CRISPY CHICKPEA AND CAPER SPAGHETTI

Absolutely delicious and a cinch to put together, I dare say that even chickpea haters might appreciate these little creatures when presented this way.  This was my first time roasting capers, but it won’t be the last. Great boost of flavor for an ingredient that already has quite a strong personality.

Pasta with Roasted Chickpeas and Capers
CRISPY CHICKPEA AND CAPER SPAGHETTI
(slightly adapted from Real Simple)

3/4 pound spaghetti
1 can chickpeas (15 ounce)  rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/4 cup olive oil  (I probably used a little less)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt and black pepper
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oven to 400° F.  Combine the chickpeas, panko, capers, oil, coriander, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing once, until crispy, 18 to 22 minutes.

While the chickpeas are roasting, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pan.

Add the chickpeas, cilantro, and lemon juice to the pasta and toss to combine.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

roasted

Comments:  What a great, simple recipe this was! I’ve roasted chickpeas before, but they always turned a little mushy. The addition of panko-style bread crumbs brought a very pleasant crunch to the mixture.  Roasted capers were another very pleasant surprise. I love their sharp, pungent taste in any type of recipe. Roasting changes that sharpness quite a bit, I would say it takes some of it away, but at the same time intensifies the pure caper flavor.  Am I making sense?  ;-)  Make this pasta and see what you think.

served111Dinner is served! 
Grilled lemony chicken breasts and snow peas completed our meal…

ONE YEAR AGO: Leaving on a jet plane

TWO YEARS AGO: Crispy Herb-Crusted Halibut

THREE YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bonjour!

BON BON CHICKEN: LIGHT AND SPECTACULAR!

Can I give a recipe 10 stars? How about a full constellation and a comet dashing through it? This recipe was sitting on my files for a while, but every weekend something would happen and prevent me from trying it.  That all changed on a cold Sunday morning last month.  You need to find a few special ingredients, but trust me, it will be more than worthy.  A constellation and a comet worthy.

Bon Bon Chicken
BON BON CHICKEN
(slightly modified from Serious Eats)

3 skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup Shaoxing wine
2 green onions, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
2 + 1/2 teaspoons whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 pound cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Place the chicken in a large pot. Add the wine green onions, 3/4 of the ginger, 1 teaspoon of the Sichuan peppercorns, and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cook for 3 1/2 minutes. Cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool for a few minutes, then shred the chicken with your fingers or a couple of forks.

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, Sriracha, the rest of the Sichuan peppercorn, rest of the ginger, sugar, and cilantro in a blender. Process until smooth.

Scatter the cucumber slices on a plate. Top with the shredded chicken, and pour on the sauce. Garnish with more cilantro, if you want.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This recipe delivered all it promised and a little more!  I poached three chicken breasts, hoping to have some leftover for a couple of lunches, because I did not think Phil would care for it.  He usually prefers to have a yogurt smoothie for lunch, with a Wasa cracker and peanut butter, something along those lines.  But then, he tasted a piece of chicken, and his plans for lunch changed on the spot.  No leftovers, we polished this big bowl of deliciously poached chicken with a dressing that was like an explosion of contrasting flavors: the sesame oil was there, so was the ginger. But the black vinegar, the Szechuan peppercorns, those took this dish to unprecedented levels of goodness.  Poached chicken never ever tasted so great!  Please, make this recipe.  Make double amount, because you will be going back for more.   Very refreshing, very light, but at the same time it will leave you satisfied, probably because the taste is so intense.    I cannot wait to make this again, and again, and again…

ONE YEAR AGO: Seafood Extravaganza Pasta

TWO YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

THREE YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

FOUR YEARS AGO: Paris, Je t’aime

RICOTTA MEATBALLS

Vegetarians will have to forgive me, but I firmly believe a person cannot have too many meatball recipes.  They cook quickly, can be served with many different types of sauces, and leftovers taste as good or better as the first time around.  This version was originally published in The Meatball Shop Cookbook, but it is also available online. I added my own twist to it, using almond flour instead of bread crumbs.  I don’t have gluten allergies, just happen to love playing new twists on a classic.

