Asparagus Risotto

I make risotto a lot. It is comfort food for me, but without all the guilt. In many restaurant risottos there is a ton of hidden butter, oil and cheese. I try to keep mine light so that seconds and thirds are absolutely acceptable. I have posted about risotto before, but I made this asparagus version the other night and it was "blog-worthy" (A word being used in my kitchen often these days). Asparagus is still in season and quite fresh. You could also substitute any veggie would like. So jump into a creamy, hot, steamy bowl of this after a long day and feel good about your comfort food.

Asparagus Risotto
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 2 really hungry people or 4 good sides

6 cups of chicken stock
1 bunch of asparagus
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 chopped shallots
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
pinch of saffron
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

Bring the stock to a boil in a large sauce pan. Blanch the asparagus for 4 minutes or until just tender and still bright green. Remove asparagus from stock and throw into a big bowl filled with water and ice to stop the cooking process. Remove asparagus from bowl and set aside.

Add lemon juice to the stock and warm until just about to boil. Keep warm and have a ladle handy.

In a large skillet or pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until melted and heated through. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, but not browned. Turn heat down if cooking too fast. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter, oil and shallot. Allow to heat through and toast for a few minutes. Add the wine, saffron and salt and pepper, continue to stir until the wine is fully absorbed into the rice.

Using the ladle, add about 1 cup of stock to the pan at a time. Stirring often and allowing rice to absorb all the liquid. When it starts to look dry, add another ladle and repeat. continue this process until the rice is tender, but not mushy, and there is a yummy creamy sauce all around it(about 35 minutes). Stir in the asparagus until heated through. Remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in heaping mounds with lots of Parmesan cheese.



Perfect Picnic Provisions

I recently had the pleasure of going to an outdoor concert with 15 lovely ladies to celebrate, among many things, birthdays. As the resident personal chef to my friends, I was in charge of bringing the main course for the evening. I won't tell you who was playing the concert, but let's just say it was good we all got some great food in us as there was a lot of dancing and busting out lyrics from 1999. I made both of these picnic options the day of. They can be kept at room temp and were perfect. The chicken stayed really moist and the sandwiches had a sweet and salty bite to them. So pack up a picnic, throw a blanket out there and enjoy the summer. Even if it is just in your own backyard.
Honey Nut Chicken Strips
Rachael Ray -

serves 6

  • 2 pounds chicken tenders
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • A splash milk
  • 2 cups honey nut flavored cereal (recommended: Honey Nut Corn Flakes, I just used regular corn flakes)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoons Seasoning Salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, eyeball it


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Season chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Place flour in a large shallow dish. Coat chicken in flour. Beat eggs and milk in a shallow dish. Combine cereal, bread crumbs, paprika, poultry seasoning, grill seasoning and vegetable oil in food processor. Transfer breading to a shallow dish. Place a nonstick baking sheet near chicken breading station. In batches, take flour coated chicken and coat in eggs then in breading and place on nonstick cookie sheet. When all the chicken has been coated, transfer to oven and bake 15 minutes, until evenly brown and cooked through. Cool and serve, or pack up for a picnic! This chicken may be served hot or cold. I served them with everyone's favorite, light ranch!
Caponata Picnic Sandwiches
Giada de Laurentiis -
serves 6


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1(14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 slices (1/3-inch-thick) drained fresh water-packed mozzarella


Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and saute until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Cut the bread pieces horizontally in half. Grill the bread cut-side down on a grill pan over medium-high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Rub the whole garlic cloves over the toasted side of the bread. Add a slice of mozzarella to bread bottom, spoon the caponata on top, cover with the other bread half, and serve.
To take for a picnic: Wrap the sandwiches separately in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Chill until ready to serve, or keep at room temperature up to 1 hour.

These were both so delicious and my ladies loved them!


Sweet, Salty, Crunchy, Tart Salad

This post is only worth sharing because it is so darn easy and my favorite thing to eat right now. I have made it every day this week and it keeps getting better. We are always looking for new ways to spruce up just a regular old salad. Usually it is the most bored bowl on the table. This little number keeps things interesting, is easy to make and could be served with anything. Throw in some grilled chicken breast, cooked shrimp, cubed tofu (if that is your thing) and you have a meal. I know I have been posting a lot of sides and salads, but during this time of year they are my favorite part of the meal.

