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i’ve only made risotto once before, but i have been reminded many times by tom colicchio in a few top chef episodes that it can be quite tricky. in fact, once again a chef was just recently eliminated by making one not to the judges liking. i’ve had a wild mushroom risotto at past top chef winner ilan hall’s restaurant the gorbals, and mr. colicchio’s vegetable risotto at craftsteak in las vegas, so i have an idea of what the consistency and taste should be. what is so damn difficult?

karl, my mushroom guy, at the hollywood farmers market had a wide array of mushrooms sunday, so i thought i’d try my hand at a wild mushroom risotto. i chose black trumpets, chanterelles, and shiitakes. i compiled the list of ingredients and amounts after the fact, so some are approximations, and others are optional or interchangeable. for instance, i grabbed what i thought was frozen vegetable stock from my freezer and as it melted i realized i had in fact taken out a container of lobster stock. i happened to have tarragon and savory on hand, but sage and thyme could also work, and white wine can be used instead of red.

ingredients:

  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, big ones cut up, leave small ones whole
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh savory, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • s+p
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

directions:

heat the stock so it is warmish-hot.

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sauté about 1/3 of the garlic and onion in some olive oil for about 3-5 minutes or until translucent. add the mushrooms, butter, tarragon and savory and continue cooking for a few minutes until the mushrooms have just browned. add some s+p to taste. set aside and keep warm.

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coat the bottom of and heavy bottom pan, such as a dutch oven, with olive oil and sauté the remaining onion and garlic until translucent as well. add the rice and stir quickly allowing the rice to be coated with the oil and opaque, about a minute. apparently this cooks the starchy coating and keeps the rice from sticking. add the wine and stir until it is almost evaporated.

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add the stock, a ladle at a time, and stir until just absorbed. then add the next ladle of stock and repeat each time allowing the stock to be incorporated until your stock is gone. stirring continuously should help cook the rice evenly and not stick to the bottom of the pan. i noticed a couple ladles near the end of adding the stock the rice still seemed to be a bit al dente, and also the rice and stock seemed to be making a creamy saucy consistency. by the time the final ladle had been incorporated the rice was perfectly cooked and not mushy. the risotto shouldn’t be too thick, but also not runny. it should almost ooze.

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stir in the mushrooms, parmesan and parsley. add s+p to taste.

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serve immediately.

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makes 2-3 servings.

i must say even though i was a bit skeptical the lobster stock might not be the right choice when i was defrosting it, it turned out to be a really nice compliment to the earthy mushrooms. granted i know i only made a small batch, i’m not working in the confines of a kitchen foreign to me, and i was able to use my own equipment and tools, but this just wasn’t that hard, and it turned out really tasty. i certainly doubt i would get eliminated on an episode of top chef for this dish, and who knows perhaps i would win?

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it has become a bit of a tradition to have an ‘orphans’ thanksgiving at my place for a few years now. i start with the usual list of friends, but anyone is invited, and there are always a few last minute add ons. this year it tipped the scales with almost 20 guests. from shopping at the farmers market all the way to the leftovers, here is the feast in photos:

the farmers market fairy delivered this 18+ lb beauty on monday:

i did a majority of my shopping at the wednesday morning santa monica farmers market:

on my way to the market, kcrw had a wonderful segment with christopher kimball, of america’s test kitchen and cook’s illustrated, talking about a julia child thanksgiving. of course he spoke of her simplicity and her use of the best ingredients. it was just the motivation and inspiration i needed. this is the beautiful and colorful loot i came home with:

the pie prep: cranberries, rhubarb, and roasted pumpkin.

the veggie prep: roasted winter vegetables, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and creamed corn with crispy bacon.

the free range willie bird all buttered up, stuffed, and carved to perfection:

the buffet: the aforementioned creamed corn with crispy bacon, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted winter veggies, along with sausage + fennel stuffing, and gravy. my guests brought sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, salad, cranberries and homemade bread.

the table as people were plating up their food:

the pies: cranberry rhubarb (as well as, a crisp from the extra fruit) and pumpkin. not shown: pumpkin cheesecake and paleo pumpkin bread.

the dead soldiers the next day:

a few of us took off for big bear the next afternoon to just chill out (and digest) for a couple of days. these were some of the leftovers by the fire at the little cabin in the woods the next night:

i made stock from the carcass yesterday, and there was just enough turkey leftover to make soup today. recipe to come…

note: more (professional) photos from the evening can be found at rafiel chait photography. the photos above were just taken by me with my crummy iphone and hipstamatic.

rhubarb brings me back to my grandma’s homemade crisps. i tried my hand at a strawberry rhubarb pie once, but it turned out a bit soupy (i blame the juicy strawberries from harry’s berries.) i decided to skip the berries this time, and make 4 mini pies, using 5-inch tin pans that i got at surfas. i just happened to have some fresh thyme on hand and thought it might be an interesting compliment with the tart rhubarb. since i have always wanted to try using lard in my crust, and i had picked some up at lindy + grundy when i was there last, i substituted it for the shortening in the dough recipe.

ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 1 double-crust pie dough, divided into 8 discs
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp turbinado sugar
  • cinnamon

directions:

this is stupid easy. toss the thyme with the chopped rhubarb.

combine the white and brown sugar with the flour. roll out 4 of the disks of dough and place in the tins.

put a couple tablespoons of the sugar flour mixture in the bottom of each.

divide the rhubarb between the tins, and top with 4 pieces of butter on each.

put several more tablespoon of the mixture over each, letting it get in between the rhubarb. (i did end up with some mixture left over.)

roll out the remaining 4 disks and top each. crimp the edges making sure they don’t hang over too much.

brush the egg over the top, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and lightly dust with cinnamon. cut four slits in the top to allow for ventilation.

put them on a cookie sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven at 450˚ for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350˚ and bake for another 45 minutes. let them cool on a wire rack.

parts of two of my crusts fell off early in the baking, due to hanging over the edge too much. i was able to save them, and i’m sure just as delicious, but just look a bit messy. the other two were perfect.

…and i had leftover rhubarb to make a crisp to boot!

i now have copious amounts of rhubarb treats, and kicking myself for not picking up vanilla ice cream. grrrr.

notes: i prefer my rhubarb on the tart side, so i’ll probably use less sugar next time. i couldn’t taste the thyme, whereas others could, so adjust to your taste.

i have been working a lot lately, and although there is way too much food provided for us, it just isn’t that healthy all the time. also, we are basically on our own for lunch, so rather than spending at least $10 a day going to the warner brothers commissary, or a nearby restaurant like chipotle, i have been trying to bring my lunch. for tomorrow, i merged a bit of extra pre-cooked chicken and peas that were leftover extras from a pot pie i made last weekend, with some fresh green onions, peppers and lime that i picked up at the farmers market, added a bit of ‘below the border’ spices, olive oil and a touch of white wine vinegar.

ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup orzo (dry), cooked and rinsed cold
  • 1 cup chicken, cooked, cooled and cubed small
  • 1 cup fresh peas, blanched
  • 1/4  cup red pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced
  • 4 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 lime, juiced

to taste:

  • olive oil (1 tbsp?)
  • white wine vinegar (a splash)
  • cumin (lots)
  • chili powder (1 tsp?)
  • s+p

mix all the ingredients together, and then to your own taste add the olive oil, vinegar, cumin, chili powder and s+p.

at least i know one of my meals will be healthy, and made with mostly organic, local and fresh ingredients. for breakfast, i can only hope they don’t tempt me with ‘crack’ bacon.

makes 2 servings, or about 2.5 cups. approximately 400 calories per serving.

get used to lots of recipes this summer with wee little yellow orbs from dave jr. because he is producing like a mofo. this was simply another combination of what i happened to have on hand.

ingredients:

  • 1 medium fresh yellow beet, peeled and sliced into thin strips
  • 12 yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 large sprig fresh tarragon, leaves removed from stem, but not chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • olive oil (i used a little regular evoo, and some orange infused from adams’ olive ranch to give it a little more citrus flavor)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • paprika
  • black pepper

after prepping the beet, tomato, cabbage and tarragon, toss them in a bowl with the lemon juice. add a touch of olive oil and a splash of balsamic until nicely coated but not drenched. you can be generous with the paprika, and add black pepper to your taste.

i’m sure one of these days i will use the fruits of dave jr. and actually cook them, but for now i am enjoying them raw, sweet and tangy.

note: this makes enough for about 4 side servings, and is only about 100 calories per serving.

last year i was introduced to the independent shakespeare company. i saw quite an enjoyable version of the merry wives of windsor, and if you can believe it, a somewhat humorous hamlet. they have had a few venues over the years, but as of 2010, they put on their wonderful performances under the magic hour, moon, stars, and sometimes howling coyotes of los angeles summer nights at the old griffith park zoo.

their audiences are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, coolers and picnic baskets filled with snacks and libations to enjoy before and during the performances. sometimes i just bring an assortment of meats, cheeses, veggies, bread, olives and salad. wine is a no-brainer.

to kick off the 2012 season for the winter’s tale, i decided on making fried chicken (ala america’s test kitchen) and macaroni salad (ala omnivorous) to accompany the usual suspects mentioned above, and the pinot noir from red car wine was perfect.

…so was the performance, and evening.

this season of isc runs til september 2, 2012. shows are thursday-sunday starting at 7p. make sure to catch all three plays: the winter’s tale, a midsummer night’s dream, and the comedy of errors. all performances are free. donations are strongly encouraged (by me, but i’m sure they approve of them too).

even before my first harvest of dave jr. i have been looking for different recipes to test out with his delicious sweet and tangy fruits. a friend at work brings in vegetables from her garden from time to time. this week was yellow zucchini. i am a fan of most vegetables, and although the squash family has never been a favorite, i was not going to turn down a fresh home garden grown zucchini.

doing some quick googling for recipes, i found this on thekitchn.com. i chose to use a grill pan for the zucchini, and it worked just fine. while they cooked, i cut up my yellow cherry tomatoes and herbs (i had dill, tarragon and chives on hand.) i chose an espresso balsamic vinegar from amphora to drizzle over, and tossed in the rest of the ingredients.

of course they used green zucchini, grape red tomatoes and a different mix of herbs, but i’ll bet mine turned out just as tasty. i served it to accompany cacio e pepe, but this would be a wonderfully fresh side to any summer meal.

note: i liked this zucchini recipe so much i think i’ll try out more from this list on thekitchn.com, perhaps proving that i like squash after all.

often by the time i am in need of a trip to the farmers market, i am usually left with a few remaining random things in my fridge. in this episode of ‘cleanin’ out my fridge’ i luckily found the makings for chorizo tacos:

  • chorizo sausage (from lindy + grundy)
  • corn tortillas
  • green + red cabbage, chopped thin
  • green onion, sliced thin
  • cilantro, chopped well
  • adobe chile sauce
  • sour cream

remove chorizo from the casing (if there is one), and sauté, breaking up into small pieces until cooked through. meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 275º, and place the corn tortillas right on the rack to warm. divide sausage among the tortillas, and garnish with cabbage, green onion, cilantro, chile sauce and sour cream.

the only thing that would have made these better was if the tortillas were from guisado’s, and not from crummy whole foods. i can only hope armando would be impressed with this quick creation.

this is a stupid simple way to make brussels sprouts for a side dish, and is much quicker than roasting them in the oven.

serves 2

ingredients:

  • brussels sprouts, about 2 cups sliced thin
  • 1 large clove of garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 lemon, zest and a wedge reserved for squeezing over the top
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • s+p
  • olive oil

heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan over medium-high until hot.

add the brussels sprouts and garlic to the pan, and sauté until soft and browning a bit, about 3-5 minutes.

add zest and tarragon, and toss to combine. add s+p to taste.

plate and squeeze lemon wedge over the top.

the lemon and tarragon brighten this winter vegetable up without losing it’s heartiness.

this could be another episode of ‘cleanin’ out my fridge.’ i found myself with a bunch of winter veggies, and because i will soon be leaving town i needed to use them up. this time i made a stew.

what i had in my fridge:

  • 2 wild boar italian sausage, about 6 oz each, casings removed
  • 3 small carrots
  • 5 stalks celery
  • 3 small fennel bulbs
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 bunch kale
  • a little garlic + shallot mix, minced (less than a tbsp)
  • 4 cups homemade turkey stock (which is likely more concentrated, flavorful and healthier than store bought, so take that into consideration when you add additional water, and seasoning.)

plus a few things from the pantry:

heat about a tbsp of oil to a large pot, and add sausage breaking apart with wooden spoon while cooking.

add carrots, celery, fennel, leeks, kale, garlic and shallot, with additional oil if needed. add a sprinkle of salt. let cook down until a bit soft, about 5-10 minutes. add several cranks from a peppermill.

add lentils and stock, plus 4 cups of water. bring to a boil. add kale and reduce to a simmer until the lentils are cooked, about 20-30 minutes depending on how tender you like your lentils.

s+p to taste. add a good splash of dry sherry, and mix in for a few minutes.

note: honestly before i added the sherry, i felt it needed some sort of acid, tang or just another level, and the sherry did it. i was thinking of even a citrus like lemon juice, or a vinegar, or maybe even brandy, but i think sherry was the right choice.

makes about 8-10 cups.

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