Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Shrimp Scampi Risotto

Enjoying a good risotto usually means standing over the stove stirring rice for the classic 18 minutes. Not so with this scrumptious shrimp and rice dish. Be sure to use the best shrimp you can find, and don’t skimp on the cheese either. You won’t be sorry!

¼ cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups arborio or carnaroli rice
½ cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
4 cups chicken broth, simmering
1 tsp. dry oregano
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 lb. medium raw shrimp, thawed if frozen, shelled and deveined
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley

1. Heat oil and garlic in saucepan. Add rice and sauté a few minutes. Pour in wine and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until absorbed.

2. Add hot chicken broth, oregano, and salt. Simmer, covered, for 18 minutes.

3. Stir in butter and shrimp and simmer, covered, another 8 minutes.

4. Stir in Parmesan cheese and parsley until cheese melts. Serve risotto with additional cheese, a green salad and/or steamed broccoli, crusty Italian bread, and white wine, if desired. Serves four.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Soupe au Pistou

The variations on Soupe au Pistou are as numerous as there are cooks. Here’s my take on this wonderful French classic, a cousin of Italy’s minestrone. Don’t let all the steps intimidate you. It’s an easy soup to make, and make it you should. The aroma of pistou melting into the hot soup is divine, the blend of flavors exquisite. And, it’s good for you!

The first step can be done a day ahead, so finishing the soup is a snap. For a totally vegan version, substitute veggie cheese for the Parmesan in the pistou.

Step 1:
14 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tsps. salt
4 large carrots, diced
3 medium potatoes, diced
1 large leek, white part only, chopped

Place ingredients in 8-quart stock pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. If not finishing soup right away, set aside or refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving.

Step 2:
4-5 packages powdered saffron
1 slice stale white bread, crumbled
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can pink or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small yellow squash. diced
8 oz. fresh haricots verts (thin French green beans), trimmed and diced
1/3 cup small pasta or spaghetti broken into 1/2-inch pieces

Return soup to boil. 15 minutes before serving, add above ingredients and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender. Add boiling broth or water if soup becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Pistou:
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. fresh basil, chopped
5-6 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup Grated Parmesan Reggiano or Grated Veggie Cheese

Combine first five ingredients. Depending on your preference, add cheese of your choice, or divide the pistou and make both a Parmesan version and a Veggie version. (Note: I make extra pistou because I make both versions for our writers' group supper. Also, leftover pistou is delicious on pasta or in risotto.)

Serve the soup and pass the pistou, allowing each diner to stir a spoonful into the hot soup. Serve with crusty French bread and homemade croutons, if desired. Serves 6-8.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Couscous and French Lentil Salad

This easy bean and pasta salad provides a wonderful showcase for a variety of fresh herbs. Feel free to experiment with whatever is available in the garden or the grocery store. Serve as a vegetarian main course or as a delicious side dish.

For the Lentils
1 cup French green lentils (du Puy)
6 cups water
1 Tbs. Champagne vinegar

For the Couscous
1 tsp. olive oil
1¼ cups Israeli (pearl) couscous
1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth

For the Dressing
6 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. Champagne vinegar
1 Tbs. dry white wine
2-4 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

To Finish the Salad
3 small seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of scallions, white part chopped, green tops sliced
½ to 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, basil, dill, or a combination

1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add lentils, return to boil, cover and simmer until tender but not falling apart, 13-15 minutes. Rinse to cool. Transfer lentils to bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of champagne vinegar.

2. Bring broth to simmer in a small saucepan. Heat ½ Tbs. olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Toast the couscous in the oil, stirring constantly over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Add boiling broth. Cover and simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to large bowl. Fluff to remove clumps and let cool. (Couscous may be rinsed in cold water to cool more quickly.)

3. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, wine, garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir dressing into couscous. Fold in lentils and remaining ingredients. Chill well. Serves 6.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Red Quinoa Salad with Spinach and Chickpeas

We celebrated summer tonight with Chicken Mojito, Jiddo's Hummus Bi Tahini, and a fabulous Red Quinoa Salad. By combining different recipes, I came up with this nutritious, delicious, Spanish inspired dish, which I've made several times to rave reviews. If you prefer to go vegetarian, serve this quinoa salad with mixed greens. Whether served as a main course or a side dish, this dish provides a perfect summer lunch or supper.


