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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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.

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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

A BRAN MUFFIN TO STEAL HIS HEART

I would love to take full credit for coming up with the title of this post, but I can’t.  “A Bran Muffin Stole My Heart” was the title of a blog post by Michelle published almost 3 years ago, and brought to my attention by a friend over on Facebook (thank you, Tracy!). After reading Michelle’s post, I had the intuition that this recipe would be a winner.   For starters, it makes big, very big muffins. Then, it proceeds by crowning each muffin with a  tempting sprinkle of walnuts and sugar, that gets irresistibly crunchy as they bake. I had to make a batch and put it to the test of my resident bran muffin critic-extraordinaire…  😉

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APPLE-RAISIN BRAN MUFFINS
(slightly modified from Put in Some Sugar

1 + 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1  + 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup chopped dried apple
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup cranberries
1/4 cup diced walnuts
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
Raw sugar, for sprinkling
walnut pieces, for sprinkling

Heat your oven to 400 F.  Prepare a muffin pan, with either paper cups or spray.
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In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another small bowl, combine the wheat bran and dried fruits. Add the boiling water and let sit.
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In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy, then add the sugar and beat until well combined and creamy. Add the honey and mix. Add the egg, mixing well.
Mix in the buttermilk and flour mixture in three additions each, beating each addition until just combined. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Mix in the bran mixture.
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Scoop the batter into the muffin cups. It should take about 1/2 cup of batter for each muffin if you are using a jumbo muffin pan. For regular muffin pans, use 1/4 cup. Top each muffin with a teaspoon of raw sugar and sprinkle with a teaspoon of chopped walnuts.
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Bake 20 minutes or until browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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Ingredients-checker

These muffins are the ones that got the closest to those from Phil’s past.  I have no doubt that the larger size helped a lot,  so getting the jumbo size muffin pan was a great move by Sally. 

Cooling
The topping adds a lot to these muffins, but I loved everything about them, from taste to texture.  What can I say? I think I’ve been assimilated.

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“I don’t always eat breakfast, but when I do, I prefer a bran muffin”.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

TWO YEARS AGOScallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

FOUR YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES WITH MISO-LIME DRESSING

Long name for a great side dish that might turn into a full meal if coupled with goodies such as barley, couscous, quinoa, or a nice helping of soft-cooked polenta…  Once more the inspiration to make this recipe came from Fer’s site, Chucrute com Salsicha. She always shares interesting recipes that take ingredients through some unusual path.  I love it!

Roasted Vegetables with Miso-Lime GlazeROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES WITH MISO-LIME DRESSING
(adapted from Chucrute com Salsicha,  originally published in The Kitchn)

8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil (I needed to use a little more)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons yellow miso paste
2 tablespoons walnut oil
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place sweet potato and cauliflower pieces on a large bowl. Place Brussels sprouts in a separate bowl. Drizzle all veggies with olive oil,  sprinkle with salt and toss to thoroughly coat. Add the sweet potato and cauliflower to a baking sheet and roast, moving them every once in a while.  Total roasting time for sweet potato and cauliflower will be about 25 minutes.  After they have been in the oven for 10 minutes, add the Brussels sprouts.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the lime juice and miso paste until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the walnut oil, whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined.

Place the roasted vegetables in a large bowl, pour in the dressing and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you visit TheKitchn for the original recipe, you will notice they recommend using three baking trays, but Fer, in her version, simplified quite a bit, and I did the same.  One large baking sheet was more than enough to handle all the veggies, just add them in the order they cook, Brussels sprouts going last.  Other than that, the recipe was followed closely enough.

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Miso and lime might become my favorite flavor combo for this year, the miso is sweet and funky, the lime is the life of the party, and if you ask me, a mandatory guest when Brussels sprouts are around.  Fer served her veggies with barley, I went with Israeli couscous.  But being the omnivores we are, this super delicious side dish was paired with (vegetarians, close your eyes now) grilled flank steak.  A great dinner! Leftovers were amazing for lunch next day, by the way.

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ONE YEAR AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

TWO YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

FOUR YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

P&SVAL~1Paris, Valentine’s Day 2003… Restaurant Vin Sur Vin, unforgettable evening….

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I  hope that you will have a wonderful evening, no matter your take on Valentine’s Day.   We are not in Paris, but we will dream about being there… and act accordingly   😉

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ONE YEAR AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

TWO YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

THREE YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

VALENTINE’S DAY: THE FINALE

Three days, three posts!  In my series of collaborative articles with Jamie, from Cooking in Red Socks, it is now time to share the dessert course of our romantic meal for two. But, before I do that, let me urge you to visit her site and check out her choice for the last course of her V-day extravaganza! She pulled all the stops and made some seriously gorgeous Strawberry Napoleons, heart shaped and all.  I am in complete awe! Wish I was one of the guests in her party… 😉

Now, to the finale of my dinner for two. It was hard for me not to think about chocolate when choosing a dessert for Valentine’s Day. Having settled on that, I needed something red and sexy to pair it with. Red and sexy like raspberries. All lightly dusted with a very light sprinkle of powdered sugar. For good measure.

