Mushroom risotto with veggies.


Ok so I haven’t posted in a long time because I’ve been busy with life in general 

Long ago I ordered risotto at a an Italian restaurant because I wanted to try something different. Since then I have enjoyed risotto in many forms, mushroom, seafood, spinach and even squid ink risotto. Another very well known Mediterranean dish. Risotto is creamy and rich and could be enjoyed with white or red wine. Risotto could be served as the main dish or can be a side with suggestions of salad, grilled chicken, or steamed veggies.


Ingredients 

350 g. Arborio rice

1 package dried porchini mushroom

6 or 7 cremini mushrooms sliced

1/4 cup brandy or 1/2 white wine

800 ml. Low salt Chicken or veggies soup stock

2 Sprig fresh thyme 

One small tomato diced

Half of a red bell pepper diced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 rib celery diced

Olive oil

2 tbls butter plus more for finishing 

Sea salt

Ground black pepper to taste

Freshly grated parmigiana cheese

Instructions 

Soak dried mushrooms in 1/2 cup hot water for about 15 minutes. Bring soup broth to a boil then put it in a back burner on low and keep warm. In a large sauce pan melt some butter and a glug of olive oil on medium high heat, add celery and garlic and sauté. Add the rice and a pinch of salt, stir constantly with a wooden spoon in order to coat all the grains with the oil. Add the brandy or wine and stir until absorbed. Add the mushrooms with the hot water and the sliced mushrooms. Add the leaves from the thyme. Add a ladle full of stock and stir, add another ladle full and stir until almost all the broth has been absorbed by the rice, continue to add broth continue repeating this process and stir until liquid gets absorbed, keep stirring–this process will take about 15 minutes. Add broth, stirring constantly until almost all the broth gets used up, taste the rice and check to see if it’s al dente and creamy. Add a pinch of salt, tomatoes, peppers and the rest of the liquid broth, turn off heat and add some butter and parmigiana cheese. Cover pot with lid and allow rice to steam for about 5 minutes while you prepare the table and plates. Taste the rice and adjust seasoning with salt if needed or more cheese.. put more cheese on the table for guests to help themselves garnish their dishes. Other finishes are more thyme and olive oil, freshly ground black pepper.

Please enjoy with your loved ones or family and friends. 

Please comment and include which wine you drank and weather you used brandy or wine. Let me know if you served with side of meat or veggies, salad etc.

Thank you so very much for reading my blog


Jim

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My version of Sicilian pizza

I went to wine tasting years ago and I tried a slice of Sicilian pizza and I loved it. Sicilian pizza dough is thick and chewey, simple toppings of cheese, a vegetable and herbs, maybe slices of sausage or pepperoni. At the wine tasting I asked the guy about the pizza and then I did some research and then I started to make my own pizza with various toppings and this was the combination I liked most. I also brought this version to my workplace potluck.

For the dough

1 1/2 cups of warm water
4 cups all−purpose flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons ground flax seeds
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar

For toppings

300 ml passata (strained tomatoes)
2 ripe tomatoes sliced
1 large red bell pepper sliced
2 cloves of garlic slivered
1 sprig fresh rosemary
10 leaves fresh basil torn
400 gr mozzarella cheese grated
50 gr Pecorino Romano cheese grated
1 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed
Pinch sea salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
Olive oil
100 gr deli pepperoni sliced (optional)

Put the warm water in a bowl with the brown sugar and dissolve, add the yeast, allow it to sit for about ten minutes in order for the yeast to foam.
In another large bowl combine the flour, salt and flax seeds and mix. Make a well in the flour add olive oil and stir in the foamed yeast water, mix well and turn dough on a floured surface and begin kneading for about 7-10 minutes until a soft dough forms. Put dough in another oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel, let it rise for at least one hour.

