torta di risotto bambini

torta di risotto bambini

for years i have been moulding risotto into various shapes, and serving slices of the resulting torta on buffets and summer party tables. i love to eat and serve risotto, and this allows us to enjoy it in a completely different, make-ahead kind of way.

these little rice babies are so adorable and perfect for a dinner party and especially for your vegetarian guests. if you know you’re having vegetarians over for dinner, make risotto a few nights before and do up some individuals. you can reheat them in just 20 minutes and serve a special dinner without any fuss.

feel free to experiment with vegetables too. rounds of roasted yellow and green courgettes or a fat slab of grilled eggplant would be divine in the bottom of the mould. and your risotto can change with the seasons as well.

torta di risotto bambini

torta di risotto bambini

1 pint little tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 cups grated parmegiano reggiano
aged balsamic vinegar
white truffle oil

preheat oven to 450f. toss the little tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast on a parchment lined tray for 15-20 minutes, or until starting to colour and shrivel. set aside.

heat the water or stock to simmering. in a large pan, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil with half of the butter over medium heat. add the onion and garlic and cook stirring for 4 minutes. increase heat to high and add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper, stirring and cooking until mushrooms have released their water and have begun to colour, about 6 minutes. add the rice and stir to coat with the oil and butter. after drinking half the wine, re-measure, and pour it in the pan (you know you do this!) bring to a boil and stir until the liquid is almost gone. start adding hot water or stock to the pan, a couple of ladle-fuls at a time, stirring and cooking in typical risotto-making fashion. i taste throughout the process and stop adding water when the ice has some bite, and the rice is still rather soupy. it will thicken and cook further as it stands. add the cheese and remaining 2 tbsp. of butter. add a few drizzles of balsamic and some truffle oil. stir a few more times and then allow it to cool until the risotto has become less saucy and firmer. taste again and season as needed adding salt, pepper, or more truffle oil or balsamic or cheese.

line 6-8 single-serve vessels with plastic wrap and leave an overhang. i use ramekins, or stoneware timbale molds, or indian dahl bowls, whatever i have on hand. arrange the little tomatoes in the bottom, then spoon over the rice, right to the top. fold over the plastic, then chill until firm. overnight is best.

when ready to serve, preheat oven to 400f and line a baking pan with parchment. turn out the tortas and remove the plastic wrap. bake for 20 minutes, or until the little bambinis are hot and the bottom are sizzling and turning golden brown. serve hot with a nice salad, or some tomato sauce on the side.

Continue Reading

scotch egg arancini

arancini scotch egg

weirdly, i have never eaten a scotch egg. a proper, classic scotch egg, covered in sausage meat and deep-fried. i had been a vegetarian on and off for years before ceasing all meat consumption several years ago, so any opportunities i had to make them or eat them just never happened.

arancini on the other hand, i eat whenever i get the chance. they are those adorable little balls of leftover risotto, filled with cheese or tomato, covered in crumbs and fried to golden perfection. in france, deep-fried balls of leftover anything are called croquettes, and other cultures have different versions using lentils or potatoes. arancini are a great way to use up leftover risotto.

so in my usual fashion i’ve come up with a vegetarian alternative, and also mashed-up two classics: arancini, and scotch eggs. instead of cloaking a boiled egg in sausage meat, (or worse, fake sausage meat!) i’ve done these up with risotto, and voila, scotch egg arancini.

i get my eggs from a local farm gate, and before that, i raised my own. the yolk colour in the picture says it all, don’t you think? the chickens roam free and happily dine on grass and bugs.

i love to serve these as a first course for a casual dinner party, with some homemade roasted tomato ketchup, or my great-grandmother’s chili sauce. for cocktails, i’ll use teeny quail eggs, also from a local farm. the scotch egg arancini can be fried ahead and reheated just before serving.

here i’ve used a mushroom and white truffle risotto, but any kind will do. if you prefer a softer egg, do not bring the water back to the boil after adding the eggs, but i like them just like this, slightly soft but completely cooked through.