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CHOCOLATE MOUSSE WITH RASPBERRIES
(from Good Food Magazine, May 2010)

85g dark chocolate, 70% (I used Trader Joe’s)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp espresso powder (I used Spice House
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
boiling water (enough to use 2 tablespoons)
1 tbsp sugar
50g full-fat Greek yogurt
raspberries, to decorate
powdered sugar

Chop the chocolate very finely and put it into a large bowl that will fit over a pan of simmering water. Mix the cocoa, coffee and vanilla with 2 tbsp cold water, and pour over the chocolate. Place the bowl over simmering water, give it all a stir, then remove from the heat. Leave the bowl still over the hot water, stirring occasionally until fully melted.  If necessary, place the water back on the stove for a minute or so.

Stir the melted chocolate, it will be quite thick. Stir in 2 tbsp boiling water and the chocolate will immediately thin down and become silky smooth. Leave to cool slightly.

Beat the egg whites to fairly soft peaks, then whisk in the sugar until thick and glossy. Beat the yogurt into the cooled chocolate. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mix using a large metal spoon, then very gently fold in the rest of the whites until they are evenly mixed in.

Spoon into 4 small cups or ramekins and chill for a couple of hours, or overnight.  Top with a few raspberries, then dust with a little powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  As far as chocolate mousse goes, this is one of the lightest options you will find. Because our cups were a bit large, the recipe made only two portions, each one  perfect to be shared.  As a result, we enjoyed this dessert two days in a row. Naughty naughty naughty…

The yogurt gives the mousse a little bit of a tang, cutting the richness of the chocolate.  If you are fond of that super rich feeling of a regular mousse, this could be too light for you.  But, if you rather play conservative with your sweets, this is a perfect way to end a romantic dinner.

Make sure to stop by Jamie’s site to see what she is sharing with her friends.

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Jamie, it was great to collaborate with you on this joint virtual project!
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day celebration!

ONE YEAR AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

THREE YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

VALENTINE’S DINNER FOR TWO: SECOND ACT

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am doing a series of collaborative Valentine’s Day posts with Jamie, from Cooking in Red Socks. Go check her site for a great recipe this morning:  Cherry and Pecan Stuffed Endive… She pointed out that in cocktail parties the food served is not always user-friendly. So true!  I often find myself in serious trouble, trying to negotiate a glass of wine with a meatball that definitely needs to be cut in half or else… Her stuffed endive is classy, elegant, and perfect to enjoy while having a great conversation with your friends.  No fear of that chicken wing flying off and landing on the guest of honor. 😉

And now, it is time to share my choice of main dish, a recipe that I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. It was featured in one of my favorite food blogs, Elra’s Cooking. Her recipes have that aura that put me into a dreamy mode, they always bring together exotic spices, long-simmered, complex sauces, and her photography is simply superb! Cornish hens turn any meal into a festive occasion, so they seem perfect for a romantic meal.

Valentine Day Cornish Hens

FRAGRANT BAKED CORNISH HENS WITH APRICOT SAUCE
(adapted from Elra’s Cooking)
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2 (3 lbs) cornish hens
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 small garlic, minced
24 dried apricot
¼ cup golden raisins
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole star anise
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cumin
1-2 tbsp orange flower water (I omitted, could not find it)
¼-½ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 2 tbsp hot water
½ cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley
a handful of slivered almonds
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Heat oven to 375 F.

Saute shallot over medium heat until translucent, add minced garlic, dried apricot, raisins, cinnamon sticks, star anise, ground ginger, ground cumin, saffron water, and the chicken.  Stir to mix the ingredients, season with salt and pepper. As soon as it starts to boil, turn the stove off, add the parsley, mix, and let this mixture cool completely.
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Clean, and cut the hens into quarters. Pat dry with paper towels. Arrange them neatly on an oven proof ceramic dish. Pour the apricot-spice mixture directly on the hens, turning to coat each of the pieces with this mixture, then arrange them back with the skin side up. Transfer to the oven, and bake for 1 hour.  About 10 minutes before the hens are done, scatter slivered almonds on top, and continue to roast until the skin is brown and the meat cooked thoroughly.  If you want, increase the heat slightly at the end to brown the skin, but make sure the liquid won’t dry too much.   

