Archive for March, 2010

Lemon Artichoke Risotto with Shrimp

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Facing an empty fridge upon our return home from vacation, I was in need of groceries and inspiration this past weekend. I happened to catch a mention on Twitter of food52‘s risotto party and was inspired to make a spring risotto. I knew I wanted to include lemon and mint, and had been intrigued by a raw artichoke and parmesan salad I’d read about in the April issue of Body + Soul. And I decided to add citrusy broiled shrimp, as in the food52 finalist’s recipe. There are few things more soothing than the fresh scent of mint and lemon zest, and this creamy risotto is a perfect supper to usher in spring.

Recipe: Lemon Artichoke Risotto with Shrimp

Ingredients:

for the risotto

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 teaspoon reserved for shrimp)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon (1 tablespoon zest reserved for shrimp)
  • 2 cups organic Arborio rice
  • 4 cups seafood stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fruity white wine
  • 1 6-ounce jar water-packed artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

for the shrimp

  • 1 pound wild U.S. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • reserved garlic and lemon zest from above
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper

Instructions:

Gently toss the shrimp with chopped garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, and a generous amount of sea salt and pepper. Let marinate at room temperature while preparing the risotto.

Bring seafood stock and water to simmer in a stock pot.

In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium low heat and cook garlic several minutes, until translucent. Increase heat to medium and add rice, stirring to coat with oil, and cook 4-5 minutes. Rice will turn translucent and begin to appear lightly toasted. Add lemon zest and juice. Pour in wine and cook 1 minute.

Begin ladling the stock, two ladles full at a time, into the risotto. Stir frequently after each addition until most of the liquid is absorbed, then add the next batch. The process of adding, stirring and absorbing liquid will take about 20-25 minutes. The rice will release its starch, resulting in a creamy white sauce. Taste periodically until the rice is al dente — still firm but no longer crunchy in the middle. When the desired texture is reached, gently fold in artichoke hearts, mint and parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Under a broiler, cook shrimp about 2 minutes on each side, until pink and opaque. Serve atop risotto, and garnish with additional fresh mint and/or shaved parmesan. Makes 4-6 servings. Enjoy!

Note: You can replace the seafood stock with vegetable and omit the shrimp to serve the risotto alone for a vegetarian or Meatless Monday-friendly supper.

Plant City Strawberry Agua Fresca

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Traveling to Florida is always a bit perplexing, foodwise. Has anyone else ever wondered how the sunny coast of California inspired smoothies and gourmet vegetarianism, while Florida is perfectly content with chain restaurants and a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner? Add to that the fact that the state surrounded on three sides with water is a virtual wasteland when it comes to safe, sustainable seafood choices (as per Seafood Watch‘s handy iPhone app), and well, it can be easier to try not to think while eating out. (Gulf shrimp, when you can find them, appear to be the safest choice.) We didn’t even time our trip to catch a weekend farmers market, so a quick stop at a roadside stand promising Plant City strawberries was the extent of our local food foraging (well, aside from taking advantage of my sister’s citrus trees). 

Plant City, Florida, is the winter strawberry capital of the world. While you can find Florida strawberries in supermarkets down here, the ones at the farmstand seemed fresher and juicier — without that telltale white top of berries picked before ripeness.

I picked up a couple quarts and made a pitcher of agua fresca back at the house. This is a fun project with kids, particularly if they’re old enough to safely hull strawberries. (If not, they can take a pass at plucking the stems at least.) Instead of lime juice, I used an orange from one of the trees at my sister’s house — one whose fruit tastes almost like a cross between a lime and an orange.

Recipe: Strawberry Agua Fresca
adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of the berries)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

Instructions: In a tall pitcher, stir 1/4 cup sugar into the water until dissolved. Place strawberries in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into the pitcher. Stir in the orange juice, taste, and add additional sugar if desired. Chill in refrigerator several hours. Garnish glasses with a small strawberry, and enjoy! Makes 8 cups.

