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This golden Saffron Asparagus Risotto is delicate and aromatic, filled with al dente green asparagus, tender sweet peas and a touch of parmesan.asparagus saffron risotto rice

saffron risotto asparagus pea

I wouldn’t dare to call this dish “risotto alla milanese” since it contains some asparagus and peas but truth be told, it’s quite similar. Also, the original risotto alla milanese is usually made with beef broth and is the only risotto generally not served as a “primo”, first course, but as a sidedish. Usually serve with ossobuco, this risotto is the king of the North (…of Italy, not Westeros…). For this particular recipe, I consider it a “main meal” but it could also be served as a Primo or side dish. You can also make this dish vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth and forget the parmesan. So…let’s talk saffron shall we?

Saffron-asparagus risotto

Saffron rules!

Saffron is the most precious, Gollum style, (my god… I’m in movie mode today…) of spices, the flower’s stigmas called threads are pick up by hand, one by one, and then dried up. Imagine, in a single pinch of saffron, which is about 15 threads, someone had to pick up about five flowers (saffron crocus) and take one by one each threads… before drying them. What a job! Just to make a single gram of dry saffron you would need about 150 flowers… so the reason it costs a pretty penny is clear. Another factor to its “preciousness” is its color, a really unique golden hue, that tint many traditional dishes from around the world from paella to biryani. It also tastes quite powerful with a unique hay tone, which can be quite rapidly overwhelming if you over do it, better go with modesty on this spice. For this particular recipe, the saffron shines though really well, I’ve used 2 small pinches only which I consider the max for a dish. No need for more, if you have a quality bright red saffron, that’s all you’ll need! The saffron is going to give this incredible golden color to your rice, plus the asparagus will help out a bit too! For a delicious and majestic golden risotto result!

Leaky or tight Risotto?

Saffron-asparagus risottoSometimes risottos are super creamy and leaky other times drier which holding better. I believe for this recipe, a leaky risotto wouldn’t work because of the big chunks of asparagus. I suggest to make it slightly drier, with less broth, this way it will hold the veggies better. As for the final touch, which is “the magic” of risotto, the butter will give the rice a great glossy finish, no need for much, and the parmesan will bind everything together. My secret to a good risotto is to add a sip of white wine in the end of cooking, just to give it a “pop”!

So let’s make this smooth dish!

 

 


Saffron Asparagus Risotto

Makes 4-5 portions | Difficulty: easy | Preparation: 30 minutes

Ingredients
  • 800ml of chicken or vegetable brothsaffron risotto asparagus pea
  • 320g of green asparagus
  • 300g arborio rice (any round grain rice)
  • 150ml of white wine
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 a leek finely chopped
  • 2 pinch of saffron
  • 150g of frozen sweet peas
  • 15g of butter
  • parmesan to taste
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Start by adding the saffron to a little bit of warm water and let it infuse the water for 30 minutes
  2. Add the onion, olive oil and a pinch of salt to a large pan, let it cook slowly until translucent (about 10 minutes)
  3. Bring the heat to medium, add the rice and a touch more of olive oil if dry, move constantly with a spatula until the grains start “singing” or become transparent which is about 2 minutes
  4. Add the white wine, let it evaporate completely
  5. Add the broth, topping the rice and mix once in a while
  6. Repeat the last step as much as needed, about 4 times, the whole cooking process is 18-20 minutes
  7. 5 minutes before the end, add the saffron, asparagus and peas
  8. When the rice is to your liking, mine is “al dente”, add an *optional last sip of white wine (30ml, no more)
  9. Stop the fire, add the butter and parmesan to taste, check the seasonning (salt and pepper)
  10. Serve

 

Enjoy!

