It’s a mystery of human chemistry

Posted: December 21, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

There are some days when only certain things will do. There are some days when the things that will do don’t make too much sense. There are days when you only have a few things in your kitchen, and have to make do.

Sometimes all these feelings hit at once, and you find yourself asking Twitter whether lentils absorb liquid the same way arborio does. Because for some reason, green lentil risotto sounds like the place to be.

Lentil-Sotto?

I kind of took a wing and a prayer on this one, because I definitely didn’t get a positive response to my lentil question — in fact, the only person to answer said that she was pretty sure it wouldn’t work out. But, having cooked French green lentils a few times and having noted that they were different than traditional brown lentils, more tender and quicker to cook, I decided to risk it.

I had some thick-cut rind on bacon in the fridge, so I cut a few slices into chunks, and cooked them in a saute pan to render their fat. Before they were crisp, but once they were cooked, I added some diced onion, and a little salt. Once the onion sweated out and softened, I added about 1/2 cup of arborio and 1/2 cup of green lentils to the pan. I tossed this around and then started adding the chicken stock like it was risotto. The lentils sucked up the stock along with the arborio, and in the end, I had a dish that was creamy, soft, and rich — exactly what I needed.

In summation, if you’re ever in the market for something comforting, but a little bit healthy, consider adding lentils to your dish of risotto! The excellent fiber and other awesomeness of the lentils will make you feel better about eating soft smushy cheesy risotto.

Ever have one of those days? What does your body cry out for on a rainy chilly icky winter day?


Running and relationships

Posted: December 14, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A few months ago, I took up running. It seemed like everybody I knew was doing it in some way, and some of my friends were doing amazing things, like running half-marathons for cancer research, and running the whole damn NYC Marathon with a bum knee. Around the same time, my dear friend Bakezilla made some cookies for a guy on a first date.
The running has continued. I’ve run in several races.
Bakezilla’s thing with her guy has also continued, and a few weeks ago the time came for us to meet this boy, so that Bakezilla could see whether he meshed with her friends, and I could scope him out and tell her if I got the serial killer vibe from him.

SPOILER ALERT: He’s not a serial killer. Not even the slightest hint of anything but nice guy.

In any event. After one Sunday morning of running in a race, Jesse and I were at a diner, sharing our post-race traditional brunch (corned beef hash, what what) and I realized that I had no real plan for the dinner I was cooking that night for Bakezilla and Boy. Risotto had been suggested, which is always a good move for me, because it’s such a one-pot favorite, and because it’s so easy to make while still interacting with guests.
While discussing the dinner and what I’d make, my brain’s tumblers clicked into place and I came up with a hearty, delicious offering that would also be interesting and vegetarian:

Risotto and Green beans

Pumpkin-Sage Risotto with Brown Butter

This dish has a lot of advantages. #1, it gives you a chance to roll your eyes and mutter under your breath that I must be at least half starch at this point, since I make risotto and blog about it so much. #2, it gives you a chance to put your dinner where your mouth is, and use the techniques that I talk about all the time. And #3, it gives you one more dish in your arsenal for vegetarians, for pumpkin-fiends, and for people who you want to like you, as much as you want to like them.
I make this in my Le Creuset braiser, because it has a flat bottom, shallow sides, and lots of area for the rice to suck up broth. I’d recommend a similar pan, if you can find one, or a big, straight-sided skillet.
You start this like any other risotto, sauteing an onion in butter, adding the rice and sauteing it, and then working the salt and stock in. In this case, I used vegetable stock. Near the end of cooking, add about half a cup of canned pumpkin, and 3 tablespoons of browned butter. You can adjust this to taste, especially if you’re making this for a crowd. I ended up with about 3/4 cup of pumpkin, I think. The browned butter is pretty crucial, as it lends a nice nuttiness to the risotto.

To brown butter, you put it in a pan over low heat. First, it will melt. Then, it will foam. Then, the foam will disappear. At this point, don’t walk away, because the butter will begin to smell nutty. As soon as you get the faintest whiff of nuttiness, TAKE THE BUTTER OFF THE HEAT. Browned butter becomes Burned butter in a matter of seconds, and the pan stays hot after you take it off the heat, thanks to the wonders of carryover heat. So please, I’m begging you. Don’t burn your butter, and then blame my risotto. It’s just not fair.

I put chopped sage leaves in with the butter while it was browning, and sprinkled more throughout the dish right before I served it. The sage meshed well with the brown butter and pumpkin, and the parmesan that I always add to the tail end of risotto echoed the nutiness of the brown butter. I served this with my typical green beans: blanched for 2 minutes, shocked in ice water, sauteed with shallots and lemon zest.

I can confidently say that it’s delicious. And that Bakezilla’s Boy is a win. I mean, anyone who eats 3 helpings of my cooking, picks out a great wine, AND helps make a pie? He’s a keeper. :)



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.