We recently had visitors from Boston and upon their arrival the 2 men volunteered to help in the kitchen while the ladies enjoyed sipping wine and watching their spouses cook. It was my friend Jerry’s first time making risotto and he did a beautiful job. I am going to share with you the whole menu, which started with a Roasted Tomato Dill Soup with Boursin Cream, then moved into the star of the night: Shrimp Risotto served with a beautiful salad, which Eddie made with Romaine lettuce, Lemon Plums and a Blueberry Vinaigrette. For dessert we had Balsamic Strawberries with mint and Sweet Ricotta Quenelles.
Let’s start with the Roasted Tomato Dill Soup with Boursin cream which I made ahead of time. A friend had just given me tons of fresh, plump, juicy tomatoes so I decided to create a soup. I chose to make a complete vegetarian soup, but you could also make this with chicken stock.
ROASTED TOMATO DILL SOUP WITH BOURSIN CREAM
10 large tomatoes
1 large carrot
1 stalk celery
2 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. sun-dried tomato oil
1 cup water
7 Tbsp. chopped fresh Dill, more for garnish
1 tsp. dried Dill
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp.black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp. butter
Peel and slice carrot. Slice celery, chop 2 cloves garlic. Place in soup pot with 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Cook until veg are softened.
Core the tomatoes. Cut into thick slices (about 3/8″). Place slices in single layer on a cookie sheet. Brush both sides with 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Sprinkle the teaspoon of salt evenly over tomato slices. Broil until you get a nice char on both sides of the tomato. Tomatoes have a high moisture content so be patient. Place the tomatoes in the soup pot with the sauteed vegetables.
|Roasted tomatoes added to the soup pot.
Pour 1 cup water into the soup. Add 7 Tbsp. fresh dill and 1 tsp. of dried dill. Add 2 Tbsp. sun-dried tomato oil (just pour off the oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes). Add 1/2 tsp. black pepper and 1/4 tsp. red pepper and simmer on low heat for about 1 hour. Cool completely and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt/pepper if it needs it. Put back into the soup pot and reheat with 1 Tbsp. butter.
Add more water (or chicken stock if that’s what you’re using) if you want a thinner soup. I kept it thick. This is a soup with a very rich tomato and dill flavor. Just for fun I garnished with Boursin cream (Equal parts Boursin cheese spread and Plain yogurt mixed well so the consistency can be made into a design). I decided to use different Chinese symbols for each serving: Friendship, God, Peace, Joy, Luck, etc. You can find these translations on the internet and just copy onto your bowls of soup. This is the symbol for God.
To make the design either use a pastry bag or make a pastry bag by cutting a small corner off a plastic baggie or do what I did by using an old plastic honey bear bottle. Or you can just do a drizzle of the Boursin cream or a dollop with fresh dill as garnish. I took this picture before I garnished and decided to place the chopped dill on the edge of the plate rather than on the soup so as not to interfere with the design. I do like to play with my food!
The first trick to making risotto is to stir it constantly. The second trick is to make sure the stock you add (one ladle full at a time) is hot. And keep stirring until the stock you just added is completely absorbed. That’s what takes a bit of time and why Jerry stopped smiling half way through the procedure! By cooking slowly and stirring constantly the starch in the arborio rice is released and makes a creamy, velvety dish. Properly cooked risotto should form a mound when served, not slide all over the plate, and not a thick sticky lump. ANYONE can cook Risotto. There is no mystique if you follow these few guidelines.
|Jerry starts out all smiles!
For the Shrimp:
Use 6 large shrimp per person–real wild shrimp is best, but not always easy to find.
Devein the shrimp–you really cannot skip this step. Make a slice in the shrimp where you see the dark line (yep, that is poop), and peel it out. Rinse shrimp.
Get 2 Tbsp. of Olive Oil and 1 Tbsp. butter hot and bubbly in a heavy frying pan. Toss in the cleaned shrimp and cook until just barley pink. Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup Basil (use the chiffonade method to cut) or Fresh Parsley. Set aside while you cook the rice.
