March 30, 2011

Baked Spinach and Pea Risotto

Let me start by saying that I am a risotto purist. I have been incredibly skeptical of recipes that claim you can bake risotto and it will turn out the same as if you stood at the stove stirring and gradually adding broth for 20 minutes. So, I decided that it was time I stopped judging and actually try a baked risotto recipe.

Real Simple's April 2011 issue just happened to have a recipe for Baked Spinach and Pea Risotto, which fits nicely into my current self-imposed mandate to eat more vegetables and use recipes from my food magazines (see here).

The verdict? It was fine. It tasted like how I expect risotto to taste because the flavor of the arborio rice still came through, but the texture was kind of like glue. Or that paste you use in kindergarten that inevitably some boy ends up eating. Now, I did overcook the risotto - the recipe says to bake for 20-25 minutes and I meant to check it at 20 minutes, but got sidetracked, so when I pulled it out at 24 minutes, it was overdone. The rice most certainly did not have that al dente crunch that I like. But, on the positive side, it was nice to pop the pot into the oven and sit down and read the paper. And I guess it is a way for me to use up my arborio rice (see here and here for my obsession with vialone nano rice). I may be tempted to try it again with the intention of not overcooking it, but we'll see.

Has anyone had success with baked risotto?

March 25, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato Risotto

After teasing us with gorgeous warm, sunny weather, winter decided it wasn't quite done with DC and it left us with clouds and a temperature of 30 degrees. I decided that the sweet potato and onion on my counter would best comfort me in a warm creamy bowl of risotto.

I used a recipe from the blog Two Peas and Their Pod as a guide. My recipe is below. I would absolutely recommend trying this if you have a sweet potato laying around. The sweet creaminess of the roasted sweet potato paired perfectly with the creamy slightly nutty risotto. 

Roasted Sweet Potato Risotto
Serves 2

1 Sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 - 4 cups vegetable broth (I only ended up needing 3 cups of broth, but I used Vialone Nano rice, which is smaller than Arborio, so it cooks quicker. If you are using Arborio, you may need more.)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup Vialone Nano or Arborio rice (If you like risotto and have never tried Vialone Nano rice, search it out. Believe me, it is worth it. It cooks faster, is creamier and consistently has the correct al dente texture. I first tried it when I made risotto rosso this past winter and I won't go back to Arborio.)
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Handful of Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring once, until tender.

3. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan.

4. Heat butter and a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot, Dutch oven, or gorgeous braiser that your husband bought you for Valentine's Day. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and toast for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Add 1/2 cup or so of broth, stirring until absorbed. Lower the heat if the rice is absorbing the liquid too quickly. Continue adding broth in this manner until rice is al dente. This should take 20-30 minutes, depending on your rice, the humidity, how many pets are staring at you and the position of the moon.

5. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately!

March 23, 2011


Miracle of all miracles! My peony plants are coming back this year!

Pot 1

Pot 2

Early readers of BlB will remember that my peony growing didn't go so well last year (first post, second post, third post, and final post). I have high hopes for this year! (Also, notice that only two of the three pots have sprouted, not sure what is going on with pot #3. But I guess we'll find out eventually!)

March 22, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Bread Crumbs

Thank you daylight saving time for allowing me to cook before the sun goes down! Now I have proof that I don't live in a cave.

I have already posted about this recipe here, but I thought it was worth an updated picture and a nudge to all of you who have not tried this recipe yet. Try it! It is so good! Crunchy and salty goodness. (The original recipe is from Food52.)

And because I can't help myself, here is a gratuitous picture of Gaby (working on her "serious" face):

March 21, 2011

Roasted Beet Farrotto

My search for farro was successful! Thank you Whole Foods. Although, no thank you for putting it on the top shelf. I had to borrow someone's freakishly tall boyfriend to get it for me. Thank you freakishly tall man in the pasta and grains aisle at the Alexandria Whole Foods!

I have to admit, before making this recipe I was scared of beets. Scared that I would cook them incorrectly and they would taste like dirt. Scared that I would make a red mess in my kitchen and my dog walker would call the police because she would think that I murdered someone in my kitchen and couldn't be bothered to clean up the evidence. But I am happy to report that none of those things happened! Beets are totally manageable!

I made a couple changes to Mario Batali's recipe - I have a feeling that the one on Babbo's website was edited down from a massive restaurant-size recipe and it just needed some tweaking. My version is below.

Roasted Beet Farrotto
Adapted from Mario Batali
Serves 4 as a side dish


1 large red beet
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (also available at Whole Foods, or you can make your own)
1 1/2 cups farro
1/2-3/4 cup chicken stock

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Trim the top off the beet. Place beet in a piece of aluminum foil large enough to encase the beet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap up the beet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. (My beet took 50 minutes to roast, but it was in a 375 oven for the first half because I was making cookies, too.) When cool enough to handle, peel the beet. (Having never made beets before, I searched the internet for the best way to peel them. Some people say to just use your hands and wash them immediately. Some people say to use a paper towel, so as to minimize the red that touches your hands. I just used tongs to peel off the skin and that seemed to work just fine.) Dice the beet into small cubes. Place the beets in a bowl and gently toss with the pomegranate molasses and salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook the farro in the boiling water until tender, but not completely cooked, about 14 minutes. Drain the farro and transfer to a saute pan with the chicken stock. Add the beet mixture and toss over high heat until most of the chicken stock has been absorbed and the farro is completely cooked through, about 3 minutes. (This is where you may need more chicken stock, depending on your farro.) Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper (mine did not need more of either), transfer to a serving dish and top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately.