Ricotta Meatballs copy

CLASSIC RICOTTA MEATBALLS
(adapted from this version)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds 80% lean ground beef
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
about 2 cups simple tomato sauce (store-bought or home-made)

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Combine by gently beating together the ricotta, eggs, almond flour, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl.  When the mixture seems homogeneous, add the ground beef and mix by hand until  incorporated.

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs and place on a rack over a baking dish, allowing some space in between them.  Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.

While the meatballs are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often. Add the meatballs to the saucepan, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click

CompositeMeatballs

Comments: I do not remember the last time I fried a meatball.  Baking works so much better! I am not even talking about excess fat consumption, but the whole preparation is much more user-friendly.  Recently I found this cute baking dish with an insert that is perfect for cooking meatballs, as they sit elevated and the hot air circulates all around them.  No need to mess with them once you start baking.  After they are brown and almost cooked through, I add them to my sauce of choice, simmering them gently until serving time.

The almond flour and the ricotta gave these meatballs a wonderful texture, creamy but not at all heavy.  You can make them smaller if you prefer, but I like them to be more substantial.  The tomato sauce I used was very simply prepared: a can of tomatoes simmered with sautéed shallots, celery, and carrots.  Salt and pepper. A touch of orange zest at the end.

Almond flour is not cheap, but where we live for some odd reason every once in a while it goes on sale.  When that happens,  I grab a couple of bags and stick them in the freezer.  It is a wonderful ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes.  One of my favorite cakes ever is this one, in which the almond flour shines in all its nutty glory.  ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: Farro Salad with Roasted Leeks

TWO YEARS AGO: It all started with a roof

THREE YEARS AGO: Carrot and Sweet Potato Puree

FOUR YEARS AGO: Impromptu Pasta Dinner

NIGHT AND DAY

Last night….

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This morning….

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The blog will go on with pre-scheduled posts, but I wanted to say hello.  My ability to reply to comments or visit other blogs will be limited until we fly back home next week.  We are here on scientific business, but I hope to be able to blog on a special meal we have planned this weekend.  Stay tuned, mes amis!

MY RIO DE JANEIRO: A COOKBOOK REVIEW

Time for a cookbook review, the second publication by Leticia Schwartz.  Those who have been around the Bewitching Kitchen long enough might remember I reviewed Leticia’s first cookbook, The Brazilian Kitchen.   With this new book, she takes her favorite city in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, and professes her love by showcasing recipes from each different neighborhood.  I imagine that only two of them might ring a bell for those who never set foot in Rio: Ipanema and Copacabana.   Those are names made famous by Tom Jobim’s song Garota de Ipanema, and by images of beautiful women wearing bikinis that cover the bare minimum of their bodies. But Rio is a lot more than that, a collection of very diverse neighborhoods reflecting the immigrants who shaped them.

noname-7

I had a pretty tough time picking a recipe to share with you, but decided to make her Pasta with Shrimp and Asparagus in Coconut Milk because it is quite unique and brings many of the flavors of Brazilian cooking in a single dish.

Pasta with Shrimp and Asparagus in Coconut SaucePASTA WITH SHRIMP AND ASPARAGUS IN COCONUT MILK
(published with permission from Leticia Schwartz)

kosher salt
8 ounces tagliatelle, linguine or the pasta of your choice
8 ounces asparagus (about 1 bunch), tough parts trimmed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled (use shells for stock)
black pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 cup shrimp stock (or chicken stock)
1 cup coconut milk2 Tablespoons Cognac
2 Tablespoons chives, minced

Steam the asparagus for about 3 minutes, cool them quickly in a bowl of ice-water. Drain well and reserve. Cut in pieces before adding to the sauce.

Bring a large amount of salted water to a boil and start cooking the pasta until a little short of al dente.  As the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Reserve some of the pasta water when you drain it in case you need to thin the sauce at the end.