arancini scotch eggs

scotch egg arancini

8 small eggs, at room temperature (from free-ranging chicken, if you can)
4 cups leftover risotto, cooled
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water
1 1/2 cup italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
vegetable oil for frying

bring a medium pot of water to the boil. slowly lower the eggs into the water. using rom-temperature eggs helps with cracking, but what i do is use a slotted spoon and raise and lower the eggs a few times into the hot water to warm them before plunging them in completely. when all eggs are in the water, bring back up to the boil for just an instant. remove from heat and allow eggs to stand in the water until cool enough to handle. peel eggs and place on a paper towel. place a sheet of parchment on a small baking sheet.

place the flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs into three separate dishes. in the biz we call this creating a breading station! add the parsley to the flour and mix to combine. roll an egg into the flour and shake of excess. using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop out the risotto and put in your hand. made an indentation in the middle, and place the egg into it. press the rice around the egg to coat completely with the risotto, pressing to cover all of the egg. place on the baking sheet and repeat with remaining eggs. chill 10 minutes. roll each egg in flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. return to the baking sheet and chill until very cold, 1 hour. replace the parchment on your baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

fill a deep pot with 3″ of oil, or use a deep-fryer. heat oil to 350f. if you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, use a cube of bread to test the oil. toss it in and see if it sizzles and browns right away. if not, heat a little more.

fry the arancini a few at a time, until the outside is golden brown and crispy, about 3 1/2 minutes. remove with a slotted spoon to your paper towel lined tray. allow to stand for 5 minutes, then serve hot with a tomato-ey accoutrement, such as marinara sauce, roasted tomato ketchup or chili sauce.

can be made ahead and reheated by baking at 400F for 7-10 minutes.

Continue Reading

tyrokafteri terrine

tyrokafteri terrine

tyrokafteri is a lovely spicy cheese dip which serves as part of meze. this is a very fine tradition indeed. small plates of flavourful dips and other dishes are served alongside aperitifs at the beginning of a meal, or as a meal itself. my friends and family and i eat in this casual fashion quite often, so i generally have some dips on hand and make tyrokafteri alongside some labneh, hummus, or taratour. we make a big salad, toss some olive-oiled pitas on the grill to blister, and we have dinner.

a nice thing about this spicy feta dip, is that is gets quite firm when chilled, which means it can be moulded and turned out like this terrine. i like how it can be sliced and served on appetizer plates, or if i’m feeling really fancy, prepared in a smaller mould and served with a small salad and bread for each guest at a dinner party.

you may have seen a white version of this, which is essentially cheese and green chilis. this one has a few more ingredients, and a more complex flavour to match it’s warm, summery colour and gentle heat.

tyrokafteri terrine

tyrokafteri terrine

250g good feta cheese
3 tbsp. very thick strained yogurt (labneh) or cream cheese
squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp good quality greek olive oil
1 each roasted red, yellow, and orange peppers
1 tsp. crushed hot red chilis or boukovo (hot greek chilis)
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
extra olive oil, for drizzling

place the feta in a bowl of cold water and allow to stand for 20 minutes to remove excess salt. cut the roasted peppers in half, reserving one half to layer in the terrine. drain the feta and place in the bowl of a food processor, along with the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, the pepper halves, hot chilis, and paprika. process until very smooth and creamy.

chop the reserved pepper halves into a very fine brunoise, or tiny little dice. mix together to distribute the colours. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp of olive oil, and stir in the chives.

line a 2 cup container with plastic wrap, or use 4 small ramekins, and leave an overhang. Place the chopped peppers in the bottom of the mold, or divide evenly among ramekins. Scrape the tyrokofteri into the mould(s) and smooth the top. cover with the overhanging plastic wrap, and chill for at least 4 hours, better still, over night.

turn out terrine onto a plate. remove plastic wrap and smooth the edges with a small palette knife. drizzle with olive oil and serve with warm, grilled or oven-warmed pitas. Serves 4

