Monday, November 28, 2011

Risi E Bisi with Homemade Butter - Ultimate Cook What You've Got

Risotto is on my Rock Star list.  If you know how to make it, you can have an inexpensive but impressive meal in 30 minutes using whatever produce you have and it will always be comforting.

There are some key techniques to risotto, the most well-known is all the stirring that is involved to coax the creamy starch out of the rice.  Another is the fact that it should have a consistency that allows you to spoon it into a pile on the plate then shake the plate until it's a puddle.  If it stays in a pile, it's too thick and totally unacceptable.  The final point is that a good amount of butter is briskly stirred in at the end to further enhance the creaminess and create that acceptable consistency.

Last night, for our Sunday night dinner, I was looking for something comforting to make since we were all less than enthusiastic about our Thanksgiving break being over and busy school/work pace starting up the next day.  A quick peek in the pantry and freezer turned up some frozen peas and arborio rice. I remembered the Venetian Classic Risi e Bisi and went about prepping.  Comprised of simple ingredients--onions, garlic, rice, wine, broth, peas, butter and cheese--it's Italian comfort food at its finest.

BUTTER!! 

After I had prepped everything and was stirring in the wine, I realized with all the Thanksgiving baking, we had used the entire 4 pounds (YIKES!) I had bought at Costco.

Putting on my CWYG thinking cap, I realized I had cream which we all know is the basis for butter.  Going back to school days, I poured about 1/3 cup in a small canning jar and put my family to work making butter.

Though it looked a little weird,
after I drained the whey off, it worked beautifully and we had the creamy risotto I had hoped for.

CWYG Stats

The List Items - olive oil, onions, garlic, rice, wine, broth, peas, butter, parmesan cheese

Risi e Bisi 
1 branch fresh thyme

6 cups chicken broth or more as needed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup wine
2 cups frozen peas
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup parmesan plus more for sprinkling


Strip leaves from thyme and combine with broth in a large saucepan.  Bring this to a simmer and keep nearby for risotto.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in  a large deep-sided skillet.  Stir in the rice and toast slightly in the oil.  Add the wine and cook until it is completely absorbed.  Add 2 cups of stock and stir constantly until it's almost absorbed.  Add the stock 1 cup at a time until the rice is creamy and when you try a piece it only has a slight bite in the center.  If you need to add more stock to the pan, do so since you will need a little reserved to stir in right when you serve.  Add the peas, butter and parmesan and stir until the peas are just cooked through and the butter and cheese are well incorporated. 

Just before serving, stir in another ladle of broth then serve immediately topped with extra cheese and good sprinkle of pepper.
Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Crispy Sage Pastry Topped Pot Pie with Fennel Apple Slaw

Aaahh...Thanksgiving leftovers.  Most people love them.  I don't.  I'm a leftover person for sure, but it has to be something like Chinese, Mexican, stew or Pizza.  Something with a lot of flavor initially that gets better with time. For some reason, the leftovers at Thanksgiving are never very appealing.

This year, we had really not much beyond turkey and gravy left, which was completely fine with me.

A partial box of phyllo pastry in the freezer beckoned to me when I was gazing in there for a Saturday night dinner idea.  I had the requisite celery, onions and carrots in the fridge along with a really nice piece of turkey.  So with a little prep work, the leftover gravy fortified with a bit of white wine and a simmer I had the filling done in about 20 minutes.

The phyllo came together as an on-the-fly recipe.  A tiny bunch of sage I had found at the bottom of my veggie box the day after Thanksgiving was sitting in a juice glass-turned-mini-vase and looking so inviting and perfect to go with the sage-flavored turkey in the filling.  Going through the motions of pulling off the leaves and chopping gave me time think about how much I like brown butter, sage and parmesan on my popcorn, so I brought out the parm to add to the mix. (I'm the mouse in "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" when it comes to cooking.)  After the butter brushing and layering with sage, black pepper and parm , the final baked result was this beautifully flaky pastry that would have been a great snack by itself. 
But perched on top of the filling it became a much quicker, crispier and delicate pot pie over the traditional heavy two-crust recipe.  If you don't have phyllo (which I normally don't, but had leftover from a catering gig.) You can make a single pie-crust (great gluten-free version) and mix in sage, black pepper and parmesan.  Dock the crust (prick it well with a fork) then bake it flat on a cookie sheet. Serve on top just like this.