Saffron-asparagus risotto

Butternut squash-blue cheese risottoButternut squash-blue cheese risotto is a great combination of flavours for this fall. Although blue cheese is a product people are black or white about… whether you love it or you hate it. It’s understandable, since it’s a quite powerful cheese, and not easy to pair. But if you are on the love side of the spectrum, this is the recipe for you.squashrisottopin

Butternut squash-blue cheese risottoOn the other end, butternut squash or you could also do it with the leftover of pumpkin you just carved for the kids… is a sweet element which needs a good contrasting element to balance it out. Those 2 together are a match made in heaven, one spicy and sharp and the other sweet and smooth, turns into a dynamic dish when put together. A well balanced dish.

Also, another too often forgotten element which is important in this recipe is the : Black pepper. Yes… the black pepper you always see in the end of every recipe and don’t dare to put too much of. Well in this case, don’t be shy and use it generously, it gives this extra spicy touch to the butternut squash which is irresistable. Especially, freshly cracked pepper is a plus. There is a whole world of black pepper out there, which I’m no specialist of, but if you are a black pepper master, don’t be shy to use your sharpest type for this recipe.

So let’s make this seasonal risotto going!


Butternut squash-blue cheese risotto

Makes 4 portions

Ingredients
  • 5Butternut squash-blue cheese risotto00g of arborio rice, or bomba
  • 500g of butternut squash cut into pieces (no skin)
  • 100g of blue cheese (your favorite type)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 litre of chicken broth prewarmed
  • 100ml of white wine
  • 1 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • optional: thyme
  • salt and black pepper
Directions
  1. Start by roasting the butternut squash in the oven at 180°C (350F) for 30-35 minutes until golden
  2. Blend the butternut squash lightly, or mash it
  3. Add the onion to soften in a big pan with some olive oil and salt at medium-high heat for 5 minutes
  4. Preheat the broth on the side
  5. Add the garlic clove some extra olive oil and the arborio rice to the pan and move until the rice get translucent, about 2 minutes
  6. Bring the heat to high heat and add half the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan
  7. Then always moving, add the broth one ladle at the time and move constantly the rice (this makes it creamy, as it should be) for about 20 minutes
  8. Mid-coccion add the mashed butternut squash and thyme
  9. When the rice is almost done, 1 minute before the end, add the rest of the wine, let it get absorbed partly then take of the fire
  10. Add the blue cheese (keep some for decoration), and check the seasoning (black pepper)
  11. Let cover for 2 minutes to absorb the leftovers of liquid and serve

Top with some extra blue cheese. Enjoy!

Butternut squash-blue cheese risotto

Porcini risottoIf there is a traditional fall risotto in Italy, it’s the beloved risotto ai funghi made with those exquisite porcini mushrooms. Porcini mushroom is such an elegant and filled with flavor mushroom, if you are lucky enough to get it, in whatever form possible (fresh, canned or dry), you’ll never go back to button mushroom. Porcini mushrooms are a relatively bigger kind of mushrooms with a large stem, it’s flavor resemble meat and is quite powerful. It’s the ultimate mushroom to make risotto. The only downside of this wild mushroom is its cost… it’s a quite expensive mushroom and not always easy to find but if you do… and aren’t on a budget, get the Italian in you shine.porcinipin

Porcini risottoFor this particular recipe I’ve used a pack of medium size dried porcini I bought in Italy this summer. This way, you’ll have to soak the mushroom for about 20-30 minutes before use and then we’ll use the leftover water to make the risotto broth. This water might have residual sand from the mushroom in it, so once the mushroom soften, take them out and pass the leftover water through a sieve with a paper towel in it, this way you’ll get every tiny bits of sand left from the liquid out. This broth can be slightly altered while heated, by adding a laurel leaf, extra broth, wine, brandy, thyme or any aromatic you’ld like. I’ve used some extra white wine and laurel leaf to keep as much of the mushroom taste intact as possible.

Porcini risottoTo get your risotto right, you’ll have to keep the rice moving, and adding the broth little by little. This way the starch get released from the rice and helps make the risotto a nice creamy consistency. So whether you mix the risotto with a wood spoon or simply shake the pan, make sure it’s moving. To upgrade the risotto to adulthood level, add a sip of wine in the end of coccion, if no kids are around of course… Also in the final step of the dish, it’s optional of course, I’ve added a special truffle olive oil and truffle salt to compliment the porcini and give it extra flavor. Those two last ingredients aren’t necessary, just a welcomed extra.

