Lemon Risotto with Seared Scallops

Have you met my mom?

Mom
If you’re an actor in the Twin Cities, she’s probably dressed you, beautifully and carefully in costumes that helped you fully realize the physicality of your character. If you’re a St. Kate’s graduate, she might have mentored you and helped you find your way into adulthood. If you’re a ballroom dancer, you might have once shared a waltz with her at the Dancer’s Studio weekly dance party. In the unlikely event that you’ve been incarcerated, she might have taught you to quilt on one of the many Sunday afternoons she’s volunteered at the women’s correctional facility in Shakopee. And if you’ve been to her place for dinner, you’ve had an incredible meal shared with good friends, along with music, wine, fascinating conversation, echoing laughter, and a lapful of love from her cat, Pablo.

Mom1
When she came to my house for her birthday dinner last month, I wanted to prepare an extra special meal, to return the kindness of many such dinners and thank her for setting such a powerful, compassionate, creative example for me to follow. Also, cooking for people is how I love them.

Mom2
So I topped a creamy lemon risotto with Mom’s favorite—seared scallops. The luxurious risotto is somehow light, with a pop of freshness from lemon and Italian parsley. I served it alongside a fig, burrata, and prosciutto salad with balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to come!), and followed it with mini flourless chocolate cakes topped with a blackberry and red wine reduction.

Lemon Risotto with Seared Scallops

Happy Birthday, Mama!

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Green Rice

Last weekend I made a special dinner for Handsome Greg’s birthday. The meal began with his favorite pepperoni-stuffed chicken, and ended, sadly, with a boxed yellow cake mix and canned chocolate frosting.

I’d planned to make individual Boston cream pies, and in my birthday dinner dream, I would emerge from the kitchen looking like Donna Reed, carrying rounds of moist, airy sponge cake, layered with silky pastry cream and topped with glossy chocolate ganache.

By noon on Saturday, I had to face the fact that my Donna Reed fantasy was not to be realized that day. I was already behind schedule on the cooking and cleaning, when my very first attempt at making pastry cream ended with a gloopy bowl of disaster Play Doh. D’oh!

Dessert was ruined. I called Mom, had a bit of a temper tantrum, and asked her to drop everything and run to the store for a can of chocolate frosting to top the back-up boxed cake mix in the pantry. And because my mom rules, she humored me and my ridiculous meltdown, and she saved dessert.

I really think this time (yes, THIS TIME) I have learned my lesson about trying new recipes on special occasions. The truth is, I hate testing recipes, because I don’t want to have to make the same recipe twice. I’m always eager to try new recipes, so going back to old ones, even to make corrections, seems a terrible bore.

Green Rice

But I can change. And I’m starting with this recipe for spicy herbed green rice. I made it last summer for Mom and Handsome Greg to accompany a pineapple braised pork roast, and it’s so good, and so cheap, and so simple, that I promise to make it, as is, again and again!

Scallions

Or maybe next time I’ll change it up and add roasted poblano peppers…

cilantro

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Chicken and Smoked Sausage Jambalaya

I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. I’m intrigued by the cuisine, and a little afraid of it.

At the aromatic root of savory Cajun and Creole cooking is the holy trinity: a sauté of chopped onion, celery, and green pepper. You can find the trinity in gumbo, maque choux, étouffée, dirty rice, jambalaya, and I totally forgot what I was talking about.

But I’m on the holy trinity do-not-call list because I’m allergic to bell peppers.

Since I’m pretty sure omitting the green peppers from jambalaya will get me kicked out of the foodies club anyway, I decided to further bastardize the original recipe and make it a tad bit healthier. In the interest of my cholesterol level (and throwing convention and authenticity out the window), I used turkey kielbasa in place of the pork sausage.

And did I miss the green peppers? Um, no. Why would I miss food that makes me feel like crap? The turkey kielbasa was just as juicy and lush as smoked sausage should be. Really, it was a delicious dish – rich and flavorful, filling, and just spicy enough without blowing your head off.

I took it for lunch for a week and it reheated just right in the microwave. There was some serious lunch envy in the cafeteria that week.

