Wash the cukes and zukes and cut into 3 inch-long logs, then cut into 4 or 8 wedges per round, to make spears.
Peel and very lightly crush the garlic cloves.
Put the coriander into the bottom of a large non-reactive pot (no aluminum!) and turn on the burner to toast the seeds. This should take only 1 or 2 minutes, until you can smell the coriander. Watch the seeds carefully and stir often to make sure they do not burn.
Add the vinegar, sugar, cardamom seeds, and salt to the pot and bring to a boil.
Add the cucumbers, zucchini and garlic to the pot, turn off the burner and remove from the heat.
Let steep until cool.
Pack into a jar and top up with the vinegar brine. Store in the fridge. Serve cold.
Makes 8 to 10 modest pickle servings.
3 pounds mixed cucumbers and zucchini (I used 8 small cukes and 4 medium zukes)
4 cups vinegar, a mixture of white wine and cider (I used 1 cup cider and 3 cups white wine)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 cup mustard seeds (yellow or brown)
Wash the cukes and zukes and cut into 3 inch-long logs, then cut into 4 or 8 wedges per round, to make spears.
Mix the vinegar, water, salt, sugar and mustard seeds in a non-reactive pot.
Bring to a boil, then add the cukes and zukes, turn off the burner and remove from the heat.
Let steep until cool.
Pack into a jar and top up with the vinegar brine. Store in the fridge. Serve cold.
Makes 8 to 10 modest pickle servings.
I know, you're a brave soul to see 'raw kale' and have the fortitude to continue reading. But you will be rewarded with a fresh and tasty salad that is nourishing and healthy.
And if your garden is anything like mine, you are looking for something to make a dent in the kale that has taken over and daily comes closer to turning into a small forest.
Kale is a power food, and is related to cabbage and broccoli. It has loads of vitamins (A, B6, C, K) plus fiber, iron, calcium and phytochemicals that protect cells and help eye health. Eating more kale is a good thing to do.
I grow two varieties: Lacinato and Red Russian. Both are from Seed Saver's Exchange, a fabulous source of heirloom and rare seeds. Lacinato, also known as Dinosaur or Nero di Toscana kale, is an Italian heirloom that produces strappy, rumply, 12 to 18 inch long deep blue-green blades that taste mineral and deeply vegetal. Red Russian forms a beautiful purple-veined grey-green frilly leaf with a sweet and tender flavor. I had much better sprouting success with the Red Russian, so it dominates the garden this year.
I have played fast and loose with a salad from Dr. Terry Whals that was sold briefly at my local food co-op. She has an amazing story of overcoming multiple sclerosis through intensive nutrition. Kale plays a large part in her philosophy of recovery.
Citrus and raw kale salad.
Serves 4 to 6 as a side or starter.
1 large bunch of kale leaves (I used 8 Lacinato and 8 Red Russian), washed, rinsed and with tough stems removed.
1 head of roasted garlic, cloves squeezed out, or 2 to 8 cloves of minced raw garlic
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Stack two or three kale leaves on top of each other and roll up tightly the long way like a green and ruffly cigar. Slice into thin 1/4 inch strips, fluff, and place in a bowl. Continue until all kale is sliced.
Segment your orange and grapefruit, making sure to keep the juice that drips out. Here is a photographic guide to segmenting your citrus. Cut any citrus wedges into smaller, bite-sized pieces if you want, or leave whole for a more visually impressive presentation. Add to the bowl with the kale.
In a bowl, put 3 tablespoons of citrus juice left over from segmenting the citrus (squeeze the remaining trimmed bits if necessary), the roasted or chopped garlic, and the remaining liquid ingredients: the sesame oil, vinegar and tamari or soy sauce. Whisk until combined, add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the kale and citrus and mix thoroughly.
Plate up individually and garnish with the dried cherries and almonds, or add them and mix into the salad along with the dressing.
Kale is so sturdy that, unlike with most dressed salads, this stores in the refrigerator just fine for a few days. You can easily make this ahead of time.
