Category Archives: Pastas and Grains

Risotto with Country Mushrooms (Risotto ai Funghi)

Risotto_ai_Funghi1 (1 of 1)You must have patience when preparing this dish, but it’s well worth the effort — this risotto is creamy and very flavorful! If you don’t take the time to gradually add the stock to the rice, you’ll end up with a crunchy risotto that’s far too al dente (trust me). This dish makes for a perfect, light evening meal — serve with fresh sourdough bread and a glass of white wine. I hope you’ll try this tonight!

1 cup (1 oz) dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups boiling water
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
1 lb fresh “exotic” mushrooms, sliced (I used half shiitake, half oyster)
2 1/2  tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups uncooked arborio rice
1/2 dry white wine
6 cups chick stock
2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

In a small bowl, cover mushrooms with boiling water. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Strain mushrooms, reserving soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add garlic and saute 3 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms, and turn heat up to medium-high. Saute 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in porcini mushrooms, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until soft, Risotto_ai_Funghi2 (1 of 1)about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir 1 1/2 tsp salt into the stock. Now, this is where your patience kicks in — add stock to rice mixture, one ladle at a time, stirring each time until it has been absorbed. About half-way through, stir in the reserved mushroom liquid. Continue stirring in stock. This entire process should take about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in the mushrooms, parmesan and 1 Tbsp of the chopped parsley. Cover and let stand a few minutes. Serve, topping with additional parmesan and parsley.

Serves 4.


Bolognese Meat Sauce (Ragù alla Bolognese)

Bolognese_Meat_Sauce1 (1 of 1)When I was studying in Italy, I would often go down to the mensa (university cafeteria) for dinner. When I started the year off, I was a bit shy, so anything comforting (like food) helped me along. I loved the pasta con ragù alla bolognese — delicious and very comforting! Italian restaurants that I’ve dined at here in the US that have this on the menu don’t seem to get it right, so made it my mission to find an authentic recipe for ragù bolognese. I found and adapted a recipe from Saveur Cooks, Authentic Italian, which is spot-on! Some may not prefer chicken liver, but it’s used in a small amount and it’s a must! The liver, prosciutto, milk, wine (and all the other ingredients) are what make this dish authentic to me. I hope you’ll try this dish!

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 – 3 slices imported Italian prosciutto (about 3 oz), minced
1 chicken liver (about 1 1/2 oz), minced
1 1/2 ground sirloin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup milk, heated (but not scalded!)
1 cup beef broth
1 28-oz can pureed plum tomatoes
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Italian parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent (but not browned), about 4 minutes. Add celery and carrot and saute for another 3 minutes. Add prosciutto and chicken liver, stirring about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to high. Add ground sirloin, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir constantly, breaking up meat so that it is very fine (I press the uncooked meat with the back of a wooden spoon and stir, stir stir) for 5 minutes.

Add wine, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add milk, stirring until milk has evaporated, about 4 more minutes.

Add broth and tomatoes; bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer very gently for 2 1/2 hours. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper (I added another 1 tsp salt and thought that was perfect). Serve over rigatoni and sprinkle each serving with the parsley and parmesan.

Serves 4.

Chiang Mai Chicken Noodles (Khao Soi Gai)

Chiang_Mai_Noodles1 (1 of 1)Chiang Mai noodles is one of my all-time favorite Thai dishes (no kidding!). It is the signature dish of Chiang Mai, Thailand, and that is where I tasted it (experienced it!) for the first time. It is said to be of Burmese origin, but it now calls Chiang Mai home. It is served soup-style in a bowl with lots of broth over noodles, together with a bit of meat, such as pork or chicken. The broth is a fantastic blend of spices, coconut milk and chicken stock, and it is on the hot side. It is typically garnished with green onions, shallots, peppers and a deep-fried nest of noodles (optional). I hope you’ll try it!

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (about two breasts), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 Tbsp red Thai curry paste
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 Tbsp fish sauceChiang_Mai_Noodles2 (1 of 1)
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce (don’t substitute with regular/light soy sauce; do substitute with kecap manis, if necessary)
Juice of 1/2 fresh lime
1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb fresh Asian-style egg noodles, cooked 2 minutes in boiling water, then drained and set aside

For garnish
3 spring onions, diagonally sliced
4 (or so) red Thai bird chilies, seeded and thinly sliced
4 chopped shallots
Some cilantro (coriander leaves)
4 fried noodle nests (optional)*

Heat about 1/3 of coconut milk in a wok or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, add the Thai curry paste and turmeric. Stir constantly for about 1 or 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add chicken and stir fry for another 2 minutes.

Add the rest of the coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, lime juice, ground pepper and salt to the chicken mixture. Bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 7 minutes. Serve in bowls, over portions of the egg noodles. Garnish each serving with spring onions, chopped bird chilies, chopped shallots, cilantro leaves and fried noodle nests (if using).

Serves 4.

*To make fried noodle nests, divide 6 oz rice vermicelli into 4 “nests.” Heat about an inch of canola oil in a wok over high heat. Test oil when it is hot by dipping one of the noodles into it; oil is ready when noodle puffs up on contact. With tongs, drop one nest into the oil. It will just take a second to fry — remove from the oil as it has puffed up. Place on paper towels to drain. Repeat with the rest of the nests.

Japanese Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry (Yakisoba)

Yakisoba2 (1 of 1)Here’s another simple, mid-week stir-fry dish. I find yakisoba to be very versatile — you can use most any kind of vegetable (in other words, clean out your fridge). With its unique and delicious combination of flavors (especially from the Worcestershire ingredient!), the sauce is what makes this dish. I hope you’ll try it!

3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 tsp oyster sauce
3 tsp sugar

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 8-oz sirloin steak, very thinly sliced, and then cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths (I put the steak in the freezer for about 10 minutes, which firms it up for thin slicing)Yakisoba1 (1 of 1)
1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage
1 large carrot, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 green onions (scallions), sliced on the diagonal into 1-inch segments

1 9-oz package fresh Chinese-style noodles

Prepare the yakisoba sauce by whisking together the first 5 ingredients (Worcestershire sauce through sugar) and set aside,

Combine the vegetables (cabbage through green onions in a medium-size bowl.

Prepare the noodles by dropping them into a pot of boiling water. Bring back to a boil and cook for 30 seconds. Drain and set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the meat and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 1 minute.

Add the vegetables to the meat in the wok. Stir-fry just until the vegetables are no longer raw-looking, about 3 minutes.

Add the noodles and the yakisoba sauce to the vegetable-meat mixture. Stir-fry for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, being sure to combine all ingredients well. Serve.

Serves 4.

Grilled Lime Chicken with Mole Sauce and Saffron Rice

Lime_Chicken_Mole3 (1 of 1)This dish features mole (pronounced something like “molay”), which is prepared throughout Mexico, but it is especially popular in the central and southern regions of Puebla and Oaxaca. It is made with a variety of interesting ingredients, such as chile peppers, spices, chocolate, and the list goes on. This version is spicy and delicious, and goes very will with the marinated, grilled lime chicken and the saffron rice. I hope you’ll try it!

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large), pounded to an even thickness (1/2 inch)
Juice of 3 limes
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or finely grated
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 pepper

2 dried ancho chile peppers
1/2 cup diced onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup raw, hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp ground allspice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 slices day-old bread, torn into pieces
2 chipotle chiles from canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1/2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1/2 diced onions
1/2 diced red bell pepper
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup long-grain rice
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Garnish: shredded lettuce, cilantro leaves, sour cream

Prepare the marinade for the chicken by whisking together the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place the chicken and marinade in a large, zip-lock plastic bag, mixing well. Let sit (turning from time to time) in the fridge for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the mole sauce by toasting the ancho chiles in a very hot, dry skillet just until they crackle (about 2 minutes each side). Be sure not to burn them, or they’ll ruin the mole. Place chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 minutes to revive them. Drain and discard water. Remove stems and seeds, and coarsely chop. Set aside

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the skillet. Add onions and garlic, and cook over medium to low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the sunflower seeds, cinnamon, cumin seeds and allspice. Stir for and additional 4 minutes, until mixture is fragrant. Transfer to a food processor.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth, tomato, bread, ancho chiles and chipotle peppers to the spice mixture in the food processor. Process until very smooth.

Transfer mixture to a large sauce pan. Stir in remaining broth, chocolate, sugar, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer uncovered very gently for 30 minutes. Cover and remove from heat.

For the saffron rice, bring broth and water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the saffron, stir and set aside.

Saute the onions and red bell peppers in 1 Tbsp butter in a medium sauce pan for about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron broth, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 18 minutes. Remove from heat, and fluff with a fork. Cover and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

Prepare grill.

Remove chicken from fridge, and discard marinade. Grill chicken breasts for 9 minutes on one side. Flip, then grill for an additional 4 minutes, or until done. Cut crosswise into 1-inch slices.

Place the chicken over the rice and top with the mole. Garnish with cilantro, and serve with shredded lettuce and a dollop of sour cream

Serves 6.

Bucatini with Parsley and Sage-herbed Chicken Meatballs

Bucatini_with_Chicken_Meatballs2 (1 of 1)This recipe is a different take on the standard “spaghetti with meatballs” dish that everyone is familiar with. Bucatini is basically hollow spaghetti, and adds an interesting texture. The herbed chicken meatballs are a fresh spin, and are delightful with the homemade tomato sauce. I hope you’ll try this dish!


2 28-oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 lb (uncooked) bucatini pasta

1 lb ground chicken
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese (about 2 1/4 oz)
1 3/4 cups fresh white bread crumbs (about 3 slices, crusts removed)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated or minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil

To make the sauce, place the tomatoes and their juice in a large bowl. Vigorously squeeze tomatoes with your hands until no large chunks remain.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and bring to a good boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour (stirring occasionally).

Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs by combining the ground chicken, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, egg, parsley, sage and salt in a bowl. Combine well (I use my hands). Form small balls from the mixture, occasionally dipping your hands in a separate bowl of warm water, as the meat mixture can become very sticky to work with. Cover meatballs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Saute the meatballs until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the meatballs and basil to the tomato sauce, and simmer uncovered on low for an additional 15 minutes. Serve over bucatini pasta that has been cooked according to package instructions. Garnish with some chopped parsley and grated parmesan.