With a shaved bulb of fennel and a Granny Smith apple left from pie-baking, we had a lemony fresh side side salad in minutes.  This does work equally great with leftover chicken or pork.

CWYG Stats
Seasonal produce:  celery, carrots, onions (or leeks),  fennel, apple, sage

The List items:   garlic, parmesan, butter, white wine, lemons, pie crust ingredients (flour--GF or regular, salt, butter), leftover turkey, chicken or pork

Crispy Sage Pastry Topped Pot Pie with Fennel Apple Slaw
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup each chopped carrots and celery

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup white wine
4 cups chopped cooked turkey or chicken
3 cups leftover gravy*

Crispy Sage Pastry (Or sub as mentioned above with pie crust)
10 sheets of phyllo
4 tbsps butter, melted
3 tbsps chopped sage
3 tbsps grated parmesan
black pepper to taste

Fennel Apple Slaw
1 bulb fennel, shaved
1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced or matchsticks
juice of 1/2 lemon
drizzle of honey
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Saute the onion, carrots, celery and garlic in the olive oil until softened.  Add the white wine and cook until it has mostly reduced.  Add the turkey and gravy.  Simmer on medium low while you make the pastry.  (If the gravy breaks down and is too thin, make a cornstarch slurry and blend it in by teaspoonsful until it is the consistency of a thick stew.)

To make the pastry (unless you have made pie crust, then follow directions in body of post.), brush each layer of phyllo with buter and sprinkle with sage, parm and pepper.  Brush the top layer with butter and lightly sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt and pepper.  Cut into 4" rectangles or triangles or you can cut to the size of the top of the bowl. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until well browned and flaky.

While pastry is baking, stir together all the slaw ingredients and let stand until ready to serve.

When pastry is ready, serve on top of the filling and serve the fennel apple slaw alongside.

*If you didn't have leftover gray, you can make a quick version with freshly chopped herbs, 3 cups of chicken broth and 3 tbsps of cornstarch.  Whisk it all together and use in place of gravy.  It will thicken as it comes to a boil.
Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick Fish Tacos - Great Use for Tuna

So I've been hooked on the idea of a toasted corn tortilla with avocado since I first read about it on Shutterbean.  And apparently it's avocado season since they are extremely affordable (2/$1) everywhere.

While the simple tortilla and avocado was a great snack (so good in fact, I ate three in a row), I was needing some protein today for a more substantial lunch.  An empty cheese drawer led me to look at the half a can of tuna sitting on the counter after my tuna-loving son had made a sandwich.  Drained well, folded it into the charred tortilla and topped it with the avocado salsa I had quickly chopped together, it was so completely great, that it will become a regular lunch.

Bonus...no mayo or dairy means only good-for-you fats, no gluten since it was a corn tortilla, high-quality protein from the tuna.  I'm feelin' pretty good right now!   Thanks Tracy for the great idea!!

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breakfast Rice Pudding - Vegan!

So it's holiday week and 3 of the 4 of us are sniffling and coughing.  The boys requested rice for breakfast and since dairy is completely unappealing to me under these circumstances, I stayed away from the cheese they put on theirs.


All I had was arborio rice so I cooked it like the rice in this recipe.  All I could think about was how good rice pudding sounded so I made a quick version.  A little coconut milk, salted almonds and whole organic cranberries.  It is so good and so soothing to a scratchy throat.  I just got a message from a friend who listed a multitude of food allergies and though I'm thankful I don't have to deal with that, I couldn't help wondering if she could have this.  She can!  (If you're reading this MP, try this today!)

Enjoy even if you're not sniffling and coughing (and I hope you're not!) And remember to consider what you are thankful about this week.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Best Gluten Free Pizza Ever - World Wide Pizza Party

When I discovered the Five Minutes a Day method for bread baking, I was ecstatic. I was a bread making wonder.  I made Artisanal style bread right out of my own plain-jane oven.  Everyday! I was successful.  I felt great!