I only really tried chard a few months ago, and I don't really know why I waited so long. No, wait, I do. I thought it would be over-the-top spinach in a composty, woody, you know it must be good for you because it is moderately unpleasant way. How unfair to the chard! It is actually quite nice in a green, tender, tastes so good you can't believe it is actually healthy (ok, so maybe you can believe it is healthy but it still tastes good anyway) way. Coupled with the overabundance of butternut still lurking in the basement, this is definitely the hot couple of the moment around these parts.
In order not to be overwhelmed with healthy goodness, I made a chard and butternut savory bread pudding with cheddar cheese, and the whole thing was eggy and satisfying with enough veggies mixed in to feel virtuous. This could be a light meal on its own or with soup, or a side dish for a more substantial dinner.
The recipe is a scrap cut from a long recycled cooking magazine. Some internet sleuthing found it on Epicurious and attributed it to Molly Wizenberg's November 2009 Bon Appetit column. She's on an apple crumble jag right now, which looks pretty darned tasty, and would make a lovely finish to a butternut and chard bread pudding dinner.
Butternut and chard cheddar bread pudding after Molly Wizenberg in Bon Appetit.
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 2 cm cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus additional
4 large eggs
1 cup half and half
3 tablespoons geneva (or use 6 tablespoons dry white wine)
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard
5 cups cubed bread (1 medium loaf)
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4)
1 bunch of chard, stems removed and chopped
6 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the squash with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil and put onto a rimmed baking sheet. Or, do what I did and spray the pan with oil, toss on the squash, and give them a good spray. Sprinkle with salt and bake until tender, turning every 10 minutes, for a total of 20 to 25 minutes.
Whisk the eggs, half and half, geneva or wine, mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Add the bread (yes, large bowl necessary) and mix until the bread is starting to soak in the eggs. Let sit for 30 minutes, or while the squash is baking.
Meanwhile (3 things on the go here ... whew) heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot or pan and saute the shallots until tender, which should take about 5 minutes. Drop the kale on top, put on a lid, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. The chard should be tender and wilted. Stir, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, until the chard is soft but not mushy.
When the squash is done, turn the oven to 350 F, Butter a 9 by 9 by 3 (or 10 by 10 by 3) baking dish. Spread half of the eggy bread across the bottom - it may not fully cover the entire bottom but just distribute as evenly as possible. Spoon half of the chard over the bread. Spoon half of the squash over the bread and chard. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat for another layer, in the same order; bread, chard, squash, cheese. If there is any eggy left in the bowl pour over the top.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until the custard is set and the bread feels springy.
Broil the top for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese is brown, if you like, and let cool a little before serving.
Make it pioneer: substitute the chard for a package of baby spinach. No need to cook for the extra 5 minutes.
Make it Jersey: fry up a hot Italian sausage or two, slice thinly and layer in after the squash.
Make it rock & roll: use a mixture of cheeses including Gruyere and Parmesan.
This wraps up our preserved lemon leitmotif, for now. But there are still jars lurking in the cabinet, and plenty of ideas. How about paper-baked salmon with preserved lemon and zucchini? Or a cold bulgar salad with preserved lemon and edamame? Or a moroccan-inspired lamb stew with preserved lemon and couscous? Oh yes, we will return to the preserved lemon, but not immediately. I need to make me some muffins next. But first, carrots.
This quick side dish showcases the bright and tangy flavor of the preserved lemon with a minimum of fuss. The recipe is based on Carotts Confites in Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous by Joan Nathan, but tweaked to use only one pan. Less dishwashing rocks. Also, carrots are great because they are orange, and orange food is just more fun, somehow.
Glazed Carrots with preserved lemon
1 pound of carrots
peel of 1 preserved lemon, sliced thinly
5 tablespoons of honey, divided into 2 T and 3 T
1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Wash and peel the carrots and slice thinly. I like to go fancy and cut the carrots into 2 inch logs, then slice each log in half the long way and then slice each half into thin planks about 3 mm wide. Something about cutting a carrot into little rectangles is perversely satisfying to me. Rounds are perfectly fine, if you find this odd or just can't be bothered.
Take a large frying pan with a lid and add the water or stock, the lemon peel, 2 tablespoons of the honey, and the carrots, stirring until they are combined.