For the salad:
1¼ cups red quinoa
2½ cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1 10-oz. bag spinach, washed and roughly chopped
2 baby seedless cucumbers,
            or ½ long English seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
1 bunch of fresh mint leaves, chopped
Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and/or pistachio nuts for garnish
Salad greens, if serving as a main course salad

For the dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
3 tsps. honey
1 large garlic clove, minced or put through a press
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Bring broth to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add quinoa and simmer about 20 minutes (red quinoa takes a few minutes longer than white to cook), until "halo" appears around the grains. Fluff quinoa. Let sit partially covered for five minutes, then turn into a large bowl to cool. (Quinoa can be rinsed in cold water to cool faster. Drain well.)

2. Fold spinach, chickpeas, mint, and cucumber into cooled quinoa.

3. Whisk dressing ingredients together, fold into salad, and chill.

4. Serve over salad greens or as a side dish. Pass seeds and nuts at the table. Enjoy with crusty bread and a summery dry rosé or crisp white wine. Easily serves 6.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lentil Salad with Red Beans and Chickpeas

Petite and tasty, French Puy lentils are a great ingredient for summer salads. They stay firm, they absorb dressings well, and they're good for you. If you've never tried them, do look for them. Don't be tempted to use common brown lentils. They'll mush up the salad.

This colorful concoction not only makes a great summer side dish, it's a perfect main vegan/vegetarian meal for a warm summer day. Feel free to tailor it to your own taste, and enjoy!

Cooking the Lentils:
1 cup dried French Puy lentils
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
½ tsp. salt
1 bay leaf

Assembling the Salad:
1 15-oz. can chick peas
1 15-oz. can small red beans
1 small bunch of scallions, white parts chopped, green tops thinly sliced
2-3 small seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 3/4 oz. package fresh dill

Making the Dressing:
1/8 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. dry white wine
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place lentils, garlic, salt, and bay leaf in a 2-quart saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until lentils are just tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool, remove garlic and bay leaf, and drain again.

2. Drain and rinse red beans and chickpeas. Place in a large bowl with lentils. Stir in remaining ingredients, then fold in the dressing. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Turkish Bulghur Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing

Bulghur, bulgur, or burghul, a common ingredient in Middle Eastern dishes (such as Tabbouleh and Kibbeh), is made by parboiling, drying, and grinding wheat to a fine, medium, or coarse texture. Bulghur stars in this colorful and delicious salad, my own adaptation of a recipe I found on Epicurious.com. It's a wonderful summer side dish for grilled meats, or served as a main course with a tossed green salad and crusty French bread. Enjoy!


For the Salad:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large vidalia onion, minced
2 cups fine bulghur wheat
2 cups boiling water
2 15-oz. cans beans, pink, borlotti, chickpeas, or a combination,
            rinsed and drained
1 large bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped (optional)
1 bunch scallions, green tops slices, white parts chopped
1 cup raw pistachio kernels, lightly toasted if desired

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
          (available in your grocer's Middle Eastern section)
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in bulghur until grains are coated with oil. Slowly add boiling water, stir, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff wheat and turn into large bowl. Let cool.

2. Rinse and drain the beans you wish to use. Prepare basil and scallions and fold with beans into cooled wheat.

3. Combine dressing ingredients. Stir into wheat.

4. Top with pistachios (or allow individual diners to add their own nuts). Generously serves 6-8 as a main course salad.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Adriatic Shrimp Brochettes

I’ve been making easy and delicious shrimp for years and have experimented a lot with the original recipe, which I found in the late Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook. As with most of the recipes on Kitchen Excursions, the ingredient amounts are an approximate guideline. As Marcella says, “An essential ingredient is your good judgment.”

Whether you use fresh or frozen shrimp, be sure to buy the best you can find. I’ve tried several kinds of breadcrumbs, both store bought and homemade, and have found that for this recipe, the good old Progresso dry Italian breadcrumbs work best.

Buon appetito!

1 - 1½ lbs. medium to large shrimp
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tb. light extra virgin olive oil
Several minced garlic cloves, to taste
1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
½ tsp. salt (optional)
Lemon wedges (optional)

1. When ready, set the top rack in the oven close to the broiler. Preheat the broiler at least 10 minutes before cooking the shrimp.

2. Shell, devein, and wash the shrimp. Dry and place in a mixing bowl. Add enough of the oils to coat the shrimp. Fold in the minced garlic.

3. Stir in the breadcrumbs a little at a time, until the shrimp is lightly coated. Don’t worry if the breadcrumbs don’t completely stick to the shrimp.

4. Add parsley. Season with salt, if desired. Let the shrimp marinate at least 20 minutes at room temperature, or several hours in the refrigerator.

5. Thread shrimp on flat skewers, threading each shrimp in two places to keep it from spinning on the skewer. Leave a little space between each shrimp so they all brown evenly.

