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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

Traditional Spanish dessert “Peras al vino” or Pears in Red Wine is the best of two worlds; fruits and wine merging into a sweet, spiced and colorful dessert that couldn’t be easier to make.recipe pears in wine

Pear in wine (Pera al vino)

This dessert comes from the Spanish region of Rioja, which is well known for its deep red wines. I don’t know for you but I’m a wino and this dessert is so refreshing, for once… a dessert without tons of flour, sugar or fat in it and frankly it taste simply divine. Plus, it’s terribly easy to make and can be prepared in advance.

Which type of pear?

Well… for this particular recipe Spaniards traditionally use “pera conferencia” , but any pear type that is holding good, not too filled with water, nor too porous or mature should do, so pick a firm pear of your choice at the Farmer’s Market.

A fairly common dessert in Spain, most people spice it up with cinnamon although others use vanilla, lemon peel, ginger, cardamom, anise star, cloves or peppercorn. As for this version, my own personal blend of spices is the usual cinnamon stick plus an organic lemon peel, anise star and a few peppercorns.

Pear in wine (Pera al vino)

The final result isn’t tasting much wine at all, it’s more of a lightly spiced up grape syrup, because most the alcohol will evaporate during the cooking process. As for the ruby red finish, it’s also a personal preference of mine, I’ve used brown sugar for deeper color and taste but white sugar is doing the trick too.

peras al vino

Cold or warm?

This dessert is traditionally eaten cold, it macerates for hours in the wine base to merge up all those flavors to perfection. Although, I like mine warm, served on the spot. It brings an extra comfort to the dish and unlike sangria… where you want the wine and fruits to merge perfectly by macerating for hours… here, I personally like this contraste of fresh interior flesh of the pear covered with a warm sweet and comforting syrup. Either Way, served cold or hot, you won’t be wrong.

Let’s make this easy boozy Spanish dessert!

 


Pear in Red Wine

IngredientsPear in wine (Pera al vino)
  • 4 pears (firm without much water type)
  • 500ml (2 cups) of red wine (Rioja)
  • 150g brown sugar (or white)
  • 1 anise star
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 small peel of an organic lemon 
  • a few black peppercorns
Directions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a sauce pan, except the pears, and bring to a simmer
  2. Peel the pears, from the top to keep the tip intact and cut off the bottom in order for the pear to stay up by themselves
  3. Add them to the simmering wine and let them cook for 30 minutes, turning them gently mid-way
  4. Take out the pears and the reachable aromatics and reserve
  5. Reduce by half the wine mix for about 5 minutes to become a light syrup
  6. Serve warm as it is (The FoodOlic’s way) or traditionally you would leave the pears marinate in the syrup for a few hours covered in the fridge before serving.

 

Enjoy!

An authentic Sangria Española without sugar, with diced apple, peach and orange, plus a little fizz in the end to make it extra festive!sangria traditional

sangria spanish cocktail

The word Sangria comes from the word “sangre” which means blood, therefore a traditional sangria should be the color of blood. Nowadays there are tons of different variation of sangrias out there, some made with white wine others sparkling wines and all kind of fruits. However the original version is and will always be the ultimate summer drink star!

 [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG6y5vqUjkk&w=560&h=315]

Origins

Sangria’s origin is not clear, some say it was a way to upgrade the lowest grad wines from southern Spain by adding fruits (sugars) it would help balance the sharpness. Others say it was an invention of British sailors, bringing along with them some Spanish wine to the Caribbeans and mixing it up with rum and fruits. Truth be told, no one knows for sure. One thing is certain, it’s a fantastic drink to sip on in the summertime!

Sangria
The golden rules

Here are a few rules to follow if you want to concoct a traditional Sangria:

  • Cut the fruits small enough to be able to get the pieces to slide easily in your mouth when drinking,
  • Cover really well the sangria (airtight) with the plastic wrap, not to let the alcohol evaporate,
  • Make sure to macerate the sangria long enough (minimum of 3 hours in the fridge),
  • Make sure to stir the Sangria before serving,
  • Don’t forget the fizz in the end, it could be a gaz limonade, soda, or simply sparkling water

Simple steps that goes a long way….

Sangria

So let’s make this summer drink!

 


Sangria Española (sugar-free)

Makes 6-8 portions | Difficulty: easy | Preparation: min. 3 hours (overnight maceration needed)

IngredientsSangria
  • 750ml (1 bottle) of red wine (Rioja)
  • 100ml of Spanish Brandy
  • 250ml (1 cup) orange juice
  • 1 apple cut into small dices
  • 1 peach cut into small dices
  • 1 orange sliced
  • cinnamon stick *optional
  • sparkling water / soda or fizzy lemonade to taste
Directions
  1. Start by cutting the apple and peach, add to a pitcher
  2. Add the wine, orange juice and brandy to the pitcher
  3. Add a few slices of orange and a cinnamon stick
  4. Mix up and cover (airtight) with plastic wrap
  5. Let overnight in the fridge (minimum 3 hours)
  6. Stir and serve 3/4 of the glass
  7. Add the fizz; sparkling water / soda or fizzy lemonade and ice cubes to taste

 

¡Salud!

traditional sangria drink

Boeuf bourguignon is French people favorite beef stew made out of red wine, mushrooms, carrots, onions and aromatics with a twist! Served with pasta instead of potatoes. Because why not? right?

