Sunday, August 14, 2011

Risotto Croquettes

Exactly what is a croquette? According to Wikipedia it's a small food roll containing most any sort of combination of ingredients then deep fried. 

So why aren't Mozzarella Sticks called cheese croquettes?

I don't know...

Was watching this cooking show the other night. The one with the ridiculously beautiful couple living in Tuscany enjoying what looks like the perfect little life and making all these unbelievably gorgeous traditional Italian dishes. 
You know which show I'm talking about right?
I can never remember the name.

Anyway, on this particular episode they did several little appetizers. 
Beautiful. Mouth watering. Simple?

This time yes...sort of.

I will go through the pain and suffering of stirring risotto every night if I can have these the next day. These little fried food items are totally worth it.

note: Leftover is key. I made the risotto to serve at dinner then tried to roll some of the warm mixture into little balls. Not fun. Also then tried to take a couple spoonfuls and freeze for about a half hour. Even less fun. Use leftover risotto. It will make life so much easier for you.


3 cups leftover risotto
1 cup finely chopped ham
dash or two of salt 
(since the risotto is leftover it will already be perfectly seasoned and adding ham will make it plenty salty enough)
4 turns of the fresh pepper grinder
(I apologize that I don't have an exact measurement for this)
some chopped fresh chives
vegetable oil for frying


1 cup of flour
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
(add a few turns of salt to the bread crumb bowl before dredging)

(I really don't like the word dredging but I can't think of a better one right now)

parsley for garnish
parmesan cheese for garnish

(leftover risotto...not real pretty)


In a medium sized bowl break down the egg yolk.
Then add the chopped ham.

Add your risotto, salt and chives.

Mix well.

 Roll into balls.
Mine were about the size of golfballs.

Lay out onto a plate then place back in the fridge for at least a half hour.
(This is a great prep ahead dish/appetizer)

When ready, dredge each ball in flour then milk then bread crumbs.
Yes, in that order.
(Don't forget to add some salt to the bread crumb bowl)

Pour about a 1/4" oil into your skillet - I used my usual 10" skillet.
Then fry until browned and crispy and delicious. Flip once and let second side cook. Remove and let rest on a plate covered with a couple paper towels.

Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley.
Let sit about five minutes before serving.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars

I received this recipe from a friend...
Who received it from a co-worker...
Who got it who knows where.

And does it really matter at this point?


And pretty quick for a not-so-little weeknight dessert treat.

I had to make a couple of adjustments based on what was available in my pantry. But otherwise it's pretty much exactly as printed.

Hope you try it.


9 x 13 casserole dish (use butter or non-stick spray then set aside)
oven to 350

12 tablespoons butter (gulp.....sorry.....)
3/4 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy is fine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (I had salted butter so I omitted the extra salt here)
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
2 cups bittersweet chocolate
1/2 - 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate


Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium high speed.

Batter may not get completely smooth but that's okay.

Scrape sides of mixing bowl and give it all a few more turns in the mixer.

Add flour, baking soda and salt if using.
Mix until no white streaks remain.

Add chopped peanuts and chocolate chips.

Mix well.

Batter will be pretty thick.

Spread all this into the baking/casserole dish.

Bake 25-30 minutes.
Let cool about 10 minutes before cutting.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fresh Zucchini Salad

Well, if your garden is behaving the way mine is right now you have an EXCESSIVE amount of zucchini. We have had it sauteed, grilled, steamed, baked, in pasta, out of pasta, shredded in pancakes, etc...etc...I think the family is going to mutiny if they see me walk by with one more zucchini.

Just now I asked if anyone wanted to taste this for me and received a resounding "NO".

Oh well, they missed out. This was so quick and deliciously fresh and required no cooking. Will be perfect tonight with whatever gets thrown on the grill (for me anyway, looks like the family is having corn)

I originally saw this in a magazine somewhere a long while back. I remember the original recipe called for pine nuts (which I currently do not have) and also for basil (which I wasn't in the mood for) 
I made it today with toasted walnuts - that I sent through the Cuisinart - and fresh mint from the garden but I imagine whatever your favorite herb and nut and cheese combination is will work just fine.


Lemon vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 medium sized zucchini
good parmesan cheese
crushed walnuts
fresh mint
fresh ground black pepper

For the Dressing:

about 1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
fresh squeezed juice from half a lemon (maybe more depending how tart you like it)
pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
almost half a teaspoon of sugar

All of this into a little bowl

Mix well. Taste for seasoning.

