Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Risotto

I've been making lots of pumpkin things this fall because I've felt festive.  So for Thanksgiving yesterday, I tried making risotto for the first time and I thought it was a success, though if you have to reheat it, I would suggest undercooking it slightly, as the reheating made it a little too sticky and soft.  I combined two recipes, a vegan one that I didn't really like the spices of and one with sage and thyme but made with chicken broth, butter and cheese to get a vegetarian (but not vegan) option which I think took the best flavor but that my brother could still eat.  So here it is:

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (not bouillon, this is the kind of thing where you really can taste the stock, so use the good stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin (I used more to finish off a can)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or chopped fresh sage leaves (I used dried)
  • 1/2 cup BUITONI® Refrigerated Freshly Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in rice; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and thyme.
  2. Stir in wine. Reduce heat to medium; add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more broth. Rice should be tender but firm to the bite and mixture should be creamy. This should take 20 to 25 minutes. 
  3. Stir in cheese and butter until melted. Season with pepper.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Restaurant Review: Rosa Mexicano

So tonight I tried Rosa Mexicano, which is supposedly a pretty authentic Mexican restaurant (I don't tend to believe that, but I guess I was told if a "Mexican" restaurant does not have burritos, it is a good indication that it is the real thing, however, I take the fact that we are not actually in Mexico with a grain of salt).

First of all, the service was phenomenal.  Extremely fast.  We were starving, so we put in the order for guacamole as we sat down and it was there no more than a minute after the waiters (yes, waiters, one was in training) left.  And it seemed like we had barely finished that when our actual food came.  The waiters were attentive, and had good recommendations.  When I asked about the mole (how do you put accentuated characters in posts?) sauce he offered to bring me a sample.  Honestly, I was too hungry and too focused on the food to notice much, but the whole dinner seemed to fly by, which in this case, speaks well to the efficiency of the restaurant.  Also, with my take home box, they included fresh rice and beans, rather than the leftovers from dinner, which ensures that it will be a complete second meal, rather than the smaller half that I sometimes end up with.  They had some Dia de los Muertos specials (yes, that was 18 days ago) that sounded fantastic, but way to big, like an 18 oz steak with sides... yeah, that's like a week's worth of meals for me...

The guacamole is one of their specialties, they make it at the table, which is pretty cool, and the guacamole maker has 90 seconds to make it, he told me.  And it was awesome, probably because it was so fresh.  And because we were famished.  They also included two salsas, I liked the spicy tomatillo one, it had a hint of mint.  By the time we were done, bam there were our entrees!  I got the Mole de Xico beef enchiladas because I was craving steak and the mole sauce was fantastic, like hot chocolate with cinnamon and nutella (which is a basic version of what it was).  Very filling and very complex.  And I don't know that I've had a good mole before this (the waiter said they are all the same and I probably just didn't like it, but I tried the sample and knew that they are NOT all the same).

Dessert really would have rounded off the meal, especially something Mexican chocolate, but we were just too full.  So that would be my recommendation.  I probably would have gotten the you pick 3 ice cream/sorbets.

In summary: great food, some of the best Mexican I've found north of, well, Mexico, awesome service, interesting ambiance.  My only complaint was it's a little pricy, but hey, the exceptional food alway is, right?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Double Broccoli Quinoa

I just made the best dinner.  Seriously, an awesome, awesome dinner.  You look at the title and probably think I'm crazy, and I probably am, but it is seriously awesome.  And pretty easy too, if you have a food processor (or I'm sure a large enough blender would work).  Using a food processor for the first time was the hardest part.

I think it's the garlic that makes this recipe, or maybe the parmesan cheese.  Or maybe, it's the broccoli.  I say that I don't like vegetables so I hide them places... recently that hasn't been true, as I brought back the Carrot Chile and Cilantro Soup and plan on making veggie salads for lunch over the weekend.  Also, broccoli is an exception to that rule.  I love broccoli, I crave broccoli with lemon.  I've been reading "Alone in the Kitchen with An Eggplant," thanks ctheflute, which is basically people gushing about their favorite foods to eat alone.  And these are people who can actually write, so I'm in a gushy mood, especially over food.

Anyway, the point is, I love broccoli so double the broccoli and I'm a happy camper.  And this is a great vegetarian meal because (as I recently learned) quinoa is a complete protein (cough, cough for any vegetarians or people who feed vegetarians, they should include quinoa as a great protein source).  And it is so tasty.  Broccoli pesto?  One of the best ideas ever.  This is from 101 Cookbooks.

3 cups cooked quinoa (one cup dry)
5 cups raw broccoli, cut into florets and stems

3 medium garlic cloves
2/3 c sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 c grated Parmesan
2 big pinches of salt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c heavy cream (I used vanilla soymilk because I didn't have cream)

Optional toppings: slivered basil, fireoil, sliced avocado, crumbled feta
(note, I used avocado and it didn't really add anything and I think I used extra Parmesan so feta was unnecessary.