For the Risotto:
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice (short grained rice)
1 qt. Chicken Stock (home-made is best; see previous blog for recipe)
1/2 cup White Wine
1 medium shallot or 1/2 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp. unsalted Butter
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup light cream
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh Basil or Parsley
Course ground kosher salt to taste
Heat the chicken stock to a simmer and then lower heat so it stays warm.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the Olive Oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot and saute for 3-4 minutes or until slightly translucent.
Add the rice to the pot and stir briskly with a wooden spoon or heat proof rubber spatula so the grains get completely coated with the Oil and melted Butter. Saute for another minute or so until there is a nutty aroma, but do not burn the rice!
Add the wine and cook while stirring until the liquid is fully absorbed.
Add a ladle of chicken stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and keep repeating the process. This is where you must stir constantly to get the desired texture.
Continue adding ladles of hot stock and stirring the rice. You will start to see the rice take on a creamy texture as the natural starches are released.
Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are tender, but still firm to the bite. If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn’t done, you can continue adding hot water one ladle at a time.
Stir in remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, 1/4 cup cream, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and season to taste with Kosher salt. Risotto should be served right away as it will get stickier as it sits. But you still have time to quickly reheat the shrimp and add to each serving around the risotto making sure the butter/oil gets divided evenly. Jerry, you did a fantastic job with the risotto!
LEMON PLUM SALAD-BLUEBERRY VINAIGRETTE
I had never heard of lemon plums and discovered them this spring at my local Safeway market. They are beautiful to look at and have a delicious, sweet, slightly lemony flavor. As they ripen they get more red and their flavors tastes more like a regular plum. The Blueberry Vinaigrette is a nice counterpoint to the sweet fruit and I got the idea by chatting with a woman in the grocery store when I first came across the plums.
Ingredients for the Blueberry Vinaigrette:
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/3 cup vinegars (I used equal portions of balsamic, champagne and wine vinegar)
2 Tbsp. (or more) water
2 Tbsp. Agave Nectar (this has become my new honey. I love it!)
1/2 tsp. salt
Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. You may need to add a bit more water until you get the correct ‘dressing’ consistency. Keep at room temperature until ready to use. Do not refrigerate.
Thank you for making the salad Ed!
To make the salad, chop Romaine, slice the lemon plums, and drizzle with the Blueberry Vinaigrette. Garnish with a few fresh blueberries.
The last course…
STRAWBERRIES IN BALSAMIC
WITH SWEET RICOTTA QUENELLES
Traditionally “quenelles” are made with poached fish or meat. The first I ever had was in a French restaurant in Boston and they were Creamy Lobster Quenelles. Unbelievably rich and delicious. The shape is like a small football or oval-shaped dumpling. To form the quenelle scoop your ingredient in a tablespoon and take a second tablespoon and pass the ingredient back and forth between the two spoons until you get it into the shape of a little football. Also, a quick note on this recipe. When I announced to my husband that I wanted to try marinating strawberries in balsamic vinegar he thought I was nuts, but it really turned out good and he even liked it!
For the Balsamic marinade:
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp. agave nectar
1 tsp. sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
Juice from 1/2 orange
Zest from 1/2 orange
Whole mint leaves
Mix all ingredients and crush (or muddle) the mint leaves. Slice 2 cups of strawberries and place in the marinade for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally to make sure that all the berry slices are benefiting from the marinade.
Remove strawberries from the marinade and place in serving bowls. Do not add the mint. Pour a couple spoonfuls of the marinade in each serving. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf and the Sweet Ricotta Quenelles with orange zest on the ricotta cheese.
To make the Sweet Ricotto Cheese:
Mix 1 cup Ricotta cheese with juice of 1/2 orange. Add 2 tbsp. Agave nectar. Form into the quenelle (sorry for the blurry picture above…I was rushing to serve dessert!) and finally top with a little orange zest.
Another time I served this dessert in colored wine glasses and did not garnish with mint or zest…equally yummy!
When I served this dessert to my friend, Diana, she thought it was not sweet enough. I don’t like too much sweet so for me it is just right. My idea of a perfect dessert is a glass of Port and a cheese tray. But to solve this problem, her husband suggested sprinkling the whole thing with Turbinado Sugar–that’s the course raw pale brown cane sugar. Great suggestion Dennis! I believe the fun of cooking is experimenting and trying new and unusual combinations.
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