This excellent recipe from Fine Cooking, published in 2003, is best at the height of the Summer, with grilled fresh corn.  But,  one frozen product (that I am absolutely smitten with) makes it possible  year-round:  the roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s.   Their subtle smokey flavor stays sharp during cooking, and the charred kernels add color and pizazz to so many dishes.   I used them in this risotto, and  they made it even better.


(adapted from Molly Stevens)

4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
1 cup roasted (or cooked) corn kernels
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. basil leaves, coarsely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the broth in a pot to a simmer and keep it covered, hot.

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated with the oil. Pour in the wine, stir, and cook until the wine is absorbed, about 1 minute.

Ladle in about 1-1/2 cups of the hot broth, and cook, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes. Continue adding broth in 1/2-cup increments, stirring and simmering until the liquid is absorbed each time, at intervals of about 3 to 5 minutes.

While the rice is simmering, combine the tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, and 2 Tbs. of the basil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

When the rice is starting to get tender (16-18 minutes cooking time) stir in the corn. Continue adding more stock and stirring until the rice is creamy but not mushy – 20 to 25 minutes total. Remove from the heat, fold in the Parmigiano and then the tomato-basil mixture. Top each serving with the remaining basil and serve.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you don’t have a local Trader Joe’s, then just roast or grill your own corn.  The 10 or 15 minutes on a hot grill boosts its flavor so much that it justifies the extra step.  Adding the tomatoes at the very end preserves their   bright flavor, and ensures a nice presentation too.    Molly Stevens didn’t  finish her recipe with butter, as is traditional in the dish, but even without butter the risotto was substantial and satisfying.   I like to add a bit of lemon zest before plating, and serve it with some additional grated parmeggiano cheese!   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Light Rye Bread

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Cooking shrimp in the oven has its problems.  It is easy to end up with the delicate meat all tight and dried up from the excessive heat, so I always use recipes that protect the shrimp with enough sauce and/or topping.  This simple casserole is one of my favorites, adapted from a recipe by Molly Stevens published in a Fine Cooking issue years ago.   Fennel, tomato and orange offer a nice base to cook the shrimp, and the layer of bread crumbs on top makes them simply irresistible.  Trust me!

(adapted from Molly Steven’s recipe)

4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (divided, 2 Tbs + 2 Tbs)
1 medium size fennel bulb, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/8 cup Triple Sec (or 1/4 cup dry, white wine)
zest of 1 medium orange
1 14-1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juices
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
3 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 + 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Heat 2 Tbs. of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel and sauté until slightly softened and lightly browned.  Add the garlic and sauté  for 1 minute.  Add the Triple Sec and orange zest and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes and their juices, season with salt and pepper, and stir to heat through. Spread the tomato mixture in a baking dish that will hold the shrimp in a single layer.

Prepare the topping by mixing in a small bowl the breadcrumbs, parsley, remaining 2 Tbs olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place the shrimp on the tomato mixture, and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the shrimp are cooked through – 12 to 15 minutes.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you want to make this recipe even easier for a weeknight, prepare the tomato/fennel base in advance and simply re-heat it before placing in the oven.  It is important that the sauce is already warm when it goes in the oven, that helps coaching the shrimp into cooking evenly and remaining tender and juicy.  While you heat the oven, make the topping, and dinner will be ready in less than 20 minutes.  A side dish of pasta, rice, or just a hearty piece of bread with a salad will complement it perfectly.

I was hoping for leftovers to take to work the following day, but something went terribly right with this dinner.  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Tuscan Bread

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This recipe comes from  “All About Braising“, by Molly Stevens. My copy sits patiently waiting on the shelf during the hot summer months, knowing that when Fall arrives, it will come out to play again.

For the first braise of the year, I chose a potato and leek dish, that starts as a braise, but almost turns into a gratin.  I say almost because it’s quite a bit lighter.  As Molly writes:  “the recipe practically cooks itself“.   All you  do is cut the potatoes and leeks, assemble the dish, pop it into the oven and walk away.

(adapted from Molly Stevens)

2 medium leeks (about 1 pound, white and light green parts only)
1 pound yellow potatoes (Yukon Gold)
butter for greasing the dish
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 + 1/4 cup chicken stock, heated to almost boiling
1/4  cup half and half (or heavy whipping cream)

Heat oven to 325F.

Chop the leeks in 3/4 inch pieces, add them to a bowl of very cold water and wash them well to remove any clinging sand and grit.  Drain. Repeat. Drain them well and add to a well buttered gratin type dish, preferably shallow (I used a 8 x 12 inch dish).

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 3/4 inch chunks. Add them to the dish with the leeks, season with thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Toss with a spatula, spreading the potatoes in a single layer.  Pour the hot stock over the mixture, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place it in the oven.

Braise (cook covered in the oven) for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the potatoes and leeks, check for the amount of liquid remaining. If it’s almost dry, cover again with foil; if the liquid is still about halfway up the sides of the dish, then leave it uncovered (as I did).  Continue to braise for 20-25 minutes more.

Remove the dish from the oven, increase the temperature to 425F, stir the leeks and potatoes and pour in the half-and-half (or heavy cream). Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and bake until bubbly and browned on top, about 25 minutes.

Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.


To print the recipe, click here

Comments: This dish could very well be defined as the braised version of the classic vichyssoise, one of the best soups ever.    Serve it alongside any meat;  roast chicken or prime rib are perfect.   Lately I’ve been using half-and-half in place of heavy cream and it works for us.  Molly dots the dish with butter before placing  in the oven, I did not.   Adapt it according to your own preferences.