Punch down dough and allow to sit covered again while you prepare the toppings. In a small pot warm a bit of olive oil and sauté the garlic add the passata, rosemary, fennel seeds and simmer on low heat for about ten minutes, remove from heat and allow sauce to cool down before spreading on dough. Preheats oven at 450*. Stretch dough out to fit a 12 x 20″ cookie sheet using a rolling pin, oil cookie sheet and dust with corn meal. Lay out dough on cookie sheet and using your fingers, try to develop a thicker edge. Spoon sauce all over pizza dough, add basil and cheese, top off with the peppers, tomato slices and pepperoni. Put pizza in oven and use convection if available. Cook pizza for about 18-25 minutes. Ovens vary so check under crust after 15 minutes for doness. I hope you try this one out and again please comment below.

Pinot noir was great with this pizza

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Turlou Turlou (mixed up vegetables)

This is a summer dish, but because of the winter we’re having so far I think I need a taste of summer. Turlou turlou means “all mixed up” in Greek. This resembles a vegetable casserole, similar to Briami or French Ratatouille, or even a Sicilian Caponata. Moms version is done in a pot on the stovetop instead of the oven. Even though my father was a hunter and liked his wild game this happened to be one of my dads favourite meals. I use cilantro here but flat leaf parsley is more common. You can omit the beans if you cannot find them, also I use a chilli for some heat and squash but again it’s not that traditional. Classic Mediterranean Diet food, (olive oil, veggies, tomato, herbs). This is a very healthy meal as a meal in itself or a side or appetizer for fish, chicken, rice, pasta or even a salad of mixed bitter greens. Allow the eggplant to be the star here… should be the most important vegetable in Turlou Turlou. Okra, sweet potato, cauliflower and a few other veggies would all work but I’ve personally never tried them. Have fun a please comment. Thank you.

Ingredients

2 zucchini
1 large eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 small butternut squash
2 red or orange bell peppers or combo
2 large carrots
2 small potatoes
1/2 cup large frozen Lima beans
1 onion chopped
12 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
Olive oil
Handful chopped cilantro leaves
3-4 fresh basil leaves torn
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 birds eye chilli smashed (optional)

Instructions

Wash all the veggies (tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, carrot, peppers, squash, potatoes) and chop into 1″ cubes but DO NOT peel the skin off any vegetables. Set aside cubed veggies in a large bowl tossed with a couple big pinches of sea salt and a couple glugs of olive oil. Using your hands mix everything together until well coated in oil. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, add the a coating of oil and begin to fry the onions and half of the garlic. Toss in half the veggies and begin to gently stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes until all the veggies have had a chance to touch the bottom of pot and are well coated in the hot oil-onions-garlic. Add in the remaining veggies and keep stirring gently for a few more minutes, now add the remaining garlic, sugar, tomato paste, oregano and chilli pepper if using. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and allow to steam for about 15-20 minutes. Uncover pot and mix the veggies, add the herbs and using a fork pierce a bean, potato or squash to make sure that they have softened to your liking. Turn off the heat and if mixture is too dry mix in a little water, taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. If you want it to be oily, add more raw extra virgin olive oil or to preferred individual serving plates and garnish with more herbs.

You will not be disappointed with the sweetness of this wonderful food. Serve hot or cold or even at room temperature, cut up a bunch of crusty bread and let people at a party help themselves to some turlou turlou. Other serving suggestions that will compliment include cheese plates, crackers, smoked fish. Alternatively you can take leftovers and purée in a processor and there you have it: “veggie dip”

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Soutzoukakia (Classic Greek meatballs) in tomato sauce

Soutzoukakia are a classic appetizer or as they say in Greek meze. I’ve been making a version of this for over 20 years and there’s always a chance to get creative. You can choose to substitute veal, venison, ground turkey or even pork. Change up the herbs to parsley or dill instead of mint, add in chilli flakes or cayenne for spice. Double the recipe and use a large crock pot for a big party. You could substitute the cheese to any hard to semi-hard cheese like pecorino, Parmesan, Gruyere, or Romano.

I like to serve this with crusty bread or pita but there are many options as they can be served over rice or pasta, with salad or a side dish with roasted vegetables.

