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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Chopped with Only the Basket



I felt like I was a contestant on Chopped.  Except all I had to cook with was the contents of my basket.  And, it was a pretty darned empty basket!  We'd gotten home from Alaska the night before at 2:00.  It was supposed to be 1:00 but weather delayed an incoming flight to O'Hare so we were delayed.  Once we got home we unpacked.  Well, we unpacked what we could since Connie's primary suitcase never made the Seattle to Chicago to Indy connection.  Five cookbooks, a glass piece with fireweed, a bronze moose, a couple of switchplates and a couple of zipper pulls.  We didn't go nuts on the mementos, just the photos. 

Needless to say, we slept in.  Then, we went to the office.  We were still pretty darned tired when we finally got home about 6:30.  I'd done a decent job of cleaning out the fridge before we left.  Except for some mushrooms that smelled to high heaven!  And, neither of us wanted to go to the grocery.  Besides, we'd not made a list so that would've meant two trips.  Not happening.  In my back pack I had two apples and two small bags of almonds.  I'd tucked them in in the event we had a quick transfer and missed lunch or dinner.  In the fridge I had some celery and a bit of blue cheese.  And, on the counter there was a bowl with one weak and wobbly red onion and three shallots. Shallots that were also pretty weak and wobbly. There was a big container of basil.  First thing I did this morning when I got up was deadhead the basil.  That we had plenty of. 

I decided the smartest move was to reach my hand into the freezer and we'd have whatever it was.  LOL, it was a container of five cups of chicken stock.  Ok, then.  We were having chicken stock. 

On the way back from the office I'd seen a recipe for a roasted red bell pepper and basil soup.  That sounded really good but the apples were going to be a salad.  Connie is not a fan of either fruit OR soup.  Both for a meal was pretty much overkill!  Unless, of course, I made risotto to go with them.  Since I wound up making my own soup recipe up, I'm not crediting the original inspiration...  We were off to the races!

I really can't tell you which I liked best.  All three were fabulous and I'll make them all again.

Deconstructed Pesto Risotto

Ingredients:

1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 c Arborio rice
2 - 2.5 c chicken stock
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
3 T butter, divided
1/2 c pine nuts
3/4 c shredded Parmesan, divided
8 large fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Saute the red onion in the olive oil.  Once its softened, add the garlic.  Don't let any of it brown.  Add the rice and let it get nice and warm.  Then, start ladling in the chicken stock one ladle-full at a time.  Let the rice absorb the stock before you add more.  And, remember, to be nice and creamy the rice needs to be knocked around a bit to release the starches.  So, stir and stir and stir again.  When the rice is about half cooked, toss in the chopped basil.  Then, just as the rice finishes, add a tablespoon of butter and 1/2 c of the shredded Parmesan.  While the rice is cooking, melt the other two tablespoons of butter in a skillet that's large enough to hold the eight basil leaves.  Let the butter get nice and brown before adding the basil.  Cook it until it's nice and crisp.  Brown the pine nuts in a dry skillet.  To serve, mound the risotto in the middle of your dishes.  Sprinkle with the additional Parmesan, then the pine nuts.  Top that with the fried basil leaves then drizzle with the remaining brown butter.



Blue Cheese and Apple Salad



Ingredients:

2 apples, diced (I'd use Gala)
3 ribs celery, diced
1/4 c toasted almonds, chopped
1/4 c blue cheese, crumbled
2 t lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 c mayonnaise

Directions:

Mix it all together and serve.


Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Basil Soup



Ingredients:

2 shallots, diced
3 T softened butter, divided
1 jar roasted red bell peppers, plus the juice
2 - 3 c chicken stock (I used about 2.5 c because that's what was left from the risotto)
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
2 T flour
4 oz jalapeno cream cheese
                          4 T sliced fresh basil

Directions:

Saute the shallots in a tablespoon of the butter.  Chop the red bell peppers and add them along with the juice from the jar.  Add the 1/2 c chopped fresh basil.  Add the chicken stock.  Cook for a few minutes just to blend the flavors.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  Mix the other two tablespoons of butter with the flour and slowly add that to the soup.  Stir well and allow it to thicken.  Stir in the cream cheese.  Once the cream cheese is melted, serve and top with the sliced fresh basil.

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