Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gruyere Risotto Cakes

The only way risotto leftovers can be made better? Form them into patties, roll in panko bread crumbs and fry lightly in extra-virgin olive oil.

Afraid of making risotto? Try making risotto cakes! Seriously – this is like an easy introduction to the beauty of thick, creamy risotto jazzed up with any flavors you desire. And the flaky panko breadcrumbs provide such a perfect crunch.

I must say that Grant declared these to be in his “top 3” meals I’ve made. Now if only I could remember the first two…

This recipe from Ina Garten is easy to tweak. For instance, I didn’t have Greek yogurt, so I used some low-fat sour cream that I already had. I didn’t have chives, so I used green onions. Gruyere was miraculously on sale, so I used that instead of fontina. In my opinion, Gruyere is a far superior cheese (and my favorite cooking cheese) to fontina, so it was an obvious switch.

Next time, I may try to freeze the cakes before frying – some of them still tried to fall apart on me. Don’t worry – it won’t affect the taste!

Lightly browned in the pan and then crisped up in the oven while I made the salad, these would be a wonderful appetizer if made smaller. But they are just as delicious and decadent as your entree, served on a bed of peppery arugula in a light lemon vinaigrette (with Parmesan shavings over the top, of course).

Gruyere Risotto Cakes


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Good olive oil
  • Baby arugula
  • Juice from 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-low heat and add 1/2 tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, green onions, cheeses, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using an ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Place patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes – increase the heat to 350 if the cakes fell apart in the frying process and need to be crisped.

Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried.

Meanwhile, prepare your salad.

Whisk juice of 1 lemon with 1/3-1/2 c. EVOO and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over arugula and finish with Parmesan shavings.

To serve, place hot cakes on top of arugula salad and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. When you bite in, the rice will be creamy and flavored with all the nutty Gruyere and light onions. The arugula will wilt under the heat and the Parmesan will soften. Just fabulous!

To reheat, place cakes on baking sheet and heat in 350-degree oven until they start to sizzle.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Ginger Peach Muffins

Crystallized ginger is a beautiful thing to add to your baked goods. Sweet and spicy, biting into it offers a subtle heat that will make any ordinary treat extra special.

That’s why I knew these ginger peach muffins, adapted from my Food & Wine cookbook, would be a fun summer-meets-fall confection. The peaches are sauteed to caramelize their juices, then placed atop the whole-wheat ginger batter and baked. The slices ooze with sweetness and keep the whole muffin tender.

When I first baked these, I found them a bit too dry. Perhaps it was the whole-wheat flour, I thought. So I packaged them up and took them to the office, where my colleagues quickly dug in. And to my amazement, they had softened nicely overnight. The recipe recommends eating them within 2 days and I can see why – the peaches will quickly over-soften and possibly mold if left longer.

A fun and healthy treat for tea time or breakfast time…

Ginger Peach Muffins


  • 2 T plus 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 small peaches, ripe but firm, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 c. AP flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tins.

In medium skillet, add butter, honey and 1 tsp grated ginger. Heat over medium to melt, stirring to combine until bubbling, 2 min. Add peaches, toss to coat, set aside.

Sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Set aside. Combine wet ingredients in large bowl, along with remaining fresh ginger and whisk to combine. Mix wet into dry ingredients until just combined.

Scoop batter into muffin cups.

Toss pan of peaches to coat them with the pan juices.

Lay two slices of peaches on each muffin, tucking in the top slice into the batter a little. Spoon pan juices over the peaches.

Bake 24-28 min., rotating pans halfway through. The peaches will start to caramelize and muffins with be light golden. Out of the oven, place each muffin on its side to cool – this will keep them from getting soggy.


Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Indian Butter Chicken

I’m really coming to love “The Spice Goddess” on the Cooking Channel. Not only does she cook authentic Indian fare, but she puts a healthier spin on things. Not that anyone’s counting calories or anything, but I can appreciate the effort. And Indian food can be so heavy sometimes.

