Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jerusalem Artichokes Risotto with Mascarpone Cheese

Risotto, like pasta, can be made with many ingredients. My favorite are always vegetarian. Recently, I have been cooking a lot of risottos as they are one of the few dishes that could make my picky kids happy.

When the other day I saw Jerusalem artichokes on the shelves of Harris Teeter I bought a bag of them with the idea of making this risotto. I thought that my kids probably would not try them alone but might accept them if I sneak them into a familiar and well-liked risotto.

Jerusalem artichokes are crunchy and have a quite neutral, slightly earthy and nutty flavor. They are very healthy owing, among others, to the high content of Vitamins B and C and, most importantly, very high level of the fiber called inulin, which is important for the health of the digestive tract and, it has been recently discovered, could usefully supplement weight-loss diets.

Jerusalem artichokes became one of my favorite vegetable discoveries. I have been experimenting with them a lot trying new recipes and including them into the old ones, as today's risotto.

I made this particular risotto with mascarpone cheese which I thought would nicely go with the taste of the artichokes. I finished it with broccoli sprouts that gave extra sharpness to the taste of the risotto and augmented the A, B, C, E, and K vitamin content.

Jerusalem Artichokes Risotto
(Serves 4–6)


3/4 lb Jerusalem artichokes,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
1 and 1/2 cup Arborio rice, or any risotto type rice,
3 shallots, peeled and chopped,
2 tbsp butter,
2 tbsp olive oil,
1/2 cup dry white wine,
4 cups vegetable stock,
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese,
6 tbsp radish sprouts, or chopped Italian parsley,


1. Peel off the artichokes using a vegetable peeler and place them in a bowl with water and lemon juice to prevent from discoloration.
2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large heavy duty frying pan. Add chopped shallots and fry over the medium heat for about 2 minutes.
3. Drain the artichokes, slice them, and then cut them into thick matchsticks. Add to the pan with shallots and fry together for about 5 minutes, until shallots are soft.

4. Add rice and cook on a medium heat, stirring for another minute until coated in vegetable ingredients and slightly toasted.
5. Pour in wine stirring continuously until wine almost evaporates.
6. Heat the vegetable stock in a separate pot and keep it hot. Add about half a cup of stock to the rice stirring continuously until mostly absorbed. Keep adding stock (about half a cup each time), stirring and letting each portion of stock to be absorbed before adding the next. At the end, rice should be cooked but chewy.
7. At last, add mascarpone cheese and mix. Season with salt if needed and freshly ground pepper. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let it stand briefly before serving.

Serve sprinkled with radish sprouts or parsley.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Easy Lemon Curd Tart--with a Splash of Limoncello

I don't think I have ever met anyone who would not like lemon curd tart. It is just too good to pass on. No matter what season or time of the day I serve it, it always disappears to the last crumb. But it has been a while since I made it last time. Recently, a friend brought from a pastry shop a very nice lemon tart. My son enjoyed it a lot wondering why I have not made mine anymore. So I served lemon curd tart when I had friends over for dinner during the holidays.

I love this recipe as it is the easiest I have ever found. I believe it comes from Gourmet magazine.

The crust is made entirely in a food processor and lemon curd topping is the simplest one can imagine. All the ingredients are cooked, chilled, and spread without even separating eggs or staining the curd after. In my recent version I also added a spoon of limoncello to underscore the lemon taste.

Served with fresh fruits, lemon curd tart not only tastes great but presents itself nicely.

Lemon-Limoncello Curd Tart

(For a 9" tart pan with removable walls)

Ingredients for the crust:
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour,
6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter,
2 tbsp vegetable shortening,
a pinch of salt,
4 tbsp icy cold water,

Ingredients for the filling:
4 medium eggs, preferably organic,
3/4 cup sugar,
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice,
lemon zest grated from 2 lemons,
6 tbsp unsalted butter,
1 tbsp limoncello,
fresh raspberries and blueberries for decoration,
1 tbsp convectional sugar to finish.