So let’s get this Italian dish going!


Porcini risotto

Makes 3 portions / preparation 30 minutes, cooking time 25 minutes

Ingredients
  • 200g of dried porPorcini risottocini mushrooms 
  • 750ml of warm water
  • 250g Carnaroli, Arborio, or bomba rice (round grain rice)
  • 1 onion (yellow) diced
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 200 ml of white wine
  • 100g of parmigiano reggiano
  • 20g of butter
  • 1 tbsp of truffle olive oil
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • fresh flat leaf parsley to taste
  • truffle salt (or normal) and pepper

Directions

  1. Start by soaking the dried porcini mushrooms in 750ml of warm water for 30 minutes or until soft (if you use the dried porcini)
  2. Reserve the porcini water, filter it with a sieve and paper towel and add to a pot
  3. Add the laurel leave and half the white wine into the mushroom water and let simmer for 5 minutes
  4. During that time, cut the onion and garlic
  5. In a big pan, medium high heat, let soften the onions for 5 minutes or until soft
  6. Add the garlic and make a well in the center of the pan
  7. Add extra oil (olive oil or butter) in the center of the pan
  8. Add the risotto rice and mix well, medium high heat, until the grain of rice becomes translucid (about 1 minute)
  9. Add the other half of white wine and let the liquid get absorbed by the rice
  10. Than add a ladleful at the time of mushroom broth (or chicken broth), some truffle salt and pepper
  11. Keep the risotto in movement for about 20 minutes or until the grains are al dente
  12. Once done, the consistency of the risotto should be quite wet still, like a muddy rice or rice pudding
  13. Add the truffle olive oil (or 1 tbsp of butter), chopped flat leave parsley and the parmesan (+extra touch of white wine), mix and cover for another minute
  14. Check the seasonning and serve

Enjoy!

Porcini risotto

Indian spinach (Saag)Indian spinach (Saag) is a great vegetarian dish, if you are looking for some new ideas to make light, vegetarian meals this is the way to go. Indian food has a great varieties of vegetarian dishes, always loaded with flavours, sometimes really hot, other times mild. This spinach dish is a mild spiced one and terribly easy to do. If you are feeling lazy after a long day of work, this is a rapid and healthy recipe to make. Often you’ll see Saag dishes blended into a paste, but if you eat it with rice, I prefer to keep the leaves whole.

Indian spinach (Saag)This week, I felt like cooking indian and eating lots of veggies and they know best how to cook vegetarian. I have to admit though… it’s not always easy to reproduce those authentic Indian recipes, some ingredients aren’t quite the same in my part of the world… or simply nonexistent. But to start with the basics of indian spices, I would recommend the Garam Masala powder which is a mix of cardamom, cumin, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves,etc. Also the chili powder, cumin, cardamom and coriander seeds are in many indian dishes. A few garlic, ginger and hot pepper and you are set for some flavorful Indian dishes.

So let’s make some easy and tasty spinach!


Indian spinach (Saag)

Makes 2 portions

Ingredients
  • 500g (or 1 pound/ a big bag) of spinach
  • 1 pink onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp of finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp of chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder
  • 1/2 coriander powder
  • 1 green cardamom pod *optional
  • 3 tbsp of plain yogurt
  • coriander leaves
Directions
  1. In a wok or deep pan, add the oil and cardamom pot, and slowly cook the onion until soft
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 2 more minutes
  3. Add the spices powders and the spinach, let them shrink
  4. Cook at medium high heat for about 5 minutes until some of the juice from the spinach dissapeared (not all)
  5. Add the salt to taste
  6. Once off the fire, add the yogurt and a few coriander leaves and stir a last time

Serve with coriander leaves and white rice or naan bread. Enjoy!