Heat the olive oil in a large, preferably non-stick skillet on medium heat.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and saute until they start to turn orange, about 1 minute per side. Remove the shrimp to a plate, tent with foil, and reserve.  Add the shallots to the skillet, cook until they start to develop a golden brown color, about 3 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the coconut milk, bring to a gentle boil again, cook until the sauce starts to concentrate, thicken, and reduce to about half the volume (about 3 to 4 minutes).

Reduce the heat to low, add the cooked pasta, the reserved shrimp, and asparagus pieces. Toss everything together vigorously, if needed add some of the pasta cooking water, or a little more coconut milk to keep the dish creamy.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, stir the cognac, and add chives right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Making your own shrimp stock is not absolutely essential, you could use chicken stock or even vegetable stock, but it does add an extra something to the sauce. The seafood flavor is obviously intensified.  Leticia likes to roast the shrimp shells with a little tomato paste, I just sauteed the shells on olive oil, then added water and simmered them for 20 minutes with some celery, carrots, and onions.

I had never used coconut milk  in a pasta sauce before, I might try the light coconut milk next time, I don’t think it would pose a problem.  I could not find chives at the store that day, but a little cilantro or parsley sprinkled on top would also be wonderful. I only remembered that step after we were halfway through with dinner.  Such is the life of a blogger. You don’t always fulfill your own expectations.  ;-)

Spaghetti with Shrimp and Asparagus in Coconut Milk Sauce

Now, let me go through the book, chapter by chapter, so you can have a better idea of what it’s all about. I list just a few recipes from each chapter, as the book contains 90 recipes.  I should also mention that even though the chapters are divided according to each neighborhood of the city, in the index the recipes are listed by ingredients, making it very easy to find anything you might be interested in cooking.

LeblonEvening in Leblon

CHAPTER ONE: LEBLON. In this chapter, Leticia brings the type of food associated with “botequins“. A quote from the book: “A botequim is a simply type of restaurant that came to being in Brazil in the late 1800′s by and for Portuguese immigrants”.   The botequim actually reminds me of simple bistrots in Paris, not the fancy ones geared to tourists, but the small, usually a bit dark inside, where folks who live or work in the neighborhood meet for a simple meal, a drink, a coffee.  She opens the chapter with Sugar and Lime Cocktail, the Brazilian national drink, “capirinha“.   “Botequim” food is usually finger food, a bit like Spanish tapas.  You will find Golden Salt Cod Fritters (bolinho de bacalhau), Brazilian-Style Fried Chicken, in which the pieces are cut very small and heavily seasoned with garlic, and the wonderful Brigadeiros, like the ones I had in the blog  years ago.

GarotaIpanemaAn old photo of Helo Pinheiro (the original Girl from Ipanema)  & Tom Jobim.

CHAPTER TWO: IPANEMA. The opening part of this chapter is a nice tribute to Farmer’s Market, which are a must-visit in Rio (as well as Sao Paulo, says the “paulista” in me). She describes the hard work associated with getting the market ready, as at 7am every stand is open for business.  Grated coconut, coconut milk, fresh coconut pieces, those are ingredients that are part of many traditional Brazilian recipes, and as Leticia points out, no one wants to do that type of job at home, so the street markets have several stands in which people grate coconut the whole day, handing you a bag with the freshest possible product. Absolutely nothing to do with the stuff we get in grocery stores, dried up, often overly sweet.  Her first recipe in the chapter is for Yucca Cracker, and that brought me so many memories!  I grew up enjoying them, and honestly I had no idea they could be made at home. They are shaped like a bagel, but their taste and texture is absolutely unique. You can see them here. Pao de queijo is in this chapter too, her recipe more traditional than the one I blogged about in the past.  Some other recipes in this chapter: Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew), Duck and Yucca Shepherd’s Pie (be still, my heart!). and the recipe I shared with you today, Tagliatelle with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Coconut Milk.