1. To make the dough, place butter, shortening, flour, and salt in a bowl of food processor and pulse until crumbled.
2. Add icy cold water to the crumbles and run the food processor until a smooth ball forms.
3. Roll the dough on a working surface slightly dusted with flour to 10" diameter circle. Gently transform it to the tart form greased with butter and let it chill for at least 30 minutes (it can be chilled overnight).
4. Preheat oven to 350F and bake the crust until dark gold. Let it chill completely.
5. To prepare the filling, put eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium pot. Whisk until combined. in a medium pot.
6. Add the butter to the egg mixture and cook over a medium heat stirring all the time until it thickens and first bubbles appear on the surface of the curd.
7. Cool the curd to room temperature add limoncello and mix it into the curd.
8. Spread the curd on the baked tart crust. Cool again for about an hour.
9. Before serving, decorate the top of the tart with fruits and dust with confection sugar.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Afghan Bolanis--Turnovers Stuffed with Spring Onions

I was sitting with my Afghan friend at Paul in Tysons Galleria talking about foods we usually eat during the holidays. She mentioned that the day before at her mother's she had bolanis, afghan flat breads stuffed with vegetables, fried and served with yogurt. This sounded so good that I asked her right away for the recipe. And, surprisingly, they could not be easier to make.

Bolanis are traditionally made with home-made flat breads, but for a huge shortcut, modern Afghans use fresh egg roll wrappers. Then they stuff them with chopped spring onions and fresh cilantro leaves. The dish although fried is rather light as the stuffing is made basically from the two herbs. Sometimes a cooked potato is also added to the green filling. Bolanis are usually served as appetizers or starters.

I got so attracted to that dish that the next day I came home with all the ingredients. In almost no time 12 large bolanis were made. And they became the hit of the holidays. No one could resist them. My younger son who likes spring onion very much, had them for dinner, then he had them for supper and the next day also for breakfast. Ever since that first bolani experience I made them already four times and today again my refrigerator is full of spring onions and cilantro ready to be chopped again for my next bolani batch.

Afghan Bolanis

3-4 bunches of spring onion, chopped,
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped,
a pinch of cayenne pepper,
9-12 large sheets of fresh egg roll wrappers (available at Asian food markets),
1-1 and 1/2 cup natural yogurt, European style.
vegetable oil for frying.

1. Place chopped spring onion and cilantro in a medium bowl. Add about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix well, gently squeeze with hand, and let macerate for about 20 minutes.
2. Place a single sheet of wrapper on a working surface. Spread about 2-3 tbsp of the filling and using cold water and fingers close the wall to form a triangle.

3. To make a sauce, mix yogurt with salt and pepper.
4. In a large frying pan (large enough to fit 2-3 triangles) heat 2-3 tbsp of oil. Put bolanis on the hot oil and fry until dark gold on each side.

Serve hot with yogurt sauce on top.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Stuffed Onions--Why Bother?

The other day, when my sister saw me preparing this dish for my guests, she wondered who and why would bother stuffing onions. And why not, if we stuff bell peppers, or tomatoes or zucchinis, for example. The question however seemed entirely rhetoric after she tried the dish and loved it.

Although I was afraid that my onions would be too sweet, they turned out perfectly balanced in taste and texture deriving from the contrasted ingredients. They were soft, yet not mushy. Slight sweetness of the onion matched the stronger in taste filling made of goat chees and sun-dried tomatoes, while pine nuts added some crunchiness to it.

Yes, stuffing onions seems rather labor intensive as many stuffed dishes but if you prepare an easy filling and cook the onions first, the dish can be easily assembled at a later stage so that if you want to serve it to your guests, it can be baked just before they arrive. I served it with roasted lamb, but serving it with any roasted dark meats would be fine as well. It can also be served alone as a full vegetarian dish just with green salads, breads, and a glass of wine.

Stuffed Onions

4 large yellow onions (regular, not the sweet ones),
1/2 cup goat cheese,
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs,
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped,
2 garlic cloves, chopped,
1 tsp fresh or dried thyme,
2 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley,
1 egg,
1/4 cup pine nuts,
3 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper.

1. Peel the onions. Boil a large pot of water with 1 tbsp of salt. Add onions and boil on a small heat for about 10 minutes. Drain them on a colander and let them cool, while preparing the filling.

2. In a medium bol mix crumbled cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, and spices until well combined.
3. Preheat oven to 375F.
4. Grease the bottom of an oven-proof dish with 2 tbsp of olive oil.
5. Cut the onions in halves, cut off the yellow ends. Take the center flesh out from each of the halves leaving about 3 outer layers of the onion to create a thick shell. Chop the remining insides and put on the bottom of the dish.
6. Fill the onion halves with stuffing and place them on an oven-proof dish.

7. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil. drizzle the onion tops with one tbsp of oil and bake them for another 25-30 minutes, until the stuffing is bubbling and dark gold.

Serve hot.