Indian spinach (Saag)

Asparagus, peas and bacon paella

Asparagus, peas and bacon paella isn’t quite a classic paella. Although originally, paellas were a rice with all the ingredients from under the nose of those making it on the rice fields would use; like mini eels, snails, rabbit, etc. So I do exactly the same, I add a few leftovers of bacon bits to finish and also a 3 days old bunch of asparagus, and finish it up with my rest of frozen peas. I mean, yes… it is a leftover meal, but it still all works together in the end, I don’t just throw all my fridge leftovers for the sake of finishing the food.

Asparagus, peas and bacon paellaPaellas are a great way to use your leftovers, also it’s a fairly easy and tasty meal. The secret of a good paella lays in the broth you add to it, which usually contains a little wine. The paellas, as opposed to risotto, should not move during coccion, so you won’t get the creaminess of the risotto here, you’ll get a defined texture of the rice. Also, I didn’t add any cheese nor butter at the end, like in risotto. The amount of fat is really low, it’s only a touch of olive oil, and the fresh bacon bits, although in small amount here,  this gives all the fat necessary to the paella. The recipe is suitable for vegetarian, only eliminate the bacon bits and add an extra tbsp of olive oil  at the beginning of coccion.

Paella rice or more precisely “bomba rice” is a round grain and it needs to be lightly fried in fat before coccion, usually olive oil. Then the warm broth is added, a little stir and that’s all! Be careful though, if you stir more during the coccion, it will release the starch of the rice and make the paella sticky, which is not the desired effect for a paella dish.

Let’s make that spring paella going!


Asparagus, Peas and Bacon Paella

Makes 4 portions

Ingredients
  • 10 green asparagus, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 200g of green peas
  • 1 leek finely sliced
  • 50g of fresh bacon bits
  • 400g of bomba rice
  • 500ml of warm vegetable broth
  • 100 ml of white wine
  • 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
  • a few fresh basil leaves
  • salt, pepper
Directions
  1. Start by warming up the broth in a sauce pan
  2. In a big deep enough pan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and bring to medium high heat
  3. Add the leeks, bacon bits and salt and let the leek soften
  4. Add the peas (if frozen, let them get warm)
  5. Make a well (see pictures above) and add the other tbsp of olive oil in the center
  6. Add the bomba rice in the centre and mix all together, bring the heat to high, and mix for a 2 minutes
  7. Add the white wine and deglaze the bottom, for 1 minute
  8. Add the vegetable broth until it top the rice by max. 1 cm
  9. Add the cut asparagus, salt and pepper
  10. Let cook at high heat the first 10 minutes
  11. Then, low it down to medium high heat for the last 5 minutes, add a little extra broth if too dry
  12. When done, cover with a clean towel and let sit for 4 minutes before serving

Serve with a nice white wine and fresh basil leaves on top. Enjoy!

Asparagus, peas and bacon paella

Chicken a la florentine

Chicken a la florentine is such a light yet creamy meal. The term florentine is french to say from Florence, Italy. It usually means; a meat (can be chicken, pork,egg, etc) on a bed of spinach and a Mornay sauce on top. The mornay sauce is such rich and smooth sauce, it’s basically a bechamel sauce with an extra egg yolk and some a bit of good sharp cheese in it. I know what you are thinking… It’s a calories bomb this sauce… well it is! But for this dish… we’ll use just enough to cover our chicken breast and if used… with relatively lean meat and in moderation, it’s still counts as healthy!

I’ve added a little touch of my favorite nuts to this dish, a little extra flavour; the famous pine nuts. (which are considered a dry fruit in Spain) Those are the caviar of nuts, and the price shows it too. Where I currently live, Catalonia, Spain, they do a great traditional spinach dish with pine nuts, espinaca a la catalana. So, I add it to this dish, I think it gives it an extra crunchy and nutty flavour. Those nuts gain a lot of flavor if you toast them first, I highly recommend to do so, in a pan simply on high heat, move them around until light brown and keep an eye on them… they burn fast.