CopacabanaSunsetSunset in Copacabana

CHAPTER THREE: COPACABANA & LEME.  A quote from the book: “Rio’s magical places have the power to inspire musicians and artist from around the world. Indeed music and passion are always in fashion at the Copa! Copacabana!” The chapters opens with a classic soup of Portuguese origin, Garlic and Cilantro Soup with Poached Eggs and Croutons (Açorda Alantejana), followed by Creamy Brazil Nut Soup (a heavy contender for featured recipe, by the way), and also brings some dishes with Middle Eastern influence, like “Esfihas“.  The recipe that made my heart miss a beat, though was Moqueca Blinis with Shrimp.  A fantastic twist on Shrimp Moqueca, in a recipe by Chef Rolland Villar, joining Brazilian and French cuisines.  I must make it! Here is a photo from the book, doesn’t that seem amazing? The moqueca flavors are in the blinis, and the shrimp sits on top of each delicious bite…

photo(2)CHAPTER FOUR: JARDIM BOTANICO, GÁVEA E LAGOA. A quote: “Cariocas are obsessed with exercise and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (a lagoon) is one of the most beautiful places in town to go jogging. … exercising in that setting it’s as if your endorphins double from the visual effects of Rio, and the result is a sense of pure happiness, elation and peacefulness…”  Some recipes from the chapter include Rolled Sausage Bread with Rosemary (a concoction from the very famous Pizzaria Braz), Chez Anne’s Cheese Empanadas, Brazilian-Style Veal Stroganof, and Cashew Fruit Ice Cream (trust me, this is to die for!).

SugarLoaf
CHAPTER FIVE: FLAMENGO & BOTAFOGO.
The famous Sugar Loaf is located in this part of town.  Leticia featured in this chapter some recipes from trendy restaurants like Nomangue and Irajá.  I was quite tempted to prepare the Hearts of Palm Soup, so soothing and creamy, but the Molten Brigadeiro Cake (which Leticia likes to serve with ginger ice cream) was also calling my name.  Real loud.

Cristo

CHAPTER SIX: SANTA TERESA, GLÓRIA, LARANJEIRAS & COSME VELHO: Dining with a view. Perhaps the most famous landmark of Rio, Christ the Redeemer, is located in this neighborhood. Leticia recommends two restaurant in the region, Aprazível, and a botequim-type place called Bar do Mineiro. By the way, clicking on the link to Aprazivel will bring up a beautiful Brazilian song, worth listening to. She features not only recipes from these places, but also some from caterers that often come up with incredible twists on classics.  A few examples: Plum Tomato and Bread Soup, Rita’s Fried Zucchini, Chicken and Chorizo over Jasmine Rice (the famous Galinhada), and Passion Fruit Mousse.

Carnival_in_Rio_de_Janeiro

CHAPTER SEVEN: CENTRO, LAPA E ARREDORES.  This is the neighborhood associated with samba and Carnival, where the “Sambódromo” is located, and the huge avenue where the samba schools parade for days, Avenida Marques de Sapucaí”.  Lots of great recipes in this chapter, like Feijoada Fritters with Collard Greens (a take on feijoada from the restaurant Aconchego Carioca), Slow-Roasted Pork Ribs with Guava Sauce, Polenta Turnovers (what a great culinary move!), and Tapioca Pudding with Coconut Caramel Sauce.

CHAPTER EIGHT: BARRA DA TIJUCA.  Well, that is a part of Rio very dear to my heart.  My Mom and my sisters were born and raised in that neighborhood, and so was Leticia!  Quote from the book: “To enter Barra, you have to drive through Rocinha, the largest favela of Brazil. Leticia grew up just a few minutes away, but never connected with this world – so close but yet so far away”.   That is one interesting aspect of Rio, and quite disturbing for foreigners, how close the opposites of society co-exist in town.  A common denominator, though, is food.  Some examples of recipes featured in this chapter are Yucca Fries (the best food in the known universe, if you ask me), Chicken Salad with Carrots and Chives on Whole Wheat (very famous sandwich sold at every beach in Rio, by vendors who scream as they pass by “Look, it’s the Natural Sandwich!”, Fresh Cod with Onions, Potatoes, and Broccolini, and the absolutely delicious Pulled Carne Seca with Butternut Squash Puree.

Buzios
CHAPTER NINE: BÚZIOS.
  Búzios is supposed to be a paradise on Earth. I have never been there, believe it or not, but one day I dream of spending a few days with Phil. It is a beach town, three hours drive from Rio. Enjoying seafood is a must.   How about Farfalle with Salmon and Caipirinha SauceTuna Sandwich?

Paraty
CHAPTER TEN: PARATY.
Now, THAT is a paradise I visited with Phil and a couple of great friends years ago.  We had a fantastic time, and also got one of the worst sunburns in the history of our lives… :-) Paraty is more or less halfway through Rio and São Paulo, and it is a historic city, full of churches from the Gold Era of Brazil, and also fantastic restaurants and hotels. Leticia opens the chapter with a drink, Coconut Cocktail, which I find as delicious or better than capirinha… Also in this chapter you can drool over her Roasted Garlic-Ginger Shrimp with Coconut and Fresh Herb Crumbs (the picture is enough to make me swoon).

CHAPTER ELEVEN: REGIÃO SERRANA. In this chapter, Leticia focuses on a town called Teresópolis, located in hills not too far from Rio de Janeiro. I would love to make her Spinach Crepes with Fresh Tomato Sauce (Brazilian crepes, called “panquecas”, are not the same as the French concoction), the Brazilian Tiramisu, or the Dulce de Leche Brioche Pudding (I gained a pound typing it, though).

CHAPTER TWELVE: HOME COOKING.  In my opinion, no better way to close a cookbook. She features recipes from her family, and surprisingly starts the chapter with her Aunt Sarita’s Moroccan Meatballs. It turns out her Aunt was born in Tangier, so you won’t be able to get more Middle Eastern than that…  One of the recipes in this chapter gave me a huge smile because it was part of my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood too: Ground Beef with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Olives. That is simple,  home cooking to the fullest, and I find myself making batches and batches to enjoy for lunch.  Also in this chapter, Baked Rice with Chicken and Chorizo (Arroz de Forno, each family in Brazil seems to have a version for it),  Brazilian Style Pot Roast, White Chocolate Mousse with Passion Fruit Gelee, and Brazilian Rice Pudding.

photo-1
Leticia, thank you so much for giving me permission to publish one more of your recipes!  I am sure My Rio de Janeiro will be a huge success, for Brazilians in Brazil, for those like us, living abroad, and for people all over the world who share a passion for food and like to learn about other cultures through their cuisines.  You did a wonderful job assembling these recipes, your love for Rio comes through in every page…

ONE YEAR AGO: Hearts of Palm Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

TWO YEARS AGO: Watercress Salad

THREE YEARS AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chocolate Bread

IN MY KITCHEN – MARCH 2014

Once again I am joining the fun virtual party initiated by Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and sharing with my readers what is going on in our kitchen.  Normally I like to start with gifts, and this month won’t be an exception, although these are gifts I gave Phil. Two beautiful wood cutting boards, real works of art made by Michael’s Woodcraft.  I only ordered one, but Michael included the round one for free. Every month he picks one order to receive a freebie, and what can I say? I was the lucky customer in January 2014.

CuttingBoards
We put them to use right away, to enjoy some nice cheeses in style! Now, would you believe that he made this exact cutting board for Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa?  So our kitchen and Ina’s have a special something in common…

CuttingBoard1
What I love the most about these boards is how I learned about them. One day I noticed that a blogger from WordPress liked one of my posts, and decided to follow the link to his site.  This was the first thing I read when I landed there:

My name is Michael and I live in the remote upstate mountains of South Carolina. I love working with wood but I also enjoy cooking, grilling, baking, hiking, camping, gardening, mountain wildlife and bird watching. On my site you will find my woodwork and my blog. I hope you find my blog interesting and will visit often.

Well, not only his blog is interesting, but he is an AMAZING woodworker! I was thrilled to find his site, and immediately decided that a cutting board would make a nice surprise for Phil as a Valentine’s gift. He loved them! One of Phil’s hobbies is woodworking, and he even made a cutting board for us a few years ago, so he understands very well the skills needed to come up with pieces of such quality.  Michael also includes a sample of his wood conditioner so that his masterpieces can stay beautiful for a long, long time.  You can read all about that product here.

In our kitchen…

A couple of gifts from my sister-in-law who lives in Michigan…
vinegarsProducts from il Fustino. One is a pomegranate vinegar, which I have not yet tried, and the other a fig balsamic, absolutely wonderful!  Thank you, Kathy!

In our kitchen…

photo(4)The only plastic wrap we like is Kirkland, however the box always gets messed up and let’s say it is a source of boring lectures from Sally concerning how one should properly use the built-in metal blade so that the plastic roll is kept in perfect shape.  This colorful box, from ChicWrap originally comes with a lousy type of wrap inside, but I use it to store the Kirkland instead.  Glad to report that our marriage is getting happier and happier.

In our kitchen…

stocksPretty nice quality stocks sold by “The Spice House”. Last month they had a free shipping special for orders over $25. and I decided it was a good idea to profit from it. I know that a food blogger should be making her/his own beef and chicken stocks, but I must pick my battles these days.  Having this type of store-bought item available is a great help. When I open the box,  either I make the full amount of stock and freeze in portions, or I make what I need, and portion small teaspoons that can be frozen and used later.  Labeling is a must, or you will be very puzzled one day staring at a marble-sized copper-colored thingie and trying to guess how it landed in your freezer. Advice is free, and I just gave you a good one…   ;-)

In our kitchen…

BakedA nice little roasting pan with an insert inside, perfect to bake meatballs or anything that profits from heat circulating around all sides.  I got it at Bed Bath and Beyond, one of my favorite spots to find these gems. Recipe for meatballs coming soon, by the way. They do have an unusual ingredient that made them quite special.

In our kitchen…

cookieYou win some, you lose some. I thought this little cookie scoop would be a nice gadget to have, as it grabs a defined amount of dough and then you simply release it on the baking sheet by pressing the flexible purple part.  Good in theory, messy and cumbersome in practice.  I ended up using a normal spoon and my hands, like in the good old times.

In our kitchen….

ricethinsA favorite cracker these days.  Rice and sesame, they are light, and have this interesting smoky flavor, not quite sure where it comes from, maybe the sesame seeds when they get baked? They pair with hummus as well as Romeo did with Juliet.

In our kitchen…

tequila1Casamigos, a special tequila, endorsed by the one and only George Clooney.  That puts him and my beloved in the same special category:  very attractive men who appreciate a good tequila.  Phil says it’s very smooth, with excellent, clean flavor.

In our kitchen…

pankoA nice twist on Panko bread crumbs, with chipotle-lime flavor.

porkchopsIt made some mighty flavorful pork chops.  The chipotle level is just right, and the lime seals the deal for me, although I still squirted some fresh lemon juice all over them.  

In our kitchen…

Pizza1A nice pizza made with my default pizza dough, and with a slightly Greek-oriented flavor: sautéed spinach and leeks, over a simple tomato sauce, some fresh mozzarella and a little crowning with feta cheese…  Perfect!

Not exactly in my kitchen, but in my office, a special photo for Celia, who loves umbrellas. Here is mine, perfect antidote for a gray and rainy day… ;-)

umbrella

and now, time for a message from our four-legged friends…

I know I melt Mom’s heart when I twist my head as she asks:
“Would you like a cookie?”

Buck1
We actually tried to trick Buck, giving him something we never expected a dog to be interested in. We were wrong.  He grabbed it and would not let it go… I was holding a raw sugar snap pea. He thought he had died and gone to canine heaven! Ate the whole thing and came back searching for more.