Four months later (and probably a hundred loaves later), the bomb dropped.

No more gluten for me.

I discovered all the substitute gluten-free things, but pizza was really irreplacable with a GF sub.

I literally cried the first time my family ordered pizza.  Pizza is communal and I couldn't commune.  I tried several gluten-free variations from different sources.  Everytime, we all agreed...it's not like Real pizza. And eventually I gave up.  (I have since found out there is a Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book with gluten free recipes which I have not read but will be buying soon.)

Since then my condition has improved and I can have gluten in moderation.   So I immediately went back to making bread like crazy from the original Artisanal Bread in Five Minutes a Day boule recipe.  I even made grilled pizza using that recipe.  It was awesome.  When I realized I was beyond moderation on the gluten, I decided to pull back.

At about the same time, I attended the Foodbuzz blogger Festival a couple of weeks ago.  Geeking out completely upon seeing Jeff Hertzberg, the co-creator with Zoe Francois of the Five Minutes a Day method, he asked if I would be interested in participating in the World Wide Pizza Party on November 15. Taking a millisecond to agree, he handed me their latest book, Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day.

I read it cover to cover the next day and was overjoyed to see a Gluten Free Pizza Crust recipe and lots of ideas for using it beyond the basic pizza.

You see, the the Five Minutes a Day method makes it possible for even the busiest mom to make bread on the fly and with this recipe I was able to do the same with pizza. Gluten Free, even.  Upon tasting the "Barbecued Chicken Pizza" (pg. 124-125), it received the best review a gluten-free recipe can receive, my kids both agreed "This does not EVEN taste Gluten Free." That was Sunday night, but since lighting was bad, I decided to do the unthinkable.

I made HOMEMADE pizza for school lunches yesterday morning.  I made 3, count 'em, THREE, pizzas yesterday morning before my kids left for school at 7:30.

It was easy-peasy with the dough already hanging out in my fridge, ready to roll, literally.

Parchment paper on top and bottom with a sprinkle of rice flour tames the sticky nature of gluten free doughs.

Once it's rolled, you can top it right away, but I decided to parbake it first to keep the cheese from browning too much.

I do recommend having a pizza peel to roll it on and slide it into the extremely hot oven (550 degrees!!).

You can make your own sauce with this recipe or look for our favorite new pre-made BBQ sauce (J. Lee Roy's--ask for it.  NO HFCS!) Then we had cilantro and bell peppers from our CSA veggie box, along with a few shallots since we didn't have the red onions called for in the book.

I had a rotisserie chicken from the weekend so we shredded that up and then used a combination of smoke mozzarella and sharp cheddar.

My youngest son (who also practically drinks the sauce) had it for breakfast and lunch.


Next to use up some more of my veggie box, I made a sauteed kale, Kalamata olive and smoked mozzarella flatbread.  This wasn't in the book, but there were several flatbread recipes and white pizzas calling for spinach and other greens that inspired it.

The result was a slightly burnt edged kale with gooey cheese and sharp olives.  The combination of toppings was good, but the best part is the crust.  It is so great, it would stand alone as a very basic flatbread with nothing more than sea salt. It really was fantastic and the cornmeal in the crust gave it a nice chew.  See the finished flatbread at the top of the page.

Pizza's a great way to Cook What You've Got.  Use up those bits of cheese, veggies you're not sure what to do with even leftovers. (From the book...Chicken Pot Pie Pizza & Curried Sweet Potato, Lentil and Arugula Pizza.)

There are so many other recipes, that I expect to post many times out of this book.  Now pizza night on Friday is doable.  Get out there and get the book!!  Now.


Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Orecchiette with Corn, Bacon and Green Beans

Since they were toddlers, I've taken my kids to farms.  We regularly talk about food as a family whether it's about what's on the menu next or the how sad the food industry is in the US, especially in terms of school food. They begged me to watch every episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, in fact.

They are well aware of food labels and what's not good.  My youngest at the age of 3 was asking me as I read a label in the grocery store "Mom, does it have hydrogenated oils."  He's 8 now and completely understands HFCS, hydrogenated oils, that the color in Gogurt comes from bugs and that if you can't say it, in general, you shouldn't eat it.  (Ethnic foods excepted, of course.)