Heat (or cook) quinoa and set aside.

Barely cook broccoli by bringing 3/4 cup water into a large pot to a simmer.  Stir in broccoli, cover and cook for a minute, just enough to take the raw edge off.  Transfer broccoli to a strainer and run under cold water to end cooking.  Set aside.

Make broccoli pesto: puree two cups of broccoli, the garlic, 1/2 almonds, Parmesan, remaining salt, and lemon juice in a food processor.  Drizzle in olive oil and cream and pulse until smooth.

Just before serving, toss quinoa and remaining broccoli with 1/2 for the broccoli pesto.  Adjust to taste as needed.  Serve with serving toppings.

It was especially nice in comparison with my lunch (Bulgar salad), which didn't turn out as well as I hoped, but am stuck with eating.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pineapple Rice

I haven't been posting because I haven't really been making anything I deem as interesting, but maybe you will.  This is what I would call a pretty standard meal: it's fast, relatively healthy, cheap and will serve me for several days (and I can transport it easily during those several days).  I was inspired from some recipe I found online over the summer that combined sausage and pineapple in rice, but I couldn't find the recipe and I replaced black beans with sausage from what I remembered (or maybe there were black beans in the recipe?  I don't remember), though I'm sure it would have been great with some of the Trader Joe's jalepeno (precooked) sausage I just bought.  This kind of reminds me of pizza, but that is probably because I usually put pineapple, peppers and onions (and last time I added jalepenos) on my pizza, so this is more or less the same flavors in a different form (plus black beans).

1/2 c brown rice
1 can black beans
1 can tomatoes con chiles
1 chopped green pepper
1 chopped onion
1 diced jalepeno
1/2 can pineapple

Cook the rice according to package directions until almost done (so there is still a little water left), add onion and green pepper so they soften.  When water is absorbed add black beans, tomatoes (I didn't drain them, but maybe I should have) and pineapple.

Wow, that was easy.  It's not spectacular, I'll give you that, but it's decent, and it is a nice change of pace to have the spicy sweet of the chilis with the pineapple.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin Brownies

So I still had a little pumpkin (and it was presweetened, oops) pumpkin leftover from the cookies I made a few weeks ago.  I also made muffins, but they were extremely ordinary, so I didn't post (though they were best about 2 days after I made them, so make note of that if you ever want to make pumpkin muffins).

But I thought pumpkin swirled brownies would be the perfect way to use up the remaining pumpkin.  The other option was apple cake with a pumpkin sauce, but I thought brownies were more shareable to bring in to the math department tomorrow.  While trying to come up with a way to make these brownies, I realized something: as much as I'm developing a kind of food sense, I am clueless when it comes to brownies.  I have no idea what proportions to use or what adding more flour will do to the texture, when a brownie should be made with butter versus oil or cocoa versus melted chocolate.  I'm great with cookies, and I'm starting to get muffins down, but brownies?  I have no idea what makes a good brownie.  This is probably why the experimental brownies (sweetened with fruit juice) I made last year had a funny texture.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I don't make brownies very often because, well I don't want to eat the whole pan in 2 days, which is certainly likely.

So there's the story of the brownies.  I searched for pumpkin marbled brownies and I didn't find exactly what I was looking for which is basically a way to use half a cup of prespiced pumpkin puree.  So I turned to my favorite blog, to see if she had any thoughts.  And voila!  Pumpkin swirled brownies from the Martha Stewart website.  But those were not what I wanted, those actually made a separate brownie batter and pumpkin batter and swirled them.  I just wanted to mix the pumpkin in to the brownies like those marble cheesecake brownies you see everywhere.  So I looked into those.  But that wasn't quite right either.  I want a great brownie with just a little pumpkin flavor.  So finally, I settled on making Deb's (from Smitten Kitchen) favorite brownie recipe and swirling pumpkin on top.  This did not work well.  They baked unevenly and even after an hour in the oven, didn't seem completely done (well, done by my eating brownie right out of the oven standards, but I think they won't travel well because they are kind of gooey).  Also the taste had room for improvement: one should add half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the brownie batter to make it meld with the pumpkin better (or even without the pumpkin, I think this is a great addition to anything chocolate, from cookies to pudding).  Anyway, here is the recipe I used, plus my recomendations:

1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup pumpkin pie mix (spiced pumpkin puree, they sell cans of it)
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, cayenne pepper. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
  5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Spread pumpkin on top and swirl it with a spatula.  Bake at 325 or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (I think the pumpkin topping requires a longer cooking time or a warmer temperature, if I ever make these again, I'll get back to you on what that should be). Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)