Continue Reading

crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

i don’t miss meat, but man do i miss the idea of something crispy and southern-fried! that initial crunch yielding to something tender and juicy inside, hot and crisp with a bit of salt and spice. this crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower recipe came from those dark, evil food-craving places we all have, and my basic desire to make something fried.

cauliflower is the perfect candidate for the southern-fried treatment. it’s got all those little hills and valleys to cradle the crispy batter, it cooks quickly, and it comes out juicy and flavourful. i can also say with certainty, this is perfect with a little ranch dip or spicy-sweet barbecue sauce for dipping. you could also use smaller pieces and make this as a little appetizer (popcorn cauliflower?)

make it this weekend, and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment, or better yet, show me your results on instagram and tag me.

crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

crispy buttermilk-fried cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, broken up into 3-inch rough pieces
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
vegetable oil for shallow frying

place buttermilk in a medium bowl. in a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, basil, and cayenne.

line one baking sheet with parchment paper, and another with a double thickness of paper towelling. (a layer of newspaper underneath will keep your tray clean). dip the cauliflower pieces in the buttermilk, then toss in the flour mixture to fully coat. repeat, then place the pieces on the parchment lined tray. in a large skillet with straight sides, heat 1″ of vegetable oil to 350F. without crowding the pan, cook the cauliflower pieces in two to three batches, for 8 minutes, turning a few times during cooking to brown all sides. when evenly browned and crispy, place cauliflower on the paper towel lined sheet to drain for a few minutes, then serve.

to make ahead, fry all cauliflower, and place on a rack over a baking sheet. reheat by baking at 400F for 15 minutes, or until hot and crisp.

Continue Reading

spicy caesar devilled eggs

spicy caesar devilled eggs

can anyone ever have too many devilled eggs? i think they are probably one of the greatest inventions in the world of two-bite appetizers. they are special enough for a party but easy enough to make for a weekend brunch or nibbly before dinner. they are tasty, and downright adorable, if you ask me.

something i really enjoy with brunch is an ice-cold caesar cocktail, so i thought, what the heck, let’s do a mash-up of devilled eggs and a spicy, savoury caesar.

i was surprised to find that a caesar seems to be virtually unknown outside of canada. tomato-clam juice is swished with vodka, worcestershire, and hot sauce, and shaken into a celery-salt rimmed glass and garnished with a whole celery stalk and lime. the flavours are so fresh and clean, that one can now find caesars garnished with everything from pickles to strips of bacon and skewers of jumbo shrimp. the same goes for the creamy foil of a devilled egg: it pairs perfectly with the flavours of a caesar.

cutting the eggs in half widthwise gives you perfectly round little cups to rim with celery salt and hold the tabasco-laced filling topped with celery leaves.

spicy caesar devilled eggs

spicy caesar devilled eggs

8 large eggs
1 tsp. tabasco sauce (or to taste)
a few drops of worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. good, thick mayonnaise
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. celery salt
juice of 1 lemon
leaves from 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
8 grape tomatoes, halved widthwise

bring a medium pot of water to the boil. using a spoon, carefully lower the eggs into the water. bring the water back up to a full boil. cover, remove from heat, and allow to stand until cooled to room temperature.

peel eggs, and with a sharp knife, cut a small sliver off both ends of each eggs. slice each in half widthwise, and pop the yolks out into a bowl. arrange the empty egg whites on a plate and chill. mash the yolks with the mayonnaise and tabasco until smooth, season with the pepper, and chill.

place the celery salt on a small saucer, and the lemon juice in a small bowl or ramekin. dip the cut side of each egg white into the lemon juice, shaking off excess, and then dip into the celery salt to lightly coat. load the chilled yolk mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe into the egg white holes. top each egg with a grape tomato half, skin side down, and sprinkle with the celery leaves. chill completely. makes 16.