Because it is so rich and spicy, Indian is also good for the cooler months: When you want whole spices popping in oil in your frying pan and thick yogurt sauces bubbling away. Butter chicken is an Indian dish I’ve been meaning to try, until I watched Bal maker her No-Butter Chicken, which has all the complexity, without all the butter and cream.

Imagine these smells coming from your kitchen: Cumin seeds, garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, garam masala and yogurt. Enough to be authentic, but easy enough for weeknight dining.

Adapted from Bal Arneson…

Indian No-Butter Chicken


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 whole cardamom pods (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water

Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it starts to get hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for 4 minutes, or until the onion is golden. Add the brown sugar, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, garam masala, red chile flakes, turmeric, and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken cubes and stir well to coat. Add the yogurt and water and cook, stirring until the chicken is done, about 8 minutes. Serve the chicken with rice and sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley.

Quite tasty and spicy.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pumpkin Beer Pretzels

As you can see from the photo above, fall in The South hits us later than the rest of the country. Yes, we have pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin beer, but we also have vine-ripened watermellon and ripe peaches fresh in the farm stands.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get into the seasonal mood, with an amber pumpkin ale and a yeasty pretzel to enjoy with fall football. I never really watch football, but I love just having it on in the background on the weekends. A great backdrop when I’m making rich curries or wine-soaked beef short ribs with bacon and wild mushroom polenta (THAT was amazing, recipes to come!).

These pumpkin beer pretzels are not really pumpkin-flavored. Or beer flavored. But while you’re making them, you can sure smell it. Originally from We Are Not Martha, I had to tweak this recipe quite a bit to make it work – adding way more flour and kneading more than it originally called for. Actually, they were kind of a pain and made a huge, sticky floury mess. But they baked up nicely and were tasty with a side of grainy mustard and a frothy beer in an iced glass. I snuggled into my new sectional couch with my steaming pretzel and a weekend game, and I was set.

Pumpkin Beer Pretzels


  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 t)
  • 1/2 C warm water, plus 2 C warm water
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 1 C pumpkin beer of your choice
  • 5-7 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 T coarse salt
  • 1 T butter, melted
  1. In a large bowl, whisk yeast with 1/2 cup warm water. Let rest for about 5 minutes, until frothy.
  2. Stir in sugar, salt, and olive oil. Pour in the beer. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour in one cup at a time.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 8 minutes, adding more flour to keep it from sticking. It is done when it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. Put dough into a lightly oiled bowl, place in a warm spot, cover with a kitchen towel, and let sit for an hour or so to rise.
  4. Punch the dough down and divide into 12 balls. Roll each dough ball into a rope and shape the rope into a pretzel by forming into a “u” and crossing one end down, followed by the other end.
  5. Mix your remaining 2 C warm water with 1 t baking soda in a baking pan or other shallow dish. Dip the formed pretzels in. Place on a greased baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough balls. Cover with a kitchen towel again and let rise for another 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425.
  6. Brush each pretzel lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned on top.
  7. Right when they come out of the oven, brush them with a little melted butter for an extra yummy taste.

The crust is crunchy and the inside is nice and chewy. These aren’t as good as those ones you get at the mall, but still…

Spoon some spicy mustard into a dish for serving, or just eat away! They would also be good sawed in half for a sandwich.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Thai Basil Shrimp Risotto

More risotto! This recipe calls itself Thai, but if you don’t use Thai basil and instead use the sweet basil about to go to seed in your backyard, it’s just a nice shrimp risotto.

I roasted my shrimp because I still believe that gives them the best flavor, and then added them at the end to combine with the rice, fresh basil and lime juice. Now, the lime was an interesting addition. Gave it a different sort of acidity that I quite liked. The final product wasn’t as robust in flavor compared to my heavier, bacon-flavored risotto, but it was still nice and creamy, with the fresh bite of shrimp.

A fun way to use the last of the summer basil…

Thai Basil Shrimp Risotto


  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 3/4 c. arborio rice
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 4-5 c. chicken stock, simmering
  • 12 basil leaves, sliced into strips
  • Juice of 1 lime

Heat oven to 400 and toss shrimp with few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, then place on baking sheet. Bake until cooked, 7-10 min. Set aside.