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Roasted Acorn Squash Risotto with Sausage, Pancetta, and Leeks

So much has happened this summer, my dear imaginary friends. I took a little break from posting to work on my show for the MN Fringe Festival, and I ended up taking a bigger break…from having a job. I was laid off from my job at Search Institute just over a month ago.

My mini summer vacation from blogging has left me with a sizable backlog of delightful – and sometimes schmancy – recipes. Once I’ve shared them all with you, I’ll likely turn my culinary focus to cooking on an unemployed lady’s budget. After I run out of surplus recipes, and until I find a new job, you can expect to find an expanding collection of recessipes here in the galley kitchen.

In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite risotto recipes. This was the main course of Handsome Greg’s birthday dinner, back in January. The recipe makes a ton, so I had leftovers for days. The fresh sage intensified in the fridge, to the extent that I mostly picked out the leaves when I reheated it. But fresh off the stove, it balanced the sweet squash and salty pork rather gently.

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Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Wild rice is Minnesota’s state grain, and folks take chicken wild rice soup VERY seriously in these parts.

While I truly adore Minnesota Chicken Wild Rice Soup™, thick and full of cream, this week I wanted to follow up my recent cheesploitation with something a little lighter.

So I began with a recipe from Cooking Light, and made a couple of tiny tweaks.

Next time I prepare this soup, I’ll make one more change: replace the long grain and wild rice mix with plain wild rice. The flavor of the soup was wonderful, but the texture was a bit too soft. I thought it could use a little bite from more wild rice.

I used the seasoning packet that came with the rice mix, and it seemed to be about a tablespoon of seasoning. Next time I’ll use straight wild rice and add a combination of garlic salt, onion powder, and dried parsley instead.

Recipe below the fold

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Steak and Mushroom Risotto with Smoked Mozzarella

Last spring, Handsome Greg and I flew to Utah to visit my hilarious sister, Colleen, and her brilliant children, Rolly, Maddie, and Charlie. There was no meal on the plane, and by the time we landed in Salt Lake City, picked up the rental car, drove to Layton, and checked into our hotel, we were famished. So we stopped for lunch/dinner at a restaurant by the hotel before heading to Colleen’s, where I had the most delicious risotto.

The steak risotto I inhaled at Corbin’s Grille was made with rich, salty beef stock that brought out an earthy meatiness in the wild mushrooms. When I recreated the dish at home, I substituted cremini and white button mushrooms for the more expensive wild mushrooms at Corbin’s, and I chopped in some perfectly delicious smoked mozzarella. Then I added a handful of chives for a little bite.

The rest of our trip with Colleen and the kids provided more fantastic culinary adventures: Maddie introduced me to ice cream dots; Charlie made a truly vile mocktail with water, salt, and sugar substitute packets; and when Greg treated the kids to their very first dinner at Olive Garden, future food critic Rolly tried the minestrone and declared, “The soup is excellent.”

I really miss those guys. Also? Being an aunt is the best job ever.

Recipe below the fold

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chicken soup risotto

This dish is the perfect marriage of Italian comfort food (risotto) and American comfort food (chicken soup). I made it for the second time on Sunday, and it did, in fact, improve my emotional status.

Chicken thighs, carrots, and mushrooms were all on sale last week. Mom had celery remains that needed to be used up or forsaken and flat-leaf parsley from her patio herb garden ready to harvest.

My favorite Chicken Soup Risotto seemed the perfect choice for Sunday dinner, plus lunch for the week, until I realized midday that I had no chicken stock, or even chicken bones, in the freezer. And so my simple comfort food became an all-day affair of roasting the chicken and making the stock.

The aroma of roast chicken, celery, and onions in my apartment was literally intoxicating – for my cat, Atticus “Tigger” Meowington. When he wasn’t shamelessly begging for chicken in the kitchen, he was lolling about, belly up on the dining room carpet, tongue sticking out and legs splayed in all directions.

Of course, it worked. As I shredded the chicken I left bits in Tigger’s food dish. Look, I’m not made of stone.

Recipe after the fold

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