IChicken a la florentine happen to live in the middle of pine nuts heaven, Catalonia. Those trees grow 1000m above sea level, and take quite a time to produce those gigantic pine cones in which the nuts are… Once the pine cones fall on the floor in the fall until spring… then the cones are stored until summer comes. Then they simply let the pine cones take a long, nice sunbath and suddenly they dry and open up. But it isn’t over yet… there is yet another shell to crack before getting to the pine nut. Once opened, not all of them are usable for human consummation; they discard the brownish colored ones. Finally, the amount of nuts in one single pine cone isn’t much, so after all this process… you have to forgive the high price.

So enough about those delicious pine nuts and let’s cook!


Chicken a la florentine

Makes 2 portions

Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breast
  • 1 family size pack of spinach or 2 normal packs (in order words… too much)
  • 1 garlic
  • 2 tbsp of pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • thyme *optional, salt, pepper
The mornay sauce
  • 200ml cold milk
  • 30g butter
  • 30g flour
  • nutmeg, salt, pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 30g gruyere cheese (your favorite sharp cheese)
Directions

Bring the oven to 180°C (350F)

  1. Start by roasting the pine nuts in a pan (big enough for the spinach in step 6), high heat, for about 2 minutes, until light brown
  2. Reserve
  3. Add salt, pepper to the chicken, add to breast to the same pan, add the oil, high heat, until light brown on each side
  4. Put the chicken breast in a oven container of your choice with a few fresh thyme branches in top, cook at 180°C (350F) for 10 more minutes
  5. In the same pan, deglaze with 1 tbsp of water, or white wine the chicken bits from the bottom of the pan
  6. Add the garlic, spinach, salt and pepper to the pan, medium high heat, until the spinach loses all it’s juice
  7. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter, medium high heat, add the flour and mix for a minute or two (until it smells nutty)
  8. Add the cold milk in one shot and whisk, bring to high heat
  9. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and let it get thick while whisking
  10. Take off the heat once thick enough, add the gruyere cheese, let cool for a minute or two
  11. Add the yolk to the sauce and mix
  12. Serve the chicken on the spinach bed, top with the mornay sauce and a few pine nuts.

Serve on white rice or pasta, of simply nothing. Enjoy!

Shiitake and Spinach Risolla

A new hybrid recipe here: the “Risolla”… a mix between a risotto and a paella; Italy vs Spain. It’s a bit of both techniques, the light frying of the rice at first just like in the risotto and paella, then adding the broth and let sit with the spinach on top so they shrink down into the rice, without moving the rice until the end; that’s more typical of paella. The risotto factor is mainly in the ingredients, a good white wine and cheese to finish. So this isn’t a paella, nor a risotto; it’s a “Risolla”. The end result is less creamy than a traditional risotto because of the lack of moving the rice. But the taste is quite similar. I, often, do those hybrid meals, no disrespect to traditions, they are important and most people stick to them and it’s fine… it’s just “my tradition” is to experiment! That’s all!
Shiitake and Spinach RisollaSo it’s no big invention, all you need is a grain of rice that is round, I took a sublime rice from Spain called “Bahia”, a bit longer than a usual bomba rice. There are plenty of different types of “paella” rice. You choose the rice you’d like, italian or spanish it’s gonna be pretty similar at the end. Also , risotto and paella are like pasta; you have to make them al dente, so I guess it applies too for the “Risolla”.

Another detail about this recipe is the mushroom choice, which is uncommon; Shiitake. It’s actually an East Asia mushroom, and I happen to find it more tasty then most mushrooms and also the texture holds better. So this can be replace by any other mushroom of your choice.

So, let’s get that experiment going.