The finished drink was lighter than a smoothie, cool and refreshing, and a big hit with the kids. A sweet end to a day at the beach and a nice taste of things to come as our own berry season is just around the corner.

Speak Up TODAY for School Lunch

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee is debating Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s legislation to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. Unfortunately, Sen. Lincoln’s $4.5 billion bill falls well short of the $10 billion requested by President Obama and amounts to only 6 cents more per meal per child. (Read more here.) Take two minutes TODAY to send an email via Slow Food USA’s Time for Lunch action site and urge your Senators to step up to the plate for school lunch!

5 for Friday: Spring Celebrations Edition

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier to reach Friday. And, tomorrow is the first day of Spring! In the spirit of the season, here are 5 upcoming family-friendly food events in the DC/No.VA area:

1. Sou’Wester in the Mandarin Oriental is hosting an Easter Brunch, featuring ingredients from local farms and pastry chef Amanda Cook’s homemade marshmallow “peeps” (pictured). There will also be an appearance by the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunt on the hotel lawn. April 4, $55 for adults, including one cocktail, and $30 for children under 12 (DC).

2Jackson 20 in the renovated Hotel Monaco in Old Town Alexandria will be serving a Grand Buffet Brunch on Easter Sunday, April 4, $50 for adults, $25 for children under 12, and kids under 5 eat free (VA).

3. Dino serves a 4-course Passover menu, seder plate available by request, March 29-April 4, $55 for adults and $25 for kids (DC).

4. Pick up Josh Short’s cherry blossom cupcakes from Buzz in Alexandria — last year they had homemade “peeps” as well, it’s worth a call to see if they’re taking orders for Easter. (VA)

5. If you missed out on tickets to the White House Egg Roll, the Falls Church community Easter Egg Hunt takes place Saturday, April 3, 10:00am in Cherry Hill Park. (VA)

And a bonus #6, a recipe for homemade peeps, courtesy of Restaurant 3 in Clarendon (VA), via Metrocurean.

Pork Two Ways: Carnitas Tacos

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The husband and I spent our college years in Southern California, and we frequently find ourselves craving authentic tacos. We’ve identified a few local establishments over the years, but I’ve also discovered it’s fairly easy to make great carnitas (roasted pork) at home. The main ingredient is time, but other than browning the roast in the beginning and then shredding the meat part way through, all the work is done in the oven. (Or on the grill, if you like.) You can also cut the meat into cubes, but I prefer it shredded. If you finish the carnitas the same day you roast the pork, it will keep a couple days in the fridge to make an easy weeknight meal — I had enough to freeze half for another time too.

The boy loves Mexican food, but typically sticks to quesadillas and burritos. He insisted he didn’t like tacos, so I made him a “taco pocket” instead … a.k.a., burrito, with veggies on the side. I suspect I may get him to warm up to tacos if we make fresh, kid-size tortillas, but that’s a project for another day.

Recipe: Pork Carnitas Tacos (& Taco Pockets)

Ingredients:

for tacos:

  • tortillas
  • shredded romaine lettuce
  • thinly sliced red peppers
  • salsa verde
  • sour cream

for “taco pockets” (a.k.a. burritos):

  • tortillas
  • brown rice
  • black beans
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the roasted pork to a shallow roasting pan. Shred the pork, using two forks, into large segments. Trim excess fat as you shred. Top with the salsa and roast for 1 hour, turning over once. Top should develop a crisp, carmelized crust, while interior remains moist. Remove from oven and serve with warmed tortillas, sour cream, sliced bell peppers, lettuce and any other desired accompaniments.

Kid-Friendly Taco Pockets: For the taco pocket, warm a tortilla in a skillet over medium heat. In the center, layer rice, beans, pork, and cheese. Fold in sides, then ends, to make a rectangle-shaped pocket. Place back in skillet and warm about a minute on each side to melt the cheese. To avoid toddler troubles, I serve the veggies next to it but you could certainly add peppers inside if that’s not an issue in your house.

For more on pork carnitas, read David Lebovitz’s (a fellow Cali ex-pat) tale of serving carnitas in Paris.