Ingredients for meatballs

250 gr. ground beef
400 gr. ground lamb
5 garlic cloves
1 shallot
2 slices whole wheat bread toasted
1tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp mint chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
Ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp grated Kefalograviera cheese
2 tbsp fresh basil or oregano chopped
1 egg beaten
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic minced
1 onion minced
1 carrot diced
1 rib celery diced
2-3 medium sized tomatoes diced
500 ml Passata tomato sauce
1 tsp each sea salt and pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 cup dry red wine
Pinch of sugar

To make sauce

Heat half the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add onion, garlic, carrot, celery and tomatoes and cook for five minutes, add wine and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. In with remaining ingredients except remaining oil. Lower heat and cover the pot and allow to simmer for at least 1 hour.

Toast the bread one hour before needed and let sit at room temperature to dry out. For the meatballs, grate in the garlic and shallots in a bowl with meat mixture, mix in remaining ingredients except for bread. Using your hands crumble bread into meat and knead mixture well for a few minutes. Preheat oven to 400*. Shape meatballs to the size of a small egg and place them all on a cookie sheet in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes until brown on the outside. Take meatballs out of oven and place them all in the pot of simmering sauce, try to scrape all the bits off tray into pot as this adds tonnes of flavour. If sauce is too thick add some water, turn up the heat and cook sauce for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in remaining oil.

Serve meatballs warm, sprinkled with more dried oregano and enjoy with dry red wine, crusty bread or pita.

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Bruschetta Sandwich

Tomatoes are in season right now, as everyone is getting the last ones off their garden vines. Bruschetta is awesome and very good for you, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil… WOW simply amazing, sweet, acidic tomato, garlic and earthy fruity olive oil and herbs inside whole grain bread and maybe a grating of cheese. You could also throw in same mescaline mix or salad greens.

Ingredients:

2 ripe medium size tomatoes
1 garlic clove sliced
4-5 leaves fresh basil torn or chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste
3 tbls extra virgin olive oil
Couple drops balsamic vinegar (optional)
Grain bread or whole wheat buns
Grated cheese: Parmesan, mozzarella

Cut tomatoes in half and then slice or dice as to your preference, put in a bowl with remaining ingredients except for bread and cheese, mix well. Spoon tomato mixture on top of a slice of bread or in between buns open face sandwich, grate cheese on top and toast sandwiches in oven for 5 minutes.

Serving should make about 4 sandwiches

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Saganaki Sandwich

I’ve been making Saganaki cheese at home since I was about 12 years old but it never occurred to me that I could put the cheese in a sandwich until now.

Ingredients

1lb Kefalograviera cheese, you could substitute, haloumi cheese, kasseri or kefalotiri cheese. These cheeses can be found at Greek stores, Nicastro’s in Ottawa and you can actually find a cheese named saganaki already portioned out ready to fry at Sobeys.

Crusty bread or 4 kaiser buns
100gr mixed greens or baby kale or spinach
Flour
Olive oil
1 Red sweet pepper or preserved roasted red pepper
1 Tomato
Couple good pinches Greek dried oregano and freshly cracked pepper

Slice tomato in slices, heat an oven on broil and place the red pepper on a piece of foil 10cm away from the broiler or grill the pepper. Cut the cheese in 4 slices approx. 7cm square by 5mm thick. Slice bread for sandwiches or cut buns in half and brush with olive oil, lightly toast bread in broiler or grill. When pepper gets charred remove from broiler or grill and wrap in foil for a few minutes to cool. Unwrap the foil and peep off the charred skin and discard, chop the pepper in slices.
Wet the cheese with water and dust cheese with some flour. Heat a non stick frying pan on medium high heat add a tablespoon of olive oil to pan and then add the cheese and fry, do not crowd frying pan, fry two slices of cheese at a time if pan is small. After two minutes flip cheese and fry an additional two minutes, remove cheese from pan and keep warm.

Arrange the mixed greens on toasted bread and top with the fried cheese, then top with tomato slices and roasted pepper slices, sprinkle dried oregano and fresh cracked pepper on top and put the other piece of bread on top and serve.

I prefer to keep this sandwich meatless as I really want the cheese to stand out. Other ideas to include inside sandwich would be olive paste, steamed kale or Swiss chard, pesto, zucchini slices, roasted eggplant and even cucumber.
Enjoy as I did.

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