Serve hot, with steamed rice or couscous.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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ApricotsThe apricot sauce is luscious, smells absolutely amazing!

plated1 Dinner is served!  Tender pieces of cornish hen, a sweet and spicy sauce, plain couscous to soak it all up…

And, to brighten up the palate, a simple salad with fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, and black walnuts, with a delicate dressing of creme fraiche…

Spinach Salad

SPINACH SALAD WITH GRAPE TOMATOES AND BLACK WALNUTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the dressing:
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 medium shallot, very finely minced
1 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

for the salad:
fresh baby spinach leaves
grape tomatoes, cut in half
black walnuts
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl whisk together the shallots, vinegar, creme fraiche, Dijon mustard and salt.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make a creamy dressing.  Reserve.

Toast the black walnuts lightly.  Assemble the salad, and drizzle the prepared vinaigrette on top. Adjust seasoning with more salt if needed, and freshly ground pepper.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  This was a super-delicious meal, the apricots soak the sauce and develop a hint of spice to marry their natural sweetness. Make sure you remove the star anise and the cinnamon stick before serving the dish, you don’t want to have the favorite person in your universe to break a tooth right in the middle of a romantic dinner. That would pretty much spoil the mood. 😉

A double thank you is in order: Elra, thanks for bringing this recipe to my attention, and Jamie, thanks for playing with me on this Valentine’s week…

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Stay tuned for the final act of our romantic meal… dessert coming up tomorrow!

VALENTINE’S DINNER FOR TWO: OPENING ACT

I am absolutely thrilled about this post!  I usually don’t publish blogs linked to special celebrations such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or 4th of July.  However, this Valentine’s Day will receive special attention from the Bewitching Kitchen. I was invited by Jamie (who hosts the great blog “Cooking in Red Socks“)  to write a collaborative series of posts to celebrate it.  So here is the deal: we will both be blogging three days in a row to cover the appetizer course, dinner, and dessert. My posts will center on a romantic meal for two.  Jamie will blog on the same courses, but her posts will be about Valentine’s Dinner for Friends. Her posts are made super special as one of her best friends, Allie, celebrates her Birthday on V-day.   How cool is that?  😉 Make sure to stop by her blog and marvel at her choice for the appetizer course: Sun-Dried Tomato Palmiers… WOW!

To start the day on a great note, I offer a perfect Valentine’s Day breakfast bread: Chocolate Currant Sourdough.  A slice, slightly toasted, and a cup of hot cappuccino: heavenly!

Chocolate Currant Sourdough

ChocolateSourdoughCHOCOLATE CURRANT SOURDOUGH BREAD
(from Farine’s blog, original recipe from How to Make Bread)

Recipe overview:  This bread takes a regular sourdough starter, at 100% hydration.  The starter is incorporated into a final dough containing white flour, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and currants. After a series of foldings, the dough is shaped, either as two small loaves (as shown in Farine’s blog), or as a large round boule (as I did).  My shaped loaf fermented for 4 hours in our bread proofing box, temperature set to 78 F.   I baked it inside a covered clay pot for 30 minutes at 435 F, then removed the lid, and baked for 15 more minutes.

For the detailed recipe, visit Farine’s site or get  your copy of Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s book.  Both links are included underneath the recipe’s title. 

Comments: Even though this bread contains a good amount of chocolate and currants, it is not overly sweet. The cocoa powder and the sourdough starter  act together to counteract excessive sweetness.  We loved it, in fact I did not expect to like it as much as I did.  If you have a starter going on in your kitchen, add this bread to your “to bake soon” list.  And don’t keep it there for too long…

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Now, let’s move on to the appetizer course of our romantic meal for two… I wanted something light, and red. Hummus is a favorite in our home, so I went with a twist on this classic, turning it into a shockingly red dip. Food coloring? No way!  This is a Roasted Beet Hummus, and it was absolutely wonderful…

Roasted Beet Hummus

ROASTED BEET HUMMUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 medium beet
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can (15 ounces) of chickpeas, drained, rinsed, peeled
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
cold water to desired consistency
sesame seeds and lemon zest for decoration

Peel the beet, cut it in quarters, coat with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Place in a roasting dish covered with foil, and roast at 400 F for 30 minutes or until fully cooked through.

Place the roasted pieces in the bowl of a food processor, and process it for a few seconds.  Add all other ingredients, up to olive oil.  Process until completely smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, and adjust consistency with water if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.   Depending on the acidity of your lemon and your personal taste, a little more lemon juice right before serving might be a good idea.  Sprinkle sesame seeds and lemon zest on top, and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

RoastedBeets

Comments:  Phil is not too fond of beets, so I took a risk by choosing it for a Valentine’s Day menu.  But the flavor of this spread is very complex, and the beets stay mildly sitting in the background, their presence big in color but mellow in flavor.  Perfect for those who don’t jump up and down with joy when such bright red beings are found in the middle of the groceries. Serve this spread with crackers, or for a lighter appetizer course, celery or carrot sticks.

Make sure to visit Jamie’s site for her appetizer course on a Valentine’s Day Party for Friends! Stay tuned for the dinner course tomorrow…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

THREE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain