Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cold Quinoa Salad, Veggie Overhaul

I receive deliveries every other week of fresh fruits and vegetables from a company called Boston Organics. I really enjoy these deliveries because it helps to keep me on a budget (going to the grocery store I ALWAYS end up spending more than intend) helps me to eat as much organic produce as possible, and sometimes introduces me to new fruits and veggies that I may have never tried before. I get deliveries every other Tuesday, so I have to be very systematic about the order in which everything is consumed...for example, a butternut squash could last nearly a month, but a head of green leaf lettuce is going to start to get wilted in a couple of days.

I do have the option to not receive certain items that I won't use or don't like, but for the most part I am open to anything ... This is my lunch a couple weeks ago that used up some of my organic box leftovers. I made a cold salad on leftover quinoa with tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions. Even though quinoa is a grain that is a complete protein, I added some chicken to help keep me full longer. I dressed this with olive oil and lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

The organic box is just one part of my 'resolutions' to try and eat better. I am personally striving to follow Michael Pollan's suggestions of "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants" (featured in the New York Times Online essay here:

I would also like to read his books The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food...Anyhow, I have been striving to get all my fruits and veggies in my diet, and by focusing on that, I feel like I have inadvertently cut out a lot of excess junk. It has made me a little bit better about ordering food when I eat at restaurants. Here is a great favorite Boston bagel place....Bagel Rising...I used to get the Sunrise Sandwich. A bagel with a bacon, egg and cheese.
I've recently switched to getting an everything bagel, with garlic herb cream cheese, tomato, cucumber and red onion. Here it is beside some jasmine green tea! I find that it actually keeps me full longer, but keeps me from getting that really groggy, ate too much junk feeling. YUM!

Risotto cakes

Considering the current economic situation, and how much money I spend on groceries, I've been trying to be really conscientious about using all my leftovers. However, when you live alone and most recipes are intended for families of 4 or more - you can get sick of the same dinner realllly quickly. That's why I try and morph my leftovers into something different. In the case of these risotto cakes, a creamy, rich, main course is turned into a kind of croquet that appears as a starchy side-dish as opposed to a main event. It is really simple.
All you need to add to the risotto is bread crumbs, and put a tablespoon or two of olive oil into a frying pan. Form the risotto into a ball a little larger than a golf ball. Drop in the plate containing enough bread crumbs for dredging. Smush the ball so it looks like a small patty, or a crab-cake. Flip it over so the entire patty is coated. Once the oil is heated, drop the patty in. Fry for a couple minutes until golden brown, flip, and brown the other side. The outside of the patty will be crunchy from the bread crumbs, but the inside will warm and stay creamy. It goes along well with a broiled piece of chicken or fish and a veggie...and a little more of that leftover wine...

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

As is written in my blog description to the left...One of my favorite things to do is cook for people I care about. Without hesitation, my favorite person to cook for is my boyfriend (his friends come in a close second as they are also voracious and enthusiastic eaters, and always a captive audience). He is a very appreciative taster/eater, and also very helpful in the kitchen...he's also an excellent cook in his own right, and not too picky as to drive me nuts. I think its pretty fitting that my first post be a meal that I've cooked for us to share. As as side note, it is also one of my favorite things to cook. Risotto. Something about standing over a hot stove and stirring for 20+ minutes really adds to the attraction of a dish. I think the hard work and effort that goes into creating the meal amplify my appreciation for the flavors that are created. I like to make a classic risotto as a main dish, and add veggies and protein to make it a one-pot meal--its also a great way to use leftovers - since the veggie and protein components do not cook with the rice, and are simply stirred in at the end of the cooking. This risotto combines shrimp and roasted asparagus. Pairing it with a simple salad helps to cut down on the richness of the meal. There are always leftovers - and these can be used in creative ways as well..more on that in a later post. I don't know much about wine pairings - I just know what i like. Use a wine you like to drink since cooking it will concentrate the flavors...and drink the leftover along with your meal. I've used pinot grigio and and chardonnay with great success.

To be perfectly honest, this may have been the best batch I have ever made...I usually cut back on the butter, but i went all the way with this one...its a special occasion after all. My first post. I hope my camera skills improve though!

Roasted Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio last night)
one small onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups (have an extra cup available -- different stoves have different needs) low sodium chicken broth/stock -- I use Trader Joe's - I think its the best
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup parsley chopped
2 drizzles of olive oil
1 lb shrimp
1 small bunch asparagus

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the asparagus out on a baking sheet, drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and rub it into the spears. sprinkle the asparagus with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 10 minutes, or until tender, but still bright green. Remove the asparagus, and let cool. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Rinse and clean the shrimp, remove shells, de-vein, etc. Dry with paper towels. Spread shrimp on the baking sheet, drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast shrimp in the oven until pink and beginning to curl. Set shrimp aside to cool.

Pour 4 cups of stock into small saucepan, place on burner set to low heat. In another saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add onion and cook on medium until onion is translucent. Add the cup and 1/2 of rice and stir into the butter/onion mixture until it is coated with butter (about a minute) then add wine to the pot. Continue stirring. Once the wine is absorbed, add a ladle of the warm chicken stock...keep stirring. Once the chicken stock is absorbed, add another ladle until all the stock is used. Test the rice to make sure it is soft -- you can always add a little more stock if you need it. Once the rice is cooked, and all the stock absorbed and it looks creamy, take the pot off of the heat.

Add the last tablespoon of butter and the Parmesan to the pot, and stir until combined. Add the shrimp and asparagus to the mixture, and stir to distribute. add the juice of 1/2 lemon, and the 1/2 cup of chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately, topped with a little chopped parsley, and a glass of the leftover wine!