Roast Steelhead with Citrus & Olives over Saffron Risotto

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Welcome to the party! Today’s recipe is part of November’s Kitchen Play Progressive Party – a fun, new series where once a month, six bloggers are assigned a course and tasked with using a featured product to create an original recipe. This month’s sponsor isLindsay Olives and I’m serving up a delicious entrée of steelhead trout roasted with rosemary, orange, and olives over saffron risotto.

When the folks over at Lindsay asked which olives I would be interested in trying out, I was immediately drawn to their Naturals line, which are processed without artificial colors, preservatives, or other yucky stuff. These olives are pretty much as simple as you can get – the only ingredients listed on the can are olives, water, and salt! The olives themselves are meaty and buttery, with a smooth flavor that lends itself well to cooking.


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I knew that I wanted to do something different with these olives than a typical tapenade and that I wanted them to be featured prominently in the entrée that I created. Since I loved the braised olives in Sally Bee’s Moroccan Chicken, I wanted to try another preparation in which the olives were served warm. I decided to keep things simple by roasting them along with a few other ingredients and serving it over risotto (my motto: when all else fails, make risotto) and I couldn’t have been happier with how this entrée turned out. Roasting the olives brought out their natural sweetness, and they paired perfectly with the fatty fish and bright citrus. This is a dish that I would happily serve to dinner guests (real or virtual) and that I look forward to making again!

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Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Risotto

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I’ve been on a meatball kick lately. They aren’t something that I typically make very often, but lately I can’t seem to get enough. It’s funny, because when I was a little kid I actually hated meatballs. I remember sitting in my high-chair throwing them (and making a huge mess) and demanding that my mom rinse off the sauce and give me ketchup instead (ew). But lately, I’ve been craving the familiar comfort of this dish — from classic spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs to meatballs with sauerbraten sauce over egg noodles.

When I recently learned that there’s a restaurant in New York City entirely devoted to these tender balls of ground meat simmered in sauce (The Meatball Shop), I immediately browsed their menu and decided what I would order if I went. And then I made it. (PS I went to the Shop this past weekend and it’s every bit as wonderful as you’d expect!)

For as often as I make risotto, I never thought to pair it with red sauce. When I saw that The Meatball Shop offers it as a side dish though, I was immediately sold on the idea. It’s such a nice change from pasta, and it gives the dish an entirely different feel. It makes spaghetti and meatballs seem like kids food; this is for grown ups. Meant to be eaten lazily by candle-light while drinking red wine, served with a side of bitter greens (in this case, with some sauteed broccoli rabe).

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The parmesan risotto that I made was a very simple backdrop for the bold meatballs and sauce, but the cheese also gave it enough flavor to hold its own. It was delicious both mixed with the sauce and eaten plain. I took my time and cooked the risotto very slowly, allowing each grain of rice to absorb what seemed like an impossible amount of broth and resulting in the perfect al dente rice suspended in a rich and creamy sauce. If my risotto looks a little ark, it’s because I used Kitchen Basics chicken stock. I really like the flavor of this stock, but it’s a lot darker than other brands — it almost looks like beef stock when you pour it from the carton. If you use a different brand of stock (or homemade), your risotto will probably be whiter.

I also used a jar of Bertolli Spicy Arribata Sauce that I received a while back as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. The sauce was really good — nice and thick and not too spicy. I added some crush red pepper to kick things up a bit. If you’re using a different sauce, you might want to increase the amount of spice to your liking.

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Daring Cooks: Beet Risotto

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I had to laugh a little when I saw that this month’s Daring Cooks Challenge was risotto. It doesn’t take very much time on this blog to figure out that we love the stuff and I even have a whole categorydedicated to it! I took the opportunity to step a little out of my comfort zone and make a vegetarian meal based around the risotto itself rather than relying on lots of toppings. In fact, this simple and delicious risotto only makes three changes to the standard recipe – the addition of beets and the substitutions of goat cheese for parmesan and red wine for white.