March 18, 2011

Locanda Verde

Photo from

For my final eating indulgence in New York, Jo and I went to Locanda Verde for brunch on Sunday. I feel like a broken record, but this is another place that should be on your list of NYC restaurants. There were so many things on the menu we wanted to try, but I usually can't eat a ton for my first meal of the day.

I had the Tre Stelle juice (pomegranate, blood orange and valencia orange) and the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd. I have thought about these pancakes every day I have been home from NYC. They were light, fluffy, slightly creamy from the ricotta, pleasantly tart from the lemon and just the right amount of sweet from the blueberries. The next time I make homemade ricotta, I am finding a way to replicate these pancakes!!

Jo had the Wood-Fired Uova Al Forno with corona beans, mozzarella and black tuscan kale. Oh my, if you have never had corona beans, here is a good picture that shows how massive they are:
Photo from

Massive I tell you! Jo's dish tasted good, too, but the novelty was really the corona beans.

Then, because I just couldn't help myself, I ordered a Lemon Fennel Muffin for the train. And I happened to find a picture of it:

Photo from

Seriously? This is basically two of my favorite things combined in an easily transportable item. I shall be trying to replicate these as well. So good. And such a good eating weekend in NYC. Thanks again, Jo!

March 17, 2011


Photo from

(This is the third in a series of posts that recap my weekend in NYC - to see the first two posts, click here and here.)

For dinner on Saturday night, Jo and I went to Mario Batali's Babbo. Batali is also a partner of Eataly, so you could say that Jo and I did our part to contribute to Batali's millions of dollars.

Photo from

This picture is perfect, because you can see exactly where we sat - the last two bar stools at the far end of the bar. Sitting at the bar was perfect; Johnny the bartender was a riot and we were seated next to a former employee of Babbo, who was knowledgeable about the dishes.

Now, most importantly, what we ate (the menu is here):

We started with Grilled Octopus, which were tender, meaty and delicious, and the Winter Vegetable Salad, which was also delicious. (Unfortunately I can't remember what was in it! Should have written it down.)

Pumpkin "Lune" from

Then we split two pastas: the Goat Cheese Tortelloni and the Pumpkin "Lune." The tortelloni were fantastic! Creamy goat cheese center, tender fresh pasta and the fennel pollen and orange were subtle, but flavorful complements. The Lune were also delicious. Our waiter shaved an amaretti cookie over the top when he served the dishes. A nice touch, but I couldn't taste the amaretti. But honestly, the pumpkin sage and butter was so delicious, that I didn't miss the amaretti. 

Jo and I also split two side dishes: Roasted Beet "Farrotto" and Babbo Greens. Oh boy, were these great. I have been wanting to try to make farro at home (Giada has a couple recipes for it), but I haven't been able to find it at my normal grocery store. After I found the recipe for the Roasted Beet Farrotto on the Babbo website, I decided a trip to Whole Foods is in the cards this weekend! The earthy beets and the nutty farro worked wonders together. And because of the beets, it was a gorgeous red color! The Babbo Greens were baby bok choy that tasted like they had been sauteed in an agrodolce (sweet and sour) sauce. They were so flavorful. 

For dessert, we split the Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo and it showed up with a birthday message and candle!

Apologies for the dark photo; I used my Blackberry

It was the perfect end to a delicious meal! My heartfelt thanks to Jo for a memorable birthday dinner and weekend. 

If you find yourself in NYC and are craving delicious Italian food, give Babbo a try.

March 15, 2011



I cannot go any further with my New York recap without giving a shout out to Jo's super adorable roommate, Winston! I'm not going to lie, we played fetch, we snuggled. Patton and the girls were a little jealous when I got home.

On Saturday, Jo and I trekked out to Brooklyn via the Subway. (Sad side note: while waiting for the train, I was talking with my hands and managed to hit my camera and my lens cap flew off onto the tracks. It was like it was in slow motion. Jo and I gazed at it longingly, but decided we better not climb down after it.) 

We met up with my friend, Tieneke, for brunch at Buttermilk Channel. I had the "Eggs Huntington" (Buttermilk is on the corner of Huntington and Court Streets), which is not usually something I would order. I have a tendency to veer towards the sweet and carbo-loaded breakfast items, but I knew we were planning to walk back to Jo's apartment, so I figured I could use some protein. The dish was great, and it was served with a fresh side salad which afforded my tastebuds a welcome acidic cleansing after the rich egg dish.

Then it was on to the Bridge!

Brooklyn Bridge

Unfortunately they were doing some construction on it (as you can see from the white plastic lining either side) so we couldn't see much until we got to the couple circular viewing areas.

