Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lemon Rice--Easy Dish from Italy

A couple of months ago in my local public library I bought for one dollar a second-hand book about Italian cuisine. It was published in 1968. I got it, out of curiosity, hoping for an original recipe.

I liked this book very much. It gives a overview of the Italian cuisine by regions. The recipes are very traditional and typical of the areas they come from. I also love the old pictures of people, places, and dishes that bring back the atmosphere of Italy in the 1960s.

Browsing through the book I found a recipe for lemon rice that looked interesting and I made it already on the following day. The dish comes from Piedmont and could not be simpler and more delicious. It is similar to risotto but does not require so much stirring. It instantly became my kids' favorite. I alternate it with a classic risotto which I make almost every week.

As I have been cooking this dish often I made already a few changes to the simplest recipe. I substituted one egg with cream which made this dish less eggy in taste and more creamy. I also add fresh parsley and, recently, also fresh herbs available from my garden--chives, marjoram, oregano, or thyme.

Lemon Rice
(Serves four)

1 cup short grain rice, preferably, risotto type,
2 tbsp unsalted butter,
2 large eggs,
1/4 cup table cream,
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese,
4 tsp lemon juice,
1 tbsp parsley,
1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs of your choice,
black pepper to taste.

1. In a large pot, bring to boil about 6 cups of water with 1 tbsp of salt.
2. When water boils add rice. Do it slowly, so that water still boils. Stir, reduce the heat, and let boil for about 15 minutes, until rice is tender.
3. In a medium bowl beat eggs with cream, and, when they are well combined, add lemon juice, Parmesan and herbs, if used.

4. In a large heavy duty pot, melt the butter over a low heat. When rice is ready drain it and add immediately to the pot with butter. Mix well.
5. Pour in eggs mixture to the rice. Stir and cook over low heat for about 2 minutes, stirring gently. When rice is creamy serve immediately, season with freshly ground black pepper, and serve accompanied by green salad.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Goat Cheese and Herbs Tart

My new double oven works perfectly and even though lately I have been very busy with my life I have no more excuses not to bake. Therefore, today, I am putting out something straight from the oven, and my favorite kind of dish--a tart.

I made it already a couple of times for lunch with friends and have been asked to share the recipe. I think this tart is a perfect spring dish--light and very aromatic thanks to herbs.

Many of my herbs did not survive the harsh winter we had but those that did and a new I planted last week are already big enough to be picked up. Any kind of herbs can be used for that tart but my favorite ones are chives, lemon thyme, and Greek oregano, all of which combine nicely with the cheese filling.

As always, I made my own crust for this tart and it makes a huge quality difference so I would not use any store bought dough. Pastry dough is very easy. It can be made in no time, a couple of days ahead in a food processor or by hand and baked just before serving.

With a light salad and a glass of wine there is nothing better for a Sunday lunch than this tart.

Goat Cheese and Herbs Tart


For the pastry:
1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour,
6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes,
2 tbsp vegetable shortening,
a pinch of salt,
4 tbsp ice-cold water,

For the filling:
1 cup cottage cheese,
1 large log ( 10 oz) goat cheese,
3 egg yolks,
1/4 cup all purpose flour,
4 tbsp unsalted room temperature butter,
3 tbsp chopped chives, thyme and oregano.

1. To make a dough, in a bowl of a food processor mix flour, butter, shortening and salt. Mix together until large crumbs form. Add ice-cold water and pulse until a smooth dough forms. Flatten the dough into disk, wrap in a foil and let it chill in a refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Roll the dough to a size of an 11'' tin and transfer it to a 10'' baking tart shell with removable walls. Bake it for about 15 minutes minutes until set but still pale gold.
4. To make a filling, in a food processor beat the cheeses, yolks, flour, and butter until smooth. Add chopped herbs.
5. Spread the filling on the pre-baked crust and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is set and the crust turns gold.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Saffron Parfait with Pistachios

A couple of weeks ago my oven broke irreparably and I had not been able to bake anything before the new one arrived just this week. This also meant that I could not bake any cakes. Luckily, I have many recipes for the desserts that are not cakes but can be served cold. I tried a couple of them instead as I can hardly live without any dessert.

I read recently a lot about desserts made with saffron. They usually come from the Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisine. Saffron adds beautiful color to desserts and also has this nice mysterious flavor which makes the dessert taste even more interesting.

The dessert that I made recently is most of all very easy to make. Since it is frozen it can be prepared ahead. It can be a great finale to any spicy or grilled dinner, especially on a warm day like we had for the first time this year.

Saffron Parfait with Pistachios
(Makes four servings)

A pinch of saffron thread or saffron powder,
4 eggs yolks,
1/2 cup sugar,
1 cup half and half,
1/2 cup chopped pistachios.

1. Put the saffron in milk and heat in a small pan until it nearly boils. Set aside to cool, then drain on a sieve.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes pale. Pour in the saffron milk to the yolks mixture and heat without letting it boil. A mixture should be thick enough to coat a wooden spoon.

3. Pour the mixture in a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
4. Whip half and half until almost stiff. Fold in gently the saffron mixture and pistachios. Divide between small bowls and put in a freezer for 8 hours.

Take it out from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.