6. When the broiler is ready, Set the skewers on a tray or cookie sheet (lined with aluminum foil, if desired). Cook the shrimp on one side until a crisp, golden crust forms, about 3 minutes. Turn shrimp and cook another 2 minutes or so.

7. Serve hot with lemon wedges and side dishes of your choice. A good dry wine, such as Pinot Grigio, will complement the shrimp well.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Savoy Cabbage Soup with Sausage and Arborio Rice

Cabbage. I never liked the horrid stuff my mother plunked into the corned beef pot. She used common cabbage, but there are dozens of cabbages suited to different purposes. Cabbage is good for you, and as we all know, that doesn't mean it has to taste (or smell) bad.

My mother-in-law whipped up delicious cabbage rolls, one of many Syrian dishes made by stuffing various vegetables with ground lamb, rice, and Middle Eastern spices. A while ago, Dawn shared a wonderful stuffed cabbage recipe here on Kitchen Excursions (Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage -Töltött Káposzta).

I first tried Savoy cabbage in Ireland. Shredded and cooked in cream and Irish bacon, it served as a bed for a roasted meat I can't recall, the cabbage was so good. Savoy cabbage is milder than common cabbage. Prettier too, with its curly leaves.

I've made this Savoy Cabbage Soup, my version of a classic Italian dish, several times. It's a perfect autumn/winter dish. Delizioso!

32 oz. fat free beef broth
32 oz. fat free chicken broth
3 Tbs. butter
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (4-5 sausages), casings removed
6 cups (about 1¼ lbs.) shredded Savoy cabbage
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
½ cup arborio rice
Fresh chopped parsley

1. Combine broths and bring to a simmer.

2. Melt butter in 6-8 quart pot. Add onion and sauté until soft and golden.

3. Add sausage, breaking up with wooden spoon. Cook until well browned.

4. Prepare cabbage. Remove and discard outer leaves and core, removing thick "ribs" from the larger leaves as you work. Thinly slice cabbage (I use my food processor with thickest slicing blade), add to sausage, and cook until wilted.

5. Add broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.

6. Add rice. Cover and simmer 20 more minutes. Remove bay leaf. Add parsley and serve with crusty bread. Serves 6-8.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Pasta and Bacon Salad

When I recently logged onto Kitchen Excursions to find the recipe for this amazing summer salad, I couldn't believe I'd never added it to the blog. I have now corrected this regrettable error, and all is well.

No ordinary pasta salad, this. Creamy and delicious, it can be made ahead, and the leftovers—if there are any—last a good while. Serve as a side dish or a main course salad. Ingredient amounts aren't critical, so feel free to adjust them to your taste.

½-¾ lb. bacon slices
12 oz. elbow macaroni or fusilli
2 cups mayonnaise
½ cup (or more) buttermilk
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. sugar
1 10-16 oz. bag of frozen peas, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

1. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat or in microwave until crisp, turning occasionally. Transfer to paper towels and cool. Coarsely chop bacon.

2. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

3. Make a dressing by whisk the mayonnaise, ½ cup of buttermilk, lemon juice, mustard, and sugar in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Fold pasta, peas, and bacon into dressing and serve. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Toss with more buttermilk if dry. Let stand 1 hour before continuing.)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Risotto with Sausage and Spinach

With the prep work done and the fixings assembled, risotto is fun to cook. Risotti make wonderful first courses or elegant one-dish meals. They can include meat, seafood, and/or vegetables. Ingredients are limited only by the cook's imagination. We are fortunate to have an Italian grocer here in New Hampshire who handmakes delicious Italian sausage, and I have added several risotto recipes to my repertoire to showcase it. This is one of my favorites.

6 cups of chicken broth
10 oz. fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, and roughly chopped
¾ lb. mild Italian sausage (3-4), skins removed, roughly chopped
1 small onion or large shallot, minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
5 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simmering Risotto
1. Heat broth and keep simmering.

2. Melt 4 Tbs. of the butter in a deep, non-stick frying pan. Add onion and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, until onion softens and starts to color. Stir in garlic and cook another minute. Add sausage, breaking into chunks and cooking until raw color is gone and meat is browned.

3. Add rice. Stir 1-2 minutes until coated well with butter and heated. Increase heat to medium-high. Add wine (set a timer to 18 minutes at this point) and stir casually until rice absorbs wine.

4. Add a generous ladle of broth, stirring occasionally until absorbed. Continue adding broth about a cup at a time, allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more.

5. After about 10 minutes, stir in spinach. It will cook down quickly. After 18 minutes, taste rice for doneness. It should be al dente.

6. Remove pan from heat. Stir in remaining Tbs. of butter and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread and salad, if desired. 4-6 generous servings.