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from Autralian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

In my recent blog survey, an overwhelming number of you asked for more information on how to create your own recipes. Risotto is the perfect place to start! Once you have the basics of making the base down, you can feel free to experiment with add-ins. The rice itself has a very subtle flavor, so just about any other ingredients will work – you can either mix them in, like I did here, for a more uniform flavor or you can serve them on top of the rice and let each individual flavor speak for itself. Pick an ingredient that you want to use, and think about what other flavors work well with it. Those will be the main components of your dish – 2 or 3 should be plenty. Then you can change up the items in the base to go along with those flavors. There are three main areas where you can make changes – the aromatics, the wine, and the cheese. For example, if you’re going for a French theme you might want to use shallots instead of onion and ramps go great with other springtime flavors like peas or asparagus. If you’re using a bold flavor like sliced steak and don’t care about the risotto being a creamy white, you can consider using red wine. And you can use whatever cheese you think will go best with the flavors that you’re using.

For this dish, I took my inspiration from one of my favorite salads – simple greens dressed with beets and crumbled chevre. Since I had an open bottle of pinot noir and I didn’t care about the dish being pristine white so I used that instead of white wine. The flavor of the beets were strong enough that they masked the wine and either would probably have worked just as well. Upon the first taste, I could tell that it needed something – the flavors were kind of muddled and heavy. Lots of freshly ground pepper did the trick! I’ve found that whenever a recipe I’m creating seems too dull, it’s because it needs either more acidity or more spice. Something like a splash of lemon juice, a simple vinaigrette, or some black pepper is usually all you need to perk the flavors right up!

What would flavors would you use in your risotto?

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Risotto with Scallops and Grapefruit

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The other day I didn’t have anything planned to make for dinner, so I asked Shawn to pick something up for me to cook. came home to find some beautiful scallops (look at the size of those babies!), arborio rice, pecorino romano, thyme, and peas. It really shouldn’t have surprised me that he bought ingredients for risotto – I’m pretty sure he would be blissfully happy if I made it every day! Plain risotto with scallops seemed kind of boring to me though, so I looked around the kitchen for something else to add. I came across a grapefruit and figured “why not?” I knew that scallops and grapefruit went great together, and even though I was a little nervous about how the flavor would play out in a risotto I figured it was worth a shot.

I shouldn’t have doubted myself. I had forgotten how great lemon zest is in risotto, and the grapefruit acted in the same way. The sharp citrus cuts through the creamy rice and lifts the flavor of the whole dish. I was also nervous about the fruit being to bitter, but the natural sweetness of the scallops – and the little bit of brown butter that I decided to use – provided just the right amount of balance.

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Risotto with Scallops and Grapefruit

1Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mined
1.5 cups arborio rice
4 oz white wine
5 cups chicken stock, warmed
1/2 cup peas
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
2 Tbs grapefruit zest
1/2 pound scallops
Juice from 1/2 grapefruit
1 Tbs butter
1/2 grapefruit, supremed (cut into wedges, white parts removed)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add rice and cook 2 minutes or until heated trhough and nearly translucent. Add the wine and cook until fully absorbed by the rice. Add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing nearly all of the broth to absord before adding more. Continue this process until rice is soft and creamy – it should take about 20 minutes, but you may not need all of the broth. Stir in the pecorno romano and the peas. Allow the cheese to melt and the peas to warm. Stir in the grapefruit zest. Cover and keep warm.

Dry the scallops as much as you can with a paper towel. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add half the scallops and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan and repeat with remaining scallops. Add butter to the pan – allow it to melt, then continue cooking until it is a golden brown color. Whisk in the grapefruit juice. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. Add the scallops back into the pan, and toss with the grapefruit glaze. Add the grapefruit wedges and cook until just warmed through.

Spoon the risotto into 4 bowls. Top with the scallops and grapefruit.

Serves 4.
Approx. 560 calories, 14 grams fat, 1.5 grams fiber, 23 grams protein

(Almost) Meat-Free Friday: Risotto with Crab and Lemon

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a good risotto, but this one is worth the wait – it combines some of my favorite flavors – crab, leeks, and lemon, and goat cheese. It’s a lot lighter than other risotto’s that I’ve made, which makes it perfect for summertime.

Springtime Risotto with Porcini, Ramps, and Asparagus

One thing I love about risotto is that just about anything tastes good in it, so it can be very seasonal. I used some nice spring asparagus and ramps in this. Unfortunately, I can never find a good selection of mushrooms here so I didn’t have many options. The dried porcinis were perfect though- they added a nice heartiness to the dish, and I used some of the broth from rehydrating them to flavor the rice.