Continue Reading

muhammara

muhamarra

muhammara is the most exotic and wonderful of dips.

dips in general are so versatile and practical. when made with flavourful and healthy ingredients, they can go so many places.

every culture has their dips. mexico has a creamy peanut salsa from chiapas, guacamole taquero, and pica de gallo. in greece there is delicate taramasalata and tzatziki. hummous, baba ghanouj, and labneh straddle several cultures.

around here, we quite often make a meal of a few great dips, some hot flatbreads or pitas, a dish of olives, and a cold glass of wine. the next day, a smear of dip on a wrap gets rolled around fresh greens and veggies for lunch, or used as a sauce for marinated tofu sandwiches. and we love to make a charred vegetable salsa for tortilla chips.

muhammara hails from syria, and is a lovely blend of red bell peppers, walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, spices, aleppo chilis, and mint.

in the summertime, when red peppers are cheap and plentiful in ontario, we eat a lot of this with grilled Syrian flatbreads. in the winter, if peppers are very expensive where you are, a jar of roasted peppers will work just fine.

muhamarra

muhammara

1 cup + 2 tbsp. toasted walnuts
3 tbsp. sliced sundried tomatoes (the ones packed in oil)
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp coarsely ground red aleppo pepper
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

place the 1 cup walnuts, tomato paste, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper, bell peppers, cumin, and salt in the bowl of food processor and blend until smooth. scrape into a serving bowl. drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp of walnuts and the mint. serve at room temperature with grilled flatbreads or pitas.

Continue Reading

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

over the years i’ve spent cooking and writing, i’ve become quite accustomed to the idea of easy eating. that means having a few good things on hand that work in multiple ways, are simple to make and taste good without having to try too hard. marinated mushrooms are one of my standbys.

i make these little lemon pepper marinated mushrooms and keep them in a jar for a few days, to enjoy alongside some good bread, some antipasto ingredients, or to toss into a bean salad or eat with cheese and crackers.

years ago, my grandfather gave me his recipe for marinated mushrooms, and so this is a version of his. i remember there was usually a bowl of them on the table at my grandparents’ house when we went for dinner, and how i always asked if i could fill it, so i could sneak a few in the kitchen. it’s hard to eat just one!

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

lemon pepper marinated mushrooms

1/2 cup olive oil (doesn’t need to be the good stuff for this)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (a little coarse is best for this)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 pound small, very fresh button mushrooms

place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes, gently stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon. turn heat off, and allow the mushrooms to steep in the marinade until they are completely cooled. pack into a 1L glass mason jar, pour the marinade over, and refrigerate.

Continue Reading

fennel caponata

Fennel Caponata

what a lovely dish caponata is…

this sicilian treat is a mixture of vegetables, each cooked to perfection, and married together in flavourful sweet/sour/spicy tomato-based sauce.

i took some creative licence, added fennel and zucchini, and left out the raisins (i’m not a fan) and the anchovies, so it’s vegan.

it’s a bit time-consuming, but the recipe is voluminous enough to make a good batch, the added bonus? caponata only gets better as it sits. having this on hand with other antipasto ingredients and some crusty bread is the most effortless way of enjoying a saturday with friends, or a lazy day at home with family.

fennel caponata

fennel caponata

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2″ dice (about a pound)
sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup pretty good good olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup brine-cured olives, pitted and slivered
one small jar capers (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 28-oz can good plum tomatoes, drained, and juices reserved (i use san marzanos)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

place eggplant cubes in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt (I used about 2 tbsp). allow to drain for 1 hour, giving it a stir here and there. after an hour, give it a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, drain, and dry well with paper towels. Set aside

in a food processor or blender, puree whole tomatoes and set aside.

In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. add the fennel and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. add the onions and zucchini and cook another 10 minutes, until everything is soft and lightly golden. transfer to a bowl. heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and over high heat, saute the eggplant cubes and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. return the fennel/celery/onion/zucchini mixture to the pan and add the vinegar, sugar, olives, capers, chili flakes, fennel seeds, and tomato puree. taste for salt, and add more if needed, as well as a few grindings of fresh black pepper. bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir often for the next 15 minutes. stir in pine nuts. cool to room temperature, then chill until ready to use. take it out to warm up before you eat it, as caponata tastes best at room temperature. sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Continue Reading