Boeuf bourguignon on pasta
Beef Bourguignon on pasta

Boeuf bourguignon on spaghetti is a “mashup” dish, the usual ‘boeuf bourguignon’ or beef bourguignon is great with potatoes, but if you want to try something new, try this on pasta! It’s better then Bolognese my friend! I like potatoes… but my husband not so much… so he always ask me to make his boeuf bourguignon on pasta. I have to agree with him on this; with pasta it’s gives the dish a whole new dimension.Boeuf bourguignon on pasta

But either ways, the base of the recipe stays the same; braised beef cubes in a dutch oven cooked slowly in a red wine sauce. So you decide which between pasta or potatoes makes you salivate more. Also I’ve had my little Spanish touch by making a “picada” (last minutes seasoning) with parsley, garlic and olive oil just to give it a last fresh kick.

Boeuf bourguignon on pasta The beef cubes, I’ve bought, were pre-cut quite small, about 2-3cm large which isn’t ideal (in pictures), try to get bigger cubes of 5 cm, then when you’ll go in for a bite you’ll see the tender beef cubes fall apart and that experience brings so much more appeal to the dish. Also another important part is to season and sear good your beef pieces at first, make sure the pot you use is hot enough at the beginning, don’t put too many pieces at the time and resist the urge of moving the cubes too early while searing.

So let’s make that delicious beef stew the French cannot get enough of!


Boeuf bourguignon

Makes 4 portions

Ingredients

  • 400g of beef cubes of 5cm ideally
  • 100g of fresh bacon bits
  • 500ml (2 cups) of red wine
  • 2 big carrots into slices
  • 1 onion sliced or (or 6-7 pearl onions)
  • 1 garlic clove finely sliced
  • Bouquet garni (thyme, laurel, pepper, clove)
  • 3 tbsp of flour
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 250g of button mushrooms cut into quarter
  • salt, pepper
The picada *optional (goes at the end of coccion)
  • a few flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 a garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. In a large dutch oven, bring to high heat.
  2. Salt and pepper the meat
  3. When hot, add the olive oil and the beef, sear each side of the beef cubes until light brown (not too many at the time)
  4. When the cubes are done, add the bacon for a min
  5. Then cover lightly with flour over the meat and a touch more of olive oil
  6. Let cook the flour for a minute
  7. Add the red wine and mix well making sure the bottom is well scratched with a wooden spoon
  8. Add the onion, carrots, garlic, bouquet garni and bring to a boil
  9. Cover and turn the heat to low (or in the oven at 170°C (340f))
  10. Let simmer slowly for about 2 hours
  11. Add the mushrooms 30 minutes before the end of cooking
  12. Add salt, pepper
  13. Make the optional “picada” with all it’s ingredients in a mortar, add to the beef bourguignon 2 minutes before the end of cooking

Serve on the pasta of your choice!

Enjoy!

Boeuf bourguignon on pasta

Tender Pork cheek in wine sauce

Tender braised pork cheek in wine sauce is a strong and powerful flavoured dish although the meat is so tender and melt on your tongue. I’ve encountered this dish on a tapas night out in San Sebastian, Spain, hidden Tapas bar in a downtown plaza dark corner called “La cuchara de San Telmo“, a divine place! It’s their star dish, they don’t even have to write it down on the menu board anymore.. since it’s so popular. It was served as a tapas, which means it was a small portion, but it was too good to just get a bite… we add to order a second time this tapa. Simply divine!porkcheekpin

The trick here is to cook slow and long your pork cheek! Especially with this particular piece of meat. The pork cheek is so underrated, it should be the most expensive and exquisite piece of pork but lucky for our wallet it’s not… Cheeks got all the flavour and it’s relatively a lean part, it’s secret lays in collagen, which is a flavour bomb and if cook properly get so tender. Any piece of meat with lot of collagen, like ribs for example, need a long and slow cooking process in order for the collagen to turn into tender gelatin (jelly). Once that process is done, your meat will melt like butter on your tongue. A pleasure!

Let’s do some San Sebastian Tapas!


Braised pork cheek in red wine sauce

Makes 4 portions

Tender Pork cheek in wine sauceIngredients
  • 4 pork cheeks (with the bone)
  • 400ml red wine
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 150g of french shallots
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mix into 3tbsp of cold water (or 1tsp of sugarless chocolate)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 Bouquet garni (thyme, laurel, anise star and black pepper grain)
mashed potatoes
  • 3 big potatoes
  • 500ml warm milk
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • nutmeg, salt, pepper
Directions

Bring oven to 170°C (320F)

  1. Cut of the white membrane on top of the pork cheeks… if any, and add salt, pepper to the pieces
  2. In a pan, sear the pieces in olive oil, until brown on each side (deglazed with the wine, then add to the oven pot, to take all the flavours from the pan)
  3. Transfer the cheeks into an oven pot (deep enough) and add the bouquet garni, shallots, wine and broth.
  4. Cook at 170°C (320F) for 2-2 1/2 hours, turn mid-time, keep the meat moist by once in awhile covering with the bottom sauce
  5. Make the potatoes 25 minutes before the end of the meat, cook potatoes, then mash them with the rest of the ingredients
  6. When the cheeks are cooked, reserve them on a plate
  7. Pass through a sieve the bottom juice into a pan, reduce the sauce until nice brown color
  8. Add the thickener; cornstarch in water or sugar free chocolate
  9. Reduce until the sauce slightly stick to the back of a spoon
  10. Once off the flame add butter
  11. Take the bone off the meat pieces (it should come right off passing a knive in between)
  12. Serve the pork cheeks on the mashed potatoes and top with the wine sauce

Add a few shallots to the plates and extra wine sauce in a small pot to accommodate those many sauce lovers. Enjoy!