Lobster, Mushroom, Spinach Risotto

This recipe is the perfect balance of colors with the bright reds and pinks of the lobster nestled alongside the gentle white of the risotto and the brilliant green of the spinach.  The flavors also balance well.  The spinach is a slightly bitter taste that pares well with the soft, cheesy risotto and the salty, creamy sea taste of the lobster.

Me, I’ll take risotto any way you can think of making it, but this one?  Tops.

Risotto has such a reputation for taking a long time to cook while the said cook stands over the stove with limp hair and a little damp with the heat as they endlessly stir and stir.  It doesn’t have to be so serious.  Just some coming back to the stove to stir, add more liquid, move away and repeat as needed, but not continuously.

Lobster, Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 t. salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3oz. or 4 cups lightly packed spinach, washed, drained and deribbed
1/2 pound cooked lobster meat
2 tablespoons butter

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and then mushrooms.  When the mushrooms begin to brown on the edges slightly, add the white wine and salt.  Bring to a boil and add the spinach and lemon juice, stirring quickly with tongs.  When the spinach has wilted, remove from heat and add the lobster meat and the butter.  Swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon and serve on top of risotto.

Serves 4

Risotto

4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 stick
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups low-salt chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat.  When the onions are done, add the rice and stir for one minute.  Add the salt, pepper and 1 cup of the stock and stir.  Continue to add the stock one cup at a time until it is all incorporated stirring frequently.  The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and reserve the second 1/2 cup for garnishing at the table.

Serves 4

Annie

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Shrimp with Roasted Red Onions and Lemons over Tomato Risotto with Roasted Asparagus

I don’t get it.  What is wrong with saying to your kids, “This is what we are having for dinner.”  If they say I don’t like it, you say this is what we are having.  If they don’t eat it, they will eventually get hungry and have what’s for dinner.  I know more parents than not who allow their children to have total control over what they will eat and I find myself often wondering who’s in charge here anyway?  These parents give their children guidance and boundaries in other areas, but seem to have abdicated any responsibility in when it comes to food. In other words the kids have a varied diet of three menu options – big shell pasta with cheese, little shell pasta with cheese and macaroni with cheese.  How is this even close to a balanced diet?

I understand kids have different palates and that spicy foods or strongly flavored foods are not as appealing.  There are two little ones who live in my house and even though I’m a chef, I hear more often than not, “No thank you to this, Mama.”  My two favorites are, “Mama, next time you make macaroni and cheese from scratch, can it be the orange kind?”  and “Mama, I’m sorry to say, but your pizza isn’t as good as Domino’s.”  This from the kid who picks off the cheese and sauce from her Domino’s pizza and eats the bread only.  No big or swelled heads growing in my household.

Eating sparsely at a meal or two or three is not the equivalent of starvation, although it sounds sometimes as if this is what parents are worried about.  One of my daughters has always been a steady, constant eater while the other would be in complete control of the kitchen if we allowed it.  When she was little she would go for two or three days and eat maybe two or three bites off of her plate.  Did we worry?  Sure, we are parents after all and that’s what we do.  But we didn’t change anything or make a deal out of it.  We just kept offering her healthy food and by the third day, she’d eat three helpings of whatever it was we were having.  She’s now nine and she still has the same pattern.  Not eat much for a few days, stock pile on the third or forth.

As a kid I can remember not liking onions, sauerkraut (which you could smell even outside and was to my nose the worst smell invented) or spicy food.  One the nights we had sauerkraut for dinner I’d make it a full-time hobby to be having dinner at a friend’s house.  On the other hand, most nights when I didn’t like what was for dinner, I ate it anyway because I knew that there weren’t other choices.  This business of cooking several different meals for you and each of your kids is insane.  Aren’t we all busy enough as it is, without making more than one meal per sitting?

Once, a day care provider told me that the kids in her care all had candy every day because “at least they ate something during the day.”  Are you joking?  What about putting nutritious snacks in front of them and not giving them unhealthy choices?  They will eat eventually.  Or not.  But then don’t give them the junky choice as a last resort and essentially a reward for being stubborn about their food.

It also seems that the less of a deal you make about this whole food drama the better.  Set a few boundaries, stick to them calmly and be done with the conversation.  Example: Rule 1, Mom or Dad are only making one meal for everyone.  Rule 2, We’ll all sit down at the table together to eat.  Rule 3, Everyone needs to have at least one bite of everything on the table.  Period.  When there’s grumbling, remind about rules one through three and be done with the conversation.  When no one eats the first few meals, make sure that they are getting healthy things for breakfast and lunch.  When someone doesn’t care for what’s being served, calmly remind about rule three and stop talking.  If you are really concerned about them having something allow them to get a piece of fruit.