Bring to a boil, then put the lid on, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer until the carrots are starting to become tender. This will take about 5 minutes. Once, in the middle, take the lid off and give the carrots another stir.
Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium-high, and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. There should be only 1 to 2 tablespoons left in the bottom of the pan. This will take another 1 to 2 minutes.
When the liquid is almost gone, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the remaining 3 tablespoons of honey. Continue to cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring, until the oil and honey and pan liquid form a glossy coat and glaze the carrots.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Make it pioneer: swap out the oil and honey for an equal amount of brown sugar + butter.
Make it Jersey: add some red pepper flakes with the honey.
Make it rock & roll: garnish with chopped pistachio nuts.
Risotto is one of our go-to dinners. It is a chameleon of a meal - you can make it as-is, or add almost anything to it, for infinite permutations on dinner. We usually make this with leftover meat from a roasted carcass of some kind (chicken, lamb) and most of the time are Fergus Henderson enough to make stock from self-same carcass to use in the risotto. I know, we're crazy that way.
The happy secret to risotto is arborio rice. These plump little grains are more starchy, and make a creamier sauce, than regular rice. Plus they're cute, aren't they? The dirty secret to risotto is that you gotta stir the stuff constantly for the entire time it takes to make it. This is 20 minutes of stirring. A not insignificant investment of time. But it is worth it for an excellent, easy, and classy meal. Take a moment and enjoy the transformation from dry little rice grains to tender and creamy dinner.
Risotto with preserved lemon.
2 tablespoons of olive or canola oil
1 cup arborio rice
about 5 cups of vegetable stock (can, box or cube* is just fine)
1 cup peas (I use frozen 99.99 % of the time)
1 preserved lemon, rind only, sliced thinly
*If you're using cubes to make stock, use boiling water and you'll save yourself some cooking time.
Put the oil in a large flat-bottomed pan and let it warm for a minute on medium heat. Add the arborio rice and stir it so all the rice grains are coated with oil.
If you are going to watch this like you'd watch a toddler playing with a fork around an electrical outlet**, you can crank it up to medium-high and get rockin'. This requires nothing less than Constant Vigilance. If there is any chance that you will dedicate anything less than Constant Vigilance at any point in this process, you should ratchet back to medium and resign yourself to taking a little longer but not burning dinner.
Add the stock, 1 cup at a time, and stir, stir, stir. Stirring is what makes the risotto creamy, because you rub off some of that outer layer of starchy goodness from the rice grains and thicken the stock.
When the first cup of stock is almost all absorbed into the rice it is time to add another cupful. A good indication is when you feel the rice start to catch on the bottom of the pan. If you can scrape a trough and it stays, rather than immediately filling in behind the spoon, it is time. I almost burned the rice trying to get this picture.
It will take you a good 20 minutes of constant stirring and adding stock, but now you're getting close. Pass the time by thinking of how great your triceps will look after all this. Or how lopsided you will be from stirring with only one arm.
As you approach the end of the stock, taste the rice and see if it is done to your liking. The crunchy inner core should definitely be gone. If you like your risotto with a little definition (like your triceps), stop while the grains have a firm texture. If you want the risotto a little softer, add another 1/2 cup of stock or so, or if you've run out of stock just add some water, and keep stirring until the texture of the rice is just perfect for you.
At the very end, add the peas and preserved lemon, stir, and continue to cook for another minute or two until the peas are hot.
You may need to once again stir in a little more stock/water to loosen the risotto up before serving - that rice will continue to absorb the liquid and the risotto will thicken, and you want to aim for a flowing texture rather than sticky.
This makes enough dinner for 2 hungry people with some leftovers.
Leftover risotto for lunch totally rocks - stir in some extra water and microwave.
Make it pioneer: swap chicken stock for the vegetable stock and add in 1 to 2 cups of cubed cooked chicken at the end.
Make it Jersey: add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese at the end, stirring until melted, and sprinkle a little more on top to serve.
Make it rock & roll: swap the first cup of vegetable stock for an equivalent amount of good white wine and add in 1-2 cups of cooked shrimp at the end. Drink the rest of the bottle with dinner.
** Do I need to say that you should take the damn fork away?