Arugula & Cantaloupe Salad
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4

4 tablespoons white or champagne vinegar
tablespoon of Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
olive oil
Four big handfuls of baby arugula
1/4 red onion thinly sliced
1/4 cantaloupe cubed
2 tablespoons pepitas (tasted pumpkin seeds, if you can not find use any seed or nut you love)

In a big salad bowl, add the vinegar, mustard and a good pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk together until combined, then stream in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or more to taste while continuing to whisk and combine. Add in the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine.

Note: the dressing is really to taste. I happen to like that sharp vinegar taste, if you do not, use less vinegar and more oil. Add and taste, add and taste, those are the best actions I have learned in the kitchen!



Sassy & Saucy Carnitas Tacos

I find myself in a "south of the border" state of mind right now. Could be that I found some notes from a recent trip to Mexico with some ideas and inspiration. I know, I am a nerd and make notes about food. Now that you got a good laugh about me out of your system, it is time to try a great recipe for your next fiesta de casa. These are shredded pork tacos, simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and simply served with tortillas, grilled pineapple, guacamole and lime. The grilled pineapple is perfect with this and now a new favorite condiment to tacos. The chipotles are spicy! So if you are not a fan of really spicy food, just use a little or even substitute some canned diced green chilis.

Sassy & Saucy Shredded Pork Tacos
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4 generously

2 1/2 lb bone-in pork butt
olive oil

3 avocados
2 limes, juiced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

olive oil
2 onions, chopped
28 oz can chopped tomatoes with the juice
3 tablespoons chopped canned chipotles chilies
1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

1 cup pineapple sliced, chopped (I actually grilled mine first, which is optional, just throw on a hot grill or grill pan for a few minutes each side until starting to caramelize and get those lovely grill marks on it)

12 small corn tortillas

2 limes, quartered and cut in wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pork on baking sheet: sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper. Roast until brown and very tender, about 4 hours. Cool, shred pork. (this is pretty labor intense to shred, so don't be shy and give yourself some time)

Meanwhile, mash the avocados and combine with lime juice and cilantro in a small bowl. Add hot sauce if preferred. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap so wrap is directly on top of guacamole so it does not turn brown. Chill until ready to serve.

Once pork is shredded, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, saute until tender and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add pork, chipotles, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer, allow to cook until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Continue to salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh cilantro once thickened.

Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan on medium-high heat. Cook tortillas one at a time, until browned on each side. Wrap in a dish towel and keep warm in the oven.

To assemble: Place a heaping spoonful of meat onto the tortilla, sprinkle with a little pineapple, a spoonful of guacamole and a lime wedge for garnish and to squeeze over the taco.



Vietnamese Banh Mi Burger

I have previously posted a recipe for what I think is one of the best sandwiches I have had in a long time. It was a Vietnamese meatball sandwich that was fantastic. I thought that with it being summer and everyone looking for new recipes for the barbecues, I would adapt it. This turned out great, was easy (are you getting the hint as you read more of my posts that I LOVE to share things that are easy?), and would impress anyone looking for not-your-average-burger. If you would like to see the original post and try that, click here. I only changed a few things in order to make it fit for your grill and ready for chowing. If you like a nice thick burger, double the meat. The pork cooks down quite a bit.

Banh Mi Burger
Adapted from Bon Appetit January 2010
Makes 4 Burgers

Pickled Vegetables
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (I could not find this in my market and subbed in zucchini)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
Directions: Toss ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally

Hot Chili Mayo
2/3 cup Mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (like sriracha, but any hot sauce you like will do)
Directions: Combine all three ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt. *Do Ahead: Can be made one day in advance, cover and chill

1 lb ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (can find in the Asian food section of your market)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Directions: Gently mix all of the ingredients, except the oil, together in a large bowl. Using moistened hands, form 4 burger patties by forming meat into a ball, then gently pressing it into a disc. Brush each burger with a bit of oil on each side. *Do ahead: Can be made 1 day in advance. Cover and chill

Preheat grill to medium-high heat (450 degrees). Cook burgers all the way through, about 10 minutes per side. Remove from heat onto platter.

4 burger buns
thinly sliced jalapeno chilis (I removed the seeds, because it would be crazy hot with them!)
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs
Directions: Spread hot chili mayo all over the bun. Arrange jalapeno slices, then cilantro in bottom halves. Place a burger on each bun. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop burgers. Press on bun tops.

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