But at one point we could see the Statue of Liberty:

One of these days MM and I are going to go to Ellis Island to check it out. 

March 14, 2011


A generous pour

I spent the past weekend in New York with my good friend Jo and let me tell you, we ate well! 

We started the weekend with a trip to Eataly on Friday night. If they built apartments above Eataly I would probably force MM to move to NYC. Eataly is an Italian food lover's dream. The space is divided into different ingredient sections (e.g. vegetables, fish, pasta, etc) and most of the sections have a little restaurant to showcase that particular ingredient. (Check out their map to get a better sense of how it is laid out.) Here is a sampling of the different areas:

Eataly's Motto

Gorgeous wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano - next to them was a sign that asked you not to touch them because the oils from your hands will affect their flavor.

Salumi counter




Assortment of Squash

Molto Prosciutto

 Panini for the lucky people who work close to Eataly and can visit for lunch


We decided to eat at Le Verdure, which is the vegetarian restaurant within Eataly. (Their menu is here.) We started with a super fresh and delicious bruschetta, which was a special that night. Unfortunately I can't remember everything that was on it. I think it included olive tapenade and arugula, but I can't remember what else. We also ordered a plate of Verdure alla Piastra for the table (two of Jo's friends joined us as well). I forgot to take a picture of both, but they were delicious and flavorful.

One of Jo's friends ordered Fennel, Frico and Tomato:

As you can imagine, it was delicious. Look at that gorgeous caramelized color!

I ordered the Gnocchi alla Romana:

I have been wanting to try to make gnocchi alla Romana for some time now (Saveur printed a recipe in their article on Rome in the April 2010 issue, which is what sparked my interest). The gnocchi were creamy and full of flavor from the crisp Parmigiano-Reggiano on the top. The slightly acidic ragu underneath it cut through the richness of the gnocchi perfectly.

So if you find yourself in New York and you have some time to spare, check out Eataly!

March 10, 2011

Pasta with Chickpeas and Charred Tomatoes

This is the third recipe I have made in my quest to eat more vegetables and use my food magazines (see first and second). This recipe came from the February 2011 issue of Bon Appetit.

Honestly, this one's a little weird. It you love hummus you will probably love this dish. I used whole wheat pasta because I had a half of a box in the pantry, but I think this would be better with regular pasta. The whole wheatiness of the pasta just kind of competed with the hummus, the sweet tomatoes, the salty olives, the chickpeas and the assertive cilantro. The flavors seemed to be separate and didn't meld as one complete dish. I most likely will not be making this again. But, on the flip side, I have rediscovered the enjoyment of eating hummus with toasted pita. Yum!

March 7, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

The cat bowls never get old!

The decision to make this dish was in the same vein of the previous post: vegetarian and from a food magazine. This hearty recipe for pasta e fagioli comes from the December 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

I was super impressed at how flavorful this soup is. I followed the advice of the recipe header and used 3 cups of vegetable broth so it would be more soup-like. Do not leave out the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind - it adds so much flavor! (I have had two rinds in my freezer for months and was excited to finally use one!) I also added about 1/4 cup mascarpone at the end because it was sitting in my fridge just screaming to be used. If I made this again I would probably only use two celery stalks, but that is just because I don't like celery.

March 6, 2011

Simple Vegetable Curry

I have been trying to eat more vegetables and less meat and I have been trying to actually use the recipes in the myriad food magazines to which I insist on subscribing.

This particular recipe for Simple Vegetable Curry from the October 2010 issue of Martha Stewart's "comic book" food magazine, Everyday Food, appealed to me because I love sweet potatoes and am a new convert to cauliflower. (Try this or this if you are trying to convert someone you love to cauliflower!)

My good friends Nicole and Joe (yes, of the birthday cake and cupcakes fame!) were willing dinner guests the night I tried this recipe. We all agreed it was good; it had a subtle curry flavor and the coconut milk gave it a pleasant creaminess. It certainly does not taste Indian - perhaps it is more Thai in inspiration. (I wouldn't know as the only dish I ever order at Thai restaurants is Pad Thai!)  If I make it again, I would add peas into the mix for more flavor and color. But, it worked well as a week-night meal because it came together quickly and the leftovers reheated nicely.

March 1, 2011

Homemade Ricotta

(Sorry, Lilly, I forgot to take a picture!)

Run, do not walk, to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make your own ricotta. This is literally one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. AND it was super easy to make.

Remember my "mathematical" equation for deciding to make a dish? Well, this recipe for fresh ricotta was easier and tastier than the Irish Soda Bread. But, the two do have their creator in common: Ina Garten. Although, I have to be totally honest with you, my loyal BlB readers, I found this fabulous recipe through GOOP! I know, Gwyneth Paltrow comes across as a total nut in some of her emails, but some are normal and great - like this one.

For my bruschette, I followed a Food 52 recipe for Bruschetta with Ricotta, Honey and Lemon Zest. This is the perfect appetizer (or dinner, depending on how many you eat). All of these flavors work so well together. I would absolutely recommend making these for your next party!