Shiitake and Spinach Risolla

Makes 4 portions

IngredientsRisolla de shitake and spinach
  • A big bag of spinach
  • 250g chopped shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250ml of white wine
  • 300ml of chicken broth (simmering)
  • 300g round rice of your choice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan
Directions
  1. Add the olive oil in a big pan
  2. Add the onion and cook at medium heat, until almost translucent
  3. Add the garlic and shiitakes, bring the fire to medium-high heat
  4. Cook 3-4 minutes
  5. Add the rice, while mixing, and cook it for about 2 minutes at medium heat until translucent
  6. Add the wine, broth until about a finger over the rice and mix
  7. Salt and pepper, right away (paella rule)
  8. Add the spinach on top and cover until cooked
  9. Cook the rice about 17 minutes (al dente), try it to check consistency, add broth or water if it’s missing coccion.
  10. When done, add a little sip of white (2 tbsp), and the parmesan, mix
  11. Let sit a few minutes, so that all liquid get in the rice.

Serve with  a few slices of parmesan on top, and a final touch of truffle oil would make it sublime. Enjoy!

Paella de chorizo

Spain: land of paella, land of chorizo and land of good olive oil… this meal brings you there! If you can get to a good butcher, you should be able to find those paprika flavored fresh sausages, and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find an export from Spain. Chorizo in Spain varies: some are dried, others are fresh and some are spicy, smoky or sweet, depending on the paprika (pimenton) which is used. The sausage comes in all kind of forms, large, thPaella de chorizoin, in “U” shape etc. It is often served as a tapa into little clay pots. Sometimes it’s cooked in wine or cider or even flamed in cognac, however in this recipe I simply use a tiny bit of red wine.

Paella is a great dish created by the rice farmers from the Valencia region. Back in the day, farmers used to take any available ingredients they could easily find around them such as green beans, eels and snails, with some luck perhaps a rabbit, and they cooked it in a paella pan over a wood fire. This is how the “original” paella was born. Today they use a paellera (in spanish) to make it, and in summertime around town, you often see district diners on the streets with immense tables, where they cook those gigantic paellas. The paellera used for those places is so big that the cook needs a kind of paddle/spoon to mix it up.

Paella is a great meal, because it’s made for social events, like a lunch outside with friends on a Sunday afternoon, or a gathering with the whole family. In other words: it’s a really convivial meal. The most popular paella for foreigners is obviously the seafood paella, which is a meal aPaella de chorizonybody visiting Spain should try at least once. It’ s such a delicious meal!

The rice is a round, shorter grain then the basmati or the long grain rice… There are also many types and qualities of rice: from the easy bomba rice to the AOC ones like arroz del delta del Ebro, Valenciana or Calasparra. For beginners, the bomba rice is the easiest and almost impossible to mess up.

So let’s get cooking the “Spanish way”!


Chorizo Paella

portion of 4-5 pers.

Ingredients
  • 400g bomba rice
  • 500g chorizo (2x15cm long sausages)
  • 750 ml preheated chicken or vegetables broth
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 onion cut finely
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tbs thyme
  • 2 tbsp of red wine*optional
  • 1/2 zucchini in cubes *optional 
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs paprika (of your choice, sweet,smoky or spicy)
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. In a paellera or big pan, soften the onion slowly in olive oil until translucent (15 min)
  2. Cut a tomato in 2 and grate it in the onion mix.
  3. Add the wine
  4. Add the sausage and garlic, sauté for 3 minutes.
  5. Make a well and add the rice in the middle. If there is oil from chorizo, there is no need to add more oil. If it’s a bit dry, add some olive oil.
  6. At medium-high heat, mix your rice for about a minute until translucent.
  7. Add the already warm broth to the rice, until it covers the rice by 5 mm (it should boil right away).
  8. Add the salt and pepper (right away yes), thyme and paprika, then mix.
  9. Add the vegetables on top, do not mix. Let it cook on high heat the first 10 min.
  10. Reduce the heat mid-way to medium 10 more minutes until it reaches the softness you want (I like harder, so 7 minutes is good here too)
  11. Keep it covert and let it rest for a few minutes (2min) before serving.

Hope you’ll enjoy that little piece of Spain! Olé!