Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shiitake Risotto with Fresh Chives

I don't know where they're getting them from, but Green Fields Market has had Western Mass grown shiitakes available the last couple times I've been in there. A delightful surprise for this time of year, and a lovely combination with the chives thriving in my garden. I took advantage of the absence of a mushroom-disparaging child one night to make this for dinner. I always use a pressure cooker now to make risotto, as it is nearly foolproof and far easier than the stir-by-hand method.

2 Tbsp butter (1 T + 1 T)
1 large shallot (or substitute 3 cloves garlic for a different effect)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 1/3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed a diced
1 tsp crumbled dried sage (use less if yours is powdered)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup snipped fresh chives (about 1/4-inch pieces)

Heat 1 Tbsp butter in the bottom of the pressure cooker until it melts. Add the shallot or garlic and saute over medium heat for a minute or two. Add the rice and saute for another minute or so, until it turns translucent. Add the stock and stir well. Put on the lid and bring the cooker to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes, then remove from heat and release pressure.

While the rice cooks, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter in a skillet. Add the shiitakes and saute until tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the sage and a bit of salt and pepper and remove from heat.

When the rice is cooked and the pressure has released, open the pressure cooker. Stir the shiitake mixture into the rice. Stir in the chives. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Kale Mac & Cheese

A big winner with the kids, and the grownups liked it too. I like to use penne with macaroni and cheese for some reason, but feel free to use the traditional elbows.

1/2 lb kale, stemmed
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp white flour
2 1/2 cups milk, warmed
1 lb cut pasta, such as penne or rotini
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste

Either chop the kale very finely or pulse it briefly in a food processor until finely chopped but not totally pureed. Set aside.

Begin by making a classic white sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan or deep skillet, then stir in the flour. Keeping the heat very low, whisk it constantly as it browns and thickens, bubbling. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time, over low heat. Whisk constantly until the sauce thickens a bit, then raise the heat to medium until the sauce reaches a simmer. Turn the heat down again at that point and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently (you can switch to a spoon for this).

While the white sauce cooks, boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water.

After the sauce has simmered for its 10 minutes, stir in the kale and let simmer for another minute or two. Then remove sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese, a handful or so at a time, until it melts. Taste and add salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over it and stir to coat evenly. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Chili-Lime Grilled Sweet Potatoes

It was a welcome change to use up the last of the sweet potatoes I got at the last winter farmers market with a dish cooked on the grill! These were a big hit with the whole family.

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1/2-3/4-inch cubes)
Canola oil
2 tsp lime juice
1-1 1/2 tsp chili powder
Salt to taste

Parboil the sweet potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water for 5-7 minutes, until you can pierce them with a fork without too much resistance but before they are totally tender. Drain well. If desired, you can then set aside or refrigerate for later (bring back to room temp before grilling).

Place the parboiled sweet potatoes in a medium bowl. Drizzle with canola oil and toss until coated. Sprinkle with lime juice, chili powder, and salt and toss until well distributed.

Grill the sweet potatoes in a grill basket over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until completely tender and pleasantly charred in places.

Serve hot.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pureed Red Lentil Soup with Sage, Kale, and Sausage

Red lentils cook quickly and make for a festive looking soup. Feel free to skip the sausage if you like, as the lentils make for a filling soup on their own.

Olive oil
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red pepper (frozen ok), diced
3 cups red lentils
6 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 bay leaf
1-2 tsp dried sage
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, sliced into thin rounds (or with casings removed)
1-2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 lb kale, stemmed and cut into ribbons

Heat some olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add the red lentils, stock, bay leaf, and sage. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes.

While the lentils cook, cook the sausage in a skillet over high heat until cooked through and nicely browned. Set aside.

When the lentils are tender, remove the bay leaf and puree the contents of the soup pot. Stir in the vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Stir in the cooked sausage and the kale and continue to simmer until the kale is tender. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.