Spanish Rice… And a Call to Stewardship (or cheapness)

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I know a lot of you are diligent about menu planning.  And that is a very good thing to do.  It saves money, it saves LOTS of time.  For a very long time, I thought it just meant a long shopping list.  Figure what you were going to cook, and make sure that you have the ingredients on hand.  But there is one more aspect to menu planning that I am finally learning… Waste not, want not, be a steward of the earth, PLAN how to use everything you buy.  Buy fresh, eat healthier, but PLAN how to use everything you buy before it goes bad.

Oh yeah, and be cheap, save money.  Honest, my main concern is saving the planet, has nothing to do with me being cheap, nothing… honest (have you ever been lied to by a man, of course not).  This post is all about being a good steward, eating healthy fresh and planning to not waste.

From bread that you let get moldy because you don’t make a single serve bread pudding, to bananas because you don’t mix a killer Funky Monkey frozen chocolate rum drink (or banana bread if you must, but the funky monkey is a better use for soft bananas… but I digress), to that Pineapple you buy for a garnish for your wife’s Painkiller rum drink recipe… If you buy it, plan how to use it all.  If I clean out my refrigerator and I have to throw away a single produce item, I have failed to be a good steward of the Earth (and I wasted money… one of those two things REALLY bothers me).

Are you paying attention, last week I posted a ROTISSERIE CHICKEN STOCK recipe.  I will use that recipe to clean out my produce drawer once a week… Carrots, celery, onions, fresh herbs, almost anything can be tossed in the pot to help flavor the stock.  A great way to “use up” what would have been thrown away.  I do make that stock once a week.  It does freeze, but I like to keep a bag of it in the fridge for use during the week.  I always end up using the entire bag.  It can be used in so many things.  Think about all the things you cook with water and consider substituting the chicken stock if you were to have some handy.

Like RICE!

And let me interrupt this rice post with scenes from coming attractions… See all the things in the photo above… there is a sea food enchilada made with blackened tilapia, and some fresh made Caribbean Salsa… Come back in the next couple of weeks to see those recipes.  But, since I am being a good steward of the Earth (cheap), using everything I can, I need to show some things that I will explain better next week…

Like this…

99I made my rice in the same pan that I made my blackened tilapia, that I used to make my seafood enchiladas.  All that butter and spices that I blacken the fish with worked GREAT to season the rice.  Waste not, want not, eat better, make better tasting food… What a concept.

So, just imagine you have a pan of flotsam from cooking the fish.

Add 1/2 cup of diced onion to the flotsam, and 1/2 cup of diced red bell pepper.  Heat the mixture till you can see the onions start to become clear.  Add some fresh herbs of choice… Cilantro, Herbs de Provance, dill, chives, whatever you have on hand…

Add 2 cups of chicken broth to the pan and get the liquid boiling… Add 1 cup of rice and cook til the liquid is absorbed…

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Cooking The Italian Way – Risotto

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You want to know how to make a room full of southern Italians (Sicilians no less!) become. Completely. Quiet.

We’re talking pin-dropping silence here. Tension so thick you could cut it. With a scalpel. (Oh, anatomy lab. It all comes back to you now, doesn’t it…)

I don’t know if you’ve ever met a Sicilian before. But we’re not exactly known for our indoor voices. Imagine a construction crew. Blasting TNT. Outside your window. That’s the volume that my father speaks at. In normal conversation.

So this is no easy feat.

Unless of course. You know the magic word.

Risotto.

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Risotto is a northern Italian dish you see. And southern Italians? Don’t get along very well with northern Italians. So when you tell your Sicilian family that you’re making risotto for dinner. It doesn’t always go over so well.

There may be yelling and screaming. But most likely. There will be silence. Because they are so mad that words just don’t suffice (that’s the irony of this whole being loud thing. They are loud when they’re happy. Loud when they’re angry. And silent when they’re livid.)

So then you sit them down. And explain to them that we live in a modern world. A world in which everyone should live in peace and harmony, with no animosity towards anyone else.

They may look at you skeptically. They may be seething with rage. There will probably be sighing. And head shaking. (What did we DO to raise a daughter like this?)

But they love you. And so they sigh. And begrudgingly agree to eat the risotto. That you have stood over the stove cooking for the past thirty minutes. Stirring. And stirring. And stirring. (Why hello carpal tunnel syndrome, how nice to meet you!)

So you sit down to eat. And what ensues? Is more silence. Because they are eating. And eating. And eating. And eating.

Whoever said that food heals all wounds. (Yes I totally took creative license with that idiom. Time is nice. But food is better.) Definitely knew what they were talking about it.

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So here are two of my favorite risotto recipes. You can make them with arborio rice. Which is the traditional way to do it. I usually use orzo because it’s less expensive and more readily available. The directions are the same either way and the end product is equally as delicious!

Orzotto with Leeks and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Serves 4, adapted from Williams-Sonoma Risotto

8 cups broth
2 tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, white parts only
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 lb orzo
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
2 tbsp butter

Bring the broth to a simmer. Heat the oil.

Saute the leeks and the pepper until softened (season with salt!), about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the orzo to the pan and saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine. Cook on medium heat until the wine is almost evaporated, stirring constantly. Add in the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, each time waiting until it is almost all evaporated to add the next ladle.

Stir. Constantly.

When the orzo is tender, stir in the leek/pepper mixture and the sun-dried tomatoes. Cook to heat through. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Orzotto with Spinach
Serves 6, adapted from Williams-Sonoma Risotto

7 cups broth, lightly simmering
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped into small pieces
1 lb spinach, chopped
3 cups orzo (or arborio rice)
1 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes. Add the spinach, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a bowl. Leave as many of the onions as you can.

2. Add the orzo to the pan and saute for 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Add the stock one ladleful at a time, constantly stirring and only adding the next ladleful once the previous one is almost evaporated. Do this until the orzo is cooked. Then stir in the spinach, butter, and parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Happy eating! And feel free to check out more Italian recipes on my blog.
<3 Joanne