Put 1 T oil and butter in hot risotto pan and when hot, add garlic and onions, sauteeing 1 to 2 min. Add rice and stir 2 min. Add wine, deglaze pan and reduce heat to simmer until moisture is absorbed. Ladle in stock, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring almost constantly, until moisture is absorbed and rice just loses its grainy bite, roughly 20 min. Add shrimp, basil, 2 T butter and lime juice. Stir to combine.

Test for seasonings and serve.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Baked Apples

My dad used to make baked apples. As the grateful recipient of my mother’s daily meal planning, dad never cooked much around the house. So I guess that’s why I remember the few times he owned the kitchen, when he wasn’t warming milk to help his little daughters  sleep or making the morning coffee.

Baked apples were a mystery when I was little. Dad would hollow out an apple, fill it with sugar and butter, pop it in the microwave and out came my favorite fall snack.

There’s something uniquely seasonal about apples roasting in sugar, butter and spices. The culinary equivalent of running through leaves when the sunlight gets a warmer shade of golden, and the air takes on that distinctive tinge of falling foliage.

My baked apples don’t taste quite as magical as those of my youth, but can anything capture those tastes from our memories?

Simple Baked Apples


  • 4 apples, cored but not all the way through (I just used a mellon baller) and peeled around the top
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325. Place apples in baking dish. Combine sugar, salt and spices in a small bowl. Fill each apple cavity with spices. Top with 1 T butter. Squeeze lemon over everything and pour enough water into the pan to fill 1/2-inch up the apples. Cover with foil and bake until soft, 25-45 min (it will depend on your apple and your preference).

The apples should be soft, but not turning to applesauce.

To serve, place each apple on a plate and pour the pan juices over the apples. Great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or caramel syrup.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly

If you read this blog, you know that, for me, a big part of growing up is learning to accept – nay, enjoy – the foods that I hated all my life. I chalk many of my food aversions to up bad pizza. I can’t tell you how many sleepovers, after-soccer pizza parties and trips to the zoo included pizza topped with horrible bell peppers, olives, mushrooms and old sausage. How would younger me know that these things can be splendid, when treated properly?

Older me is here with you today, eating a delicious balsamic red pepper jelly dripping over a soft smear of brie on a cracker.

As you may know, one of my favorite things is a sweet or savory jelly over brie, goat cheese or cream cheese. What a lovely snack that makes! This jelly is special because A) I made it myself! B) it’s so rich and almost smoky tasting, from the balsamic vinegar and the toasted peppers. I recently went to Lowe’s for more Ball jars, so I can make more of this and gift away for Christmas.

Adapted from my Ball book of home preserving.

Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly

Ingredients (makes four 4-ounce jars):

  • 5 medium red bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 medium jalapenos, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 package powdered fruit pectin (I used 1-2 T, which wasn’t a hard jelly)
  • 3 1/4 c. sugar

Finely dice 1/2 c. red peppers and set aside. In a food processor, puree remaining peppers and garlic until smooth. Transfer to damp cheesecloth set over bowl and let drip, 30 min. (you can speed this up by pushing the juice through with a spatula, and by adding up to 1 c. hot water to the puree to help it drip). You’ll want 1 1/2 cups of pepper juice.

Meanwhile, prepare your jars and lids (boil jars and lids to sanitize); keep large pot simmering for processing.

Transfer pepper juice to large stainless steel saucepan. Add reserved peppers, vinegars and lemon juice. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, always stirring, 1 min. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam.

Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space from the top. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar, screw on ring to finger-tip tightness.

Place jars in canner, covered in water, and boil 10 min, with canner (pot) lid on. Remove lid, boil another 5 min., then remove jars and cool until they seal.

Here’s mine on the left, along with some of my hot pickled okra and chow-chow.

I recommend serving with a salted cracker, or just sprinkling some coarse salt over it to make the flavors pop.

The bits of diced red peppers look like little rubies. Fantastic. Enjoy, friends! xoxo