Using a potato/vegetable peeler, peel long strips from your zucchini.

Or get your six year old to peel the strips so you can take a photo.
(can you believe the size of this zucchini?)

Arrange zucchini strips on individual serving plates - shave parmesan cheese slices over zucchini (same peeler) drizzle dressing over top of zucchini and cheese - at this point I also used the Microplane to ensure I got bits of cheese all over everything on the plate. Finally, sprinkle chopped walnuts, finely sliced pieces of mint and another go round of freshly ground black pepper.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spaghetti al Vino Bianco

This recipe was sent to me by Cook's Illustrated to test, hopefully for an upcoming issue? 
Spaghetti al Vino Bianco is basically spaghetti and white wine - not something I usually serve because the rest of the family likes everything swimming in red sauce, but I was excited to try this. It was also the first time I have ever used Chard with spaghetti and I thought it was a great contrast of flavor and texture. Delicious.

My only issue making it now? I - being the genius I can be - did not print the recipe when they sent it. So the following post is from memory (my apologies) Hopefully I get this all correct and you enjoy it as much as I did.

(the ingredients)


1 package of your favorite spaghetti
1 bottle dry white wine (something not sweet as recommended by CI)
(and YES - you use the entire bottle for this)
1 bunch Swiss Chard (I chose red because it's pretty)
4 garlic cloves
pinch red pepper flakes
about a 1/4 cup of sugar
about 1 cup of toasted pine nuts (or more)
a LOT of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil


Bring a large pot of water to boil for the spaghetti (you don't want to be waiting at the end for the water)

Thoroughly wash and dry the chard.

Chop in about 1 1/2 inch pieces - separating as much of the stems as you can. The stems are going to need a couple minutes longer cooking than the leafy parts.

(mostly leafy parts)

In a large skillet (I recommend the 12 inch because that entire package of pasta is also going into this pan) Anyway, in a large skillet add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a couple pinches of red pepper flakes and 2 cloves of minced garlic.   Let all this heat up and get nice and fragrant. Cook until the edges of the garlic just start to turn a golden brown.

Now add the stems of the chard to the oil, pepper, garlic mix.

These are going to need about five minutes on a medium high heat. I like them softened but still somewhat crunchy (does that make sense?)

Next add all the leafy parts.

Cook all of this just until it begins to wilt - continuously turning all of it in the pan (pretty much the same way I cook spinach). Out of the pan it is going to continue to cook a bit so try not to overdo it. 
Once all the greens are finished cooking sort of spread them out on a large plate then set aside.
(sorry all the above seems so vague but I'm doing this from memory)

Now - in the same pan - add 1 tablespoon olive oil (I may have added two here) and cook the last 2 cloves of chopped garlic for a few minutes - add another pinch of red pepper here if you like the heat. Once the edges of the garlic start turning brown add 1 cup of the wine.

 (garlic and pepper swimming in wine...yum)

Turn the heat up and cook until reduced to about 1/2 cup.

(You are boiling water right now correct?)

Now you need the sugar. 
Once the liquid is reduced add 1 teaspoon of sugar. 
Cook for a few minutes then taste.
In the wine sauce you want tart and bright but not the strong acidic flavor. 
If needed continue adding sugar in 1/2 teaspoon increments. I think I ended up adding 2 1/2 teaspoons total.
Let all this continue to cook until there is about 1/4 cup of liquid left. I kept tilting my pan up so all the liquid would pool in an edge and I could judge how much longer to cook it.
Turn the heat to the lowest setting (or off for a few minutes) and cook the spaghetti. 5-6 minutes. It is going to finish cooking in the pan in the wine sauce.
Reserve a couple cups of pasta water then drain the rest.

Now add the pasta to the pan and 1 cup of wine.

Cook until all the liquid is absorbed then add another cup of wine. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed again and finally just pour the rest of it in there! Cook until most all the liquid has disappeared. If your pasta is still not quite done start adding your leftover pasta water until it is done to your liking.

Turn off stove.

Add chard

Mix well then add the pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Mix. Mix. Then add more cheese (I like a lot of Parmesan but you may want a little less)
Mix some more.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with more pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.

Serve immediately.