Serves 6.

New Mexico Chili Mac

Chili_Mac3 (1 of 1)While searching on-line a while back for an “American Chop Suey” recipe (a classic New England comfort dish), I stumbled upon this recipe for “Chili Mac.” I didn’t search any further, and ended up trying this — it is delicious! I highly recommend using New Mexico chili powder, as it has much more flavor than grocery store chili powder (thus, “New Mexico Chili Mac” — I believe Texas is the true origin of this dish!).

2 tsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 jalapenos, minced
1 Tbsp salt
2 lbs lean ground beef
5 Tbsp New Mexico chili powder
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 28-oz can whole plum tomatoes, well-squeezed with your hands (don’t strain out juices)
2 15.5-oz cans kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup water
1 lb dried macaroni
1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
Sour cream for garnish

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Add onions and jalapenos, salt, and saute  until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add ground beef, chili powder, oregano and garlic, and stir, breaking up beef with the back of a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, and 1/2 cup water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until chili is thick, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook macaroni according to package instructions.

Combine 1/3 of the shredded cheese with the chili and cooked macaroni in a bowl, then pour chili mixture into a 9 x 13.5-inch casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese, and place casserole in oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Garnish plated servings with a dollop of sour cream each.

Serves 6.

Nasi Kuning (Indonesian Yellow Rice)

Nasi_Kuning_2013_04_14Nasi kuning literally means “yellow rice” in Indonesian. On special occasions, it is served in the shape of a cone, or tumpeng, and some of my research indicates that this is a representation of the mountains of Indonesia. It has a wonderful, aromatic flavor, and I love to serve it as an accompaniment to a variety of Indonesian meals (and not just on special occasions). The method I use to make it is not completely traditional,  but I think it ends up tasting pretty authentic.

1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
14 oz water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp coriander
2 salam leaves
1 clove garlic, very finely grated
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp canola oil

Heat oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and saute until translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes.

Combine rice, water, salt, shredded coconut, turmeric, coriander, salam leaves, garlic and the sautéed onions  in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Stir well. Put the lid on and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Put the lid back on and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves about 4.

Chicken Paprikash

Chicken Paprikash (1 of 1)I believe that paprika is underrated in the U.S. — people seem to only use it for adding a finishing touch (of color) to casseroles and deviled eggs, but it has such a wonderful flavor when used as a key ingredient in a dish. I keep three varieties on hand:  Sweet Hungarian Paprika, Hot Hungarian Paprika and Smoked Paprika from Spain. Chicken Paprikash is a dish that really shows off the Hungarian Paprika — I made this tonight (I make it regularly), and hope you’ll try it, as well. It is traditionally served with spaetzle, but I like to serve it with orecchiette pasta.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp ground caraway seeds
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with 2 Tbsp of the sweet paprika, 1 tsp of the hot paprika, the ground caraway seeds and 1 tsp salt.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, red bell peppers, remaining 1 Tbsp sweet paprika, remaining 1 tsp hot paprika and remaining 1 tsp salt. Saute for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Turn heat up to medium-high. Add the chicken mixture, and saute for 4 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink. Add the tomatoes and stock, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Uncover, add the sour cream and cook gently for about 2 minutes. Season with a bit more salt, if desired. Serve with orecchiette.

Serves 4.

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Nasi GorengNasi goreng literally translates to “fried rice.” It’s another common dish in Indonesia, and believe it or not, they like it so much, they eat it for breakfast there! This dish is easy to make, but plan ahead, as you must use leftover rice (or cooked rice that’s been refrigerated for 4 hours).

1 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
4 cups (give or take) steamed jasmine rice — use cold leftover rice, or rice that’s been in the fridge for a few hours
2 Tbsp canola oil
3 eggs, beaten in a small bowl
1 medium onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 leek (white part only), finely chopped
4 tsp sambal ulek
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Laos powder (or 1 1/2 tsp peeled, minced, fresh galangal)
1/2 lb shrimp (prawns), shelled and deveined
3 Tbsp kecap manis

Trim the chicken breast, and poach in turmeric water. To do this, combine the water, salt and turmeric in a small pan. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken breast (water should come up to half way on the chicken; must not be fully submerged). Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently for 8 minutes. Flip breast over, then simmer, covered, for an additional 8 minutes. Remove from heat and dice (rather finely). Set aside.

Heat a small frying pan that has been coated with cooking spray on low heat. Cover and cook until Fried Eggthe eggs are set (like an omelette, but don’t flip or turn). Remove from pan and cut into small cubes.

Heat oil in a large wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, leek and sambal ulek. Stir fry until the onions are soft, about 2 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin and Laos powder, and stir for another minute. Season with a bit of salt. Add the chicken and shrimp, and fry until the shrimp are no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Add the rice, egg cubes and kecap manis. Turn the heat up to high, and stir fry for another 5 minutes, until all ingredients are well mixed. Serve hot.

Serves 4.