So, I shouldn't have been surprised when Harry came in and asked if he could cook dinner.  Maybe the surprise factor was that it was 5 o'clock and he didn't have a plan.  Never wanting to squelch creativity, I said "Yes," told him he had to "Cook What We Got" (sorry about the improper English but working on branding) and hoped for the best.

After I saw several appliances coming out of the cabinet and half the fridge emptied onto the countertop, I decided to see if he had a plan.  Fresh corn and a box of orecchiette were his inspiration and apparently he had seen someone blend corn and milk together on TV and make a sauce so that's the path down which he headed.  However, he also planned to throw red peppers, shallots and green beans right into the sauce.  So, after a minor meltdown and a small battle - complete with the "I quit" statement thrown in - we came to terms together that about the foundations of cooking and the importance of having at least some idea of technique  So he regrouped and realized that it would be best to use the corn cream as a sauce and saute everything else.  I watched him and have recorded it as he did it.

After blending the corn and milk, and he decided that straining out the corn and just getting the starchy milk would be better so that was his first step.

Then came the sauteing steps. He sauteed shallots, garlic and green beans in fat left behind from frying bacon.  Then he added the corn cream to the mixture. 

It was a beautiful thick sauce with no flour, cornstarch or other thickeners.

Then he added the pasta, pasta water, and cheese.  Topped off with bacon, it was super delicious.

It was brilliant!!!  (As is he!!)

Some tips:
If you haven't tried orecchiette, do!  It means "little ears" in Italian for good reason.  They are only made by the better pasta companies (we used De Cecco) so the quality is excellent.  They are slightly chewy rather than just a doughy bite.  Plus they are like tiny bowls to hold the sauce with each bite. If you don't have it in your stash, though any short pasta will definitely work.

Also, if you don't have fresh corn, (we're still getting it from very local farms in CA) bookmark this recipe and save it for next year.  I haven't tried it with frozen corn but my gut tells me that it would be too watery and would give the same creamy consistency.

This is a classic Italian pasta method in which the pasta water is crucial to the sauce.  Save at least two cups before draining the pasta, or simply use a "spider" to lift out the pasta into the skillet and you'll have access to as much of the pasta water as you will need.  If you have leftovers, definitely add some pasta water, broth or milk before reheating.  This turns into a gloppy mess otherwise.

Finally, let your kids cook with your loving guidance.  Let me know what they create.  Or let yourself become a kid again and go nuts in the kitchen then let me know what you create!!


CWYG Stats
Seasonal Veggies - corn, green beans, onions, red pepper

CWYG Items  - bacon, whole milk, shallots, garlic, oregano, parmesan cheese, pasta

Orecchiette with Corn, Bacon and Green Beans
4 ears fresh corn, removed from the cob
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1 lb orecchiette or other short pasta
3 oz bacon, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb green beans, stems removed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus more for serving

Blend or process the corn, milk and oregano til fairly smooth.  Using a fine-meshed strainer and spatula, strain out the fibrous bits and discard.  You will be left with a velvety sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil, adding 2 tbsp salt just as it starts to bubble.  Add in the pasta and cook for 6-8 minutes or until just barely opaque in the center if you bite it in half.  Remove at least two cups of pasta water before draining or if the saute is ready when the pasta is, toss it right in and save the water in the pan.

Meanwhile, saute the bacon in the olive oil until somewhat crispy but not black.  Remove and drain on paper towels reserving the fat in the pan.  Add the shallot and saute for a minute until softened.  Add the garlic and green beans. Saute until the beans are bright green and tender.  Add all of the corn cream and allow to cook and thicken slightly.  Add the pasta, the toss to coat well. Add 1 cup of pasta water.   Add the parmesan then stir again until the parmesan is well incorporated.  If it seems too thick, add pasta water until it looks like a creamy sauce surrounding the pasta.

Serve with a crumble of bacon on top and pass the parmesan for sprinkling at the table.  A good grinding of fresh black pepper is great, too, although Harry disagrees.


Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
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