This rant is really about the health of our kids.  We are the parents and it’s up to us to make sure that they eat well.  We can’t force them to eat, just like we can force potty training, sleep or good manners.  We can only provide guidance and good choices in a consistent and loving way.  This is a meal my kids liked – mostly.  They loved the shrimp and the risotto.  Picked around the onions and lemons and one had the tiniest fairy bite of asparagus.  Good enough for me.

Shrimp with Roasted Red Onions and Lemons

1 pound 16/20 shrimp or large shrimp, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or about 1/2 lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt (1/4 each for shrimp, onion and lemon mix and asparagus)
4 tablespoons olive oil (some for the shrimp and some for the roasted onions and lemons)
1/2 lemon sliced into 1/4 inch wedges
1 red onion sliced into 1/4 inch wedges
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
several grinds of fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.  In a small bowl, combine the shrimp, lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix.  Set aside.  On a baking sheet with sides, combine the lemon, red onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  On the same baking sheet, make room for the asparagus spears (about half the pan).  Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper over the asparagus.  Roast in the oven until the edges of the onions and lemons are just beginning to become dark brown.  Add the shrimp to the onions and lemons and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.  The asparagus, onions and lemons should be tender and the shrimp just turning opaque.  Reserve any liquid from the pan and serve the shrimp with sauce over the risotto.  The asparagus could be plated separately.

Serves 4

Tomato Risotto

4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 stick
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups low-salt chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat.  When the onions are done, add the rice and stir for one minute.  Add the salt, pepper and 1 cup of the stock and stir.  Continue to add the stock one cup at a time until it is all incorporated stirring frequently.  The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center.  Add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Reserve the second 1/2 cup for garnishing at the table.

Serves 4

Annie
Mean mom

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Two-for-One: Risotto Cakes

If you find you have leftover risotto from the Risotto with Cherry Tomatoes, Green Beans & Basil, try these risotto cakes. This recipe is a little looser than most, as when I tested it, the amounts I had leftover and the amount of bread crumbs needed varied quite a bit.  Also, if you are planning on using the risotto above for leftovers the next day, leave the beans out, as they don’t work well in this recipe.

For every person:
1 cup cooked risotto
1/2 egg
2-4 tablespoons of bread crumbs
2 teaspoons of olive oil

Combine all ingredients using the smaller amount of bread crumbs.  If you are only cooking for one person, crack the egg into a bowl and scramble it.  Only use half of the egg.  The risotto mixture should be firm and not too sticky.  To do a test run, heat up a skillet to medium high heat, add a little oil and drop a small patty onto the skillet.  If it sticks or flattens out too much, it needs more bread crumbs.  When you are satisfied with the amount of bread crumbs, form the mixture into 2 1/2 – 3-inch wide patties about 1/2 inch thick and place them carefully into the hot skillet.  Turn when they are golden brown on one side and brown the second side.  About 4 minutes each side.

Serve with a green salad and fresh tomato slices with herbs.

Chef Annie
Enjoying tasty leftovers for lunch

© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing

Risotto with Cherry Tomatoes, Green Beans and Basil

All of the seasons are lovely in their own way, but the fall is my favorite, partly because of how beautiful the changes in nature are.  On the other hand, fall is essentially a season of winding down and saying goodbye, really, to the wide-open busyness of summer and this always come with a certain amount of wistfulness for me.  Some of the signs that signal the beginning of the end are visible.  The darkness, of course, comes earlier in the evenings and the constellation Orion is in full view in the morning sky.   My mornings on our Maine windjammer are greeted by a deep darkness, punctuated only by stars and moonlight.  The air is crisp, cleaner, sharper somehow and the colors of ruby and amber are just starting to show amidst the dark green of the evergreens.

One of the dishes that is a favorite of mine when the weather turns cooler is risotto.  This one, however, still has several nods to the summer with the basil, tomato and green beans while still satisfying with it’s heartiness.

Cherry Tomatoes

Risotto with Cherry Tomatoes, Green Beans and Basil

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups Arborio rice, short grain white rice
1 cup white wine
7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 cup grated Parmegiano Regiano cheese
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cups fresh green beans, destemed and cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons basil

Melt butter in stockpot over medium high heat.  Add minced onion and salt.  When onions are translucent, add rice and stir.  Add the wine and 1/3 of the stock and stir.  Reduce heat to medium low and continue to add water as needed.  It is not necessary to continually stir, just keep coming back to the pot and checking the liquid level occasionally.  When most of the liquid is incorporated, about 20 minutes, add the green beans and the rest of the liquid.  When the rice is al dente, meaning that you can feel the tiniest crunch in the center of the grain, add the cheese, tomatoes and basil.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Chef Annie
Wishing summer lasted a little longer

© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing