Because there’s no such thing as too many risotto recipes, I share with you this version, made more special because I used spinach freshly harvested by our  friends and neighbors (the ones with the green thumb).    I took one small shortcut by using a frozen bag of  peas and carrots. We always have those in the freezer  because they are handy additions to rice, pasta, and soups.  And I wanted a bit of orange color to add contrast to the dish.  SPRINGTIME SPINACH RISOTTO
(inspired by Martha Stewart‘s Everyday Food)
3  cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
10 ounces of spinach, finely chopped
8 ounces frozen carrots and peas, thawed
1 tablespoon butter
Combine chicken broth and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and keep at a low simmer (you may not need to use the full amount of liquid).  In a medium saucepan, preferably wide and with round edges, heat the olive oil and add the minced shallot. Season with salt and pepper, cook until soft and translucent.   Add the rice, and cook until it starts to get a little color, about 4 minutes, stirring constantly so the grains don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.  Add wine; cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 big ladles of hot chicken broth, and cook until absorbed, stirring occasionally.  Continue adding broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for liquid to be absorbed before adding more, stirring occasionally, until rice is just tender and creamy with a little liquid remaining in the pan, about 25 minutes. Stir in the spinach, peas, carrots, and finish with the butter.  Adjust seasoning if needed.
to print the recipe, click here
This risotto could be a meal in itself, but we enjoyed it with grilled boneless chicken breasts. We do like some meat with our dinner, even if risotto-purists disagree.  I thought about making risotto cakes with the leftovers, but ran out of gas and simply re-warmed it in the microwave.  Not a real risotto anymore, but still a pretty tasty side dish!  😉
I used frozen peas and carrots for this recipe, but would not use frozen spinach – you need the texture of the fresh leaves that get barely cooked in the final moments of the preparation.  A squeeze of lemon juice, and a dusting with lemon zest would not hurt it either…

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For the longest time I admired photos of blood oranges, without being able to find any around.  Now that they are available on a regular basis, I am a happy camper, bringing a few home with me whenever I spot them at the grocery store.  What I love about blood oranges the most is their mysterious nature: you never know how red they will be inside.  The skin tries to give you a hint, but… it can be very deceiving.  For this particular recipe from Donna Hay, I needed a fairly large amount of their juice, so I went to work on my oranges, each with their unique shade of red. Gorgeous!

I had a few problems with the recipe, explaining why the “work in progress”. To start with, the orange juice must be reduced by boiling (together with orange marmalade, sugar and vinegar), for what Donna says it will be 12 to 15 minutes, until thickened. Since you must brush the skin of the duck with the resulting sauce, trust me: 15 minutes simply doesn’t do the trick. It took me over 35 minutes, and I had to watch the pan like a hawk, because it boiled over quite quickly.

In preparation for roasting, the duck’s skin is pricked with a skewer, and the bird is dropped in boiling water for 10 seconds. Think carefully about the whole strategy, because you will be placing a reasonably large piece of meat in boiling water, and removing it 10 short seconds later. The duck will have a very high tendency to slide. Boiling water. Slippery bird.  Not a good match.  Be prepared. Once that part is taken care of, you’ll brush its surface with the blood orange reduction sauce, placing it over a rack on a baking dish protected with foil, as you see here.

My next problem with the instructions was the roasting temperature and time.  According to the recipe, roast at 350 F for about 1 hour, then cover the duck with foil and roast for a further 20 to 30 minutes.  The photo in her book is a mouth-watering masterpiece of golden brown crispy skin. Not sure how she would get there in those conditions, I had to increase the temperature and cook my duck a lot longer, even though my duck was almost exactly the weight she recommends in her recipe.  In the end, the meat was not very flavorful, and definitely not tender the way I would like it to be.

The best part of the meal was the side dish I chose to go with it: shredded Napa cabbage, very simply dressed with lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, prepared 15 minutes before serving. Very refreshing, perfect to cut through the fatty duck.

So, it’s back to the drawing board on this one. I liked the flavor of the sauce, and feel that the recipe has the potential to be a winner. Knowing myself, though, I know it will take me a while to try it again. If anyone has suggestions, advice, tried and true methods, please post them in the comments or send them to me by email. I am all ears!


TWO YEARS AGO: Memories of Pasteis (one of my favorite blog posts…)

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Following Celia’s footsteps once more, I share with you what is going on in our kitchen this month.

In My Kitchen….  A little celery miracle!

Did you know that if you cut the base of celery and place it in water for a few days a new celery plant will grow from it? All you have to do is plant it in your garden. Thanks to a tip from my friend Cindy, I have my own celery experiment going on, and this baby is now outside (fingers crossed for a long, productive life!)

In My Kitchen…
Homemade pain de mie, recipe from The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, perfect to spread with any of the tasty concoctions by American Spoon, from Michigan. (I don’t work for the company and have not received any freebies to evaluate and/or promote).

In My Kitchen….  one of my favorite bowls, made in Italy,  with a nice image of Tuscany.  Just looking at it makes me happy!

In My Kitchen…. two special gifts from our friends and neighbors, the super-gardeners V & M

Romaine lettuce, picked from their garden just a couple of hours earlier!

Amazing spinach, very flavorful, that went into a spinach risotto, soon to be blogged about! 😉

In My Kitchen…. A new passion, hibiscus flower tea!

I was intrigued by this post and could not rest until I got some hibiscus flowers to play with. The color of this tea is amazing… stay tuned to hear more about it.

In My Kitchen…

A bundt cake tester with a probe that changes color when the cake is perfectly cooked in the center. Yeah, I need all the help I can get as far as cake baking is concerned.

In My Kitchen…

Normally our pepper grinder is full of black Tellichery pepper, but I could not resist getting this bag of colorful peppercorns, to shake things up a little

In My Kitchen….

My newest toy, a tortilla press! Corn tortillas from scratch are infinitely better than store-bought, and a good quality press makes all the difference. A blog post about it is in the works…

In My Kitchen… especially for Codruta & Smidgen….

and, finally… from the backyard, two cool dudes  wanted to say hello and hope that you enjoyed this little tour through their favorite spot in the house!

Oscar + Buck =  Double Trouble on the horizon…   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: A Dutch Tiger

TWO YEARS AGO Banana Bread

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I can read Portuguese, English, and French.  Stretching my brains a little I can get by in blogs written in Italian or Spanish, as the grammar and many words are similar to those from my native language.  Reading Romanian is another story altogether, but Codruta’s blog is on my blogroll list and will not be leaving anytime soon! Through Google Translate and a few email exchanges with her, I can profit from the bread masterpieces she regularly posts on “Apa. Faina. Sare”.   Agua. Farinha. Sal.  Water. Flour. Salt.  The basic ingredients for great bread, once you add the magic of wild yeast.

When she posted her own formula for a sourdough bread with flaky oats in the dough, I wanted to make it right away, as it involved a technique new to me: cold fermentation of the starter and dough until final proofing of the shaped bread.  Plus, it combined two different starters, one made with rye flour.  Indeed, not a bread for beginners, but I decided to take a leap of faith and play with the grownups. 😉   What do you think?

(reprinted with permission, from Apa. Faina. Sare)

Makes one very large loaf or two medium-sized loaves.

for pre-ferment:
50 g very active starter made with regular flour (100% hydration)
50 g very active starter made with rye flour (100% hydration)
100 g bread flour
50 g water

for final dough:
all pre-ferment (250g)
450 g white bread flour
150 g whole wheat flour
130 g rolled oats (rolled thick is better)
470 g cold water
17 g salt

Prepare the pre-ferment by dissolving both types of starters in water, then add the flour. Stir and cover the container, placing it immediately in the refrigerator.  It is better to use a tall and narrow pot, transparent, so you can mark the level of your starter mixture as you place it in the fridge. Let it sit there 18-24 hours, until the yeast bubble grows up. You have a margin of a few hours to use for the yeast bubble will remain within, then begins to collapse.  Ideally, you should catch it when it’s almost doubled in bulk, as you can see in this photo.

When the starter is ready to be used, mix in a bowl the flours, rolled oats and cold water, let it sit 40 to 60 min (the autolyse step). Sprinkle salt on top, add the fermented starter straight from the fridge. Blend all ingredients together. Knead by folding directly into the bowl, a few minutes, until the dough comes off the fingers and the vessel walls. The dough will be quite dense, but do not add more water. Cover the pot, wait 15 minutes, and repeat the kneading by folding (one complete rotation of the vessel is sufficient). Cover and wait 15 minutes.

Transfer the dough in a greased rectangular dish with oil, make a set of stretch and fold (SF), wait 45 minutes, repeat the set of SF and place dough in the refrigerator.  Let dough in refrigerator for 15 to 18 hours.

Remove dough from refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for 1 hour. Divide the dough in two, and shape each half as a round or oval loaf.  Place the shaped loaves in a banetton or another appropriate container, with the seam up. Cover the pot with a light fabric, and then with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof at room temperature for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Heat your oven 45 minutes before baking time. Have a baking stone inside and your method to generate steam planned. Bake at 460 F  for 45 min, with steam for the initial 15 min. Reduce temp to 440 F  if the bread seems to be browning too much.

Cool it completely before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

With this bread, I tried to work on shaping a batard, but next time I will divide the dough in uneven portions, making a slightly smaller batard and bigger “boule”.  I need a bit more practice with this shape of bread, but I feel I’m slowly making progress…  I was hoping for a shorter bread, with more pointed ends.  It will happen.  I know it will…  😉

The bread was absolutely delicious! The oats, although not previously soaked, more or less disappear into the dough, contributing flavor and a very slight hint of texture. Perfect! More and more I lean towards bread with whole wheat flour and grains or seeds inside, I find that they are very satisfying and more flavorful than white bread.

Unfortunately, I had a small problem with my camera – pilot error – and lost all my photos of the crumb.   Mine was not as perfect as Codruta’s bread, but no one who tried the bread seemed to mind…  Make sure to stop by her blog and marvel at the structure of her bread,  with a beautiful pyramidal shape, which is a sign of perfect handling of the dough.

Codruta, thanks for a great recipe,  I now only have about 8 others from your blog waiting in line!   😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO:  Roasted Corn and Tomato Risotto

TWO YEARS AGO: Light Rye Bread

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