Buck2

Oscar says he is clearly Mom and Dad’s favorite.  Not only he’s got plenty of style and elegance…
Osky

But no other dog has a nose that matches Mom’s favorite color so well. A purple nose, that’s not something to sniff at… ;-)

OskyNose

Buck will have nothing to do with it.  In fact, the only thing he wants to do with his brother’s purple nose is to photobomb it.

PhotoBomb

Chief is tired of so much silliness, his sight is not that great, his hearing even worse,  but his sniffer works like that of a basset hound.  He knows there’s something up in the island that absolutely needs to come down… and it usually does…

IMG_3754And life goes on in the Bewitching Kitchen…

I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour, and stop by Celia’s site to visit other kitchens around the blogosphere.

ONE YEAR AGO: The Blogger and the Shrink

TWO YEARS AGO: The Wheat-Berry Transmogrification

THREE YEARS AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Onion and Asiago Cheese Miche

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: BARLEY RISOTTO WITH PEAS

Dear readers, when I got the Secret Recipe Club assignment for this month I went into full-happy-dance mode!   It turns out that I’ve been paying attention to Chocolate and Chillies for a looong time, and hoping I would be paired with it, to stalk it real good. And that is exactly what I did.  Asiya, the hostess of Chocolate and Chillies, has a ton of recipes that entice me.   She was born and raised in Toronto, where she now lives with her husband and two kids, but her family is originally from India. Her blog features recipes with a heavy Indian influence, and to make it even better,  many are her own family recipes.  I love it!  I bookmarked many options, but five were the strongest contenders.  Here they are: Butter Chicken (lower in fat than regular versions),  Mummy’s Tomato Spiced Rice,  Whole Wheat Banana Muffins, and…  Afghani Kebob with Tomato Gravy.  The fifth? It’s the one I ended up making:  Barley Risotto with Peas and Asparagus.  Oh, my….  what an amazing dish this was! I made a slight adaptation because the asparagus looked very sad at the grocery store that day, so I went with carrots.

Barley Risotto with Peas

BARLEY RISOTTO WITH PEAS AND CARROTS
(slightly modified from Chocolate and Chillies)

4-6 cups of vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 leek, chopped
1 cup pearled barley
2 carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp  freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup light cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Boil the vegetable stock.  Reduce heat to medium-low to keep it warm.Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the minced shallot and leek.  Saute 5-7 minutes until  tender.  Add barley and stir for a minute so that everything is well coated.  Add 1 cup broth and stir until most of it has been absorbed.  Continue to add 1/2 cup hot vegetable broth at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.
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While the barley is being cooked, microwave the pieces of carrots with a little water until almost tender, and reserve. Or you can cook them on top of the stove in a little salted water, and drain them well.
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After 15 minutes of cooking the barley, add carrots and peas.  Stir in salt and pepper.  Continue to add water until barley is cooked through.
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Remove from heat.  Add lemon juice, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.
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ENJOY!
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                                                                  to print the recipe, click here
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BarleyRisotto1

Comments:  This was such a creamy, comforting dish, I love the traditional risotto made with Arborio rice, but this version with barley won my heart!  I definitely want to make it with asparagus to celebrate the arrival of Spring and with it that infusion of life and joy and all things sunny and beautiful and gorgeous and warm into my personal equation.  Can you detect my excitement as February says goodbye?  I bet you can.

served11
The barley risotto was served with grilled pork tenderloin, but for the next couple of days the risotto all by itself was my lunch.  It tends to dry out a little bit in the fridge, but a little squirt of lemon juice brings it back nicely.  I am not sure this could work for a risotto fritter like a regular rice risotto would, it seems to me that the grains of barley would be hard to keep together, but if anyone tries it and succeeds, let me know.

Asiya, I had a blast stalking your blog and picking a recipe to cook from!

For those interested in following the cooking adventures of the other Secret Recipe members in my group, poke the cute blue frog at the end of the post, and have fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

THREE YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

FOUR YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini