Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Cherry Tomato-Thyme Risotto

Risotto is one of my favorite foods, and there are so many ways to prepare delicious risotto, from mushroom risottos to Belgian style mussels risottos. A good risotto is also a great way to showcase high-quality food products from good olive oil to delicious cheese to quality fish and vegetables. I was inspired to create a new tomato-risotto using some of the products I received in my package from Shop-Rite as part of the soon-to-launch Shop-Rite blog panel. For this new recipe, I tested out two private-label Shop-Rite products, Shop-Rite's imported extra-virgin Olive Oil and whole cherry tomatoes. The products were top-notch. The olive oil was smooth and delicious - top notch Italian extra-virgin olive oil. I was also really impressed with the quality of the cherry tomatoes. They were juicy and delicious and worked just perfectly in the risotto. They were  the perfect choice for making a delicious tomato risotto with bursts of fresh tomato flavor and just the right size (bite-size) for risotto. They truly were the star of the dish!

I am a big fan of thyme and tomato as a food combination so I used plenty of thyme in this recipe. I also decided that some pine nuts (pignolia nuts) would complement the flavors of the tomato and the thyme well.

Sasha's Cherry Tomato-Thyme Risotto
1 onion, diced
2 tsp diced garlic
4 T Shop-Rite private label Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 1/2 cups of Arborio risotto rice
2 T of tomato paste
1 cup white cooking wine
4 cups of sodium-free chicken broth
2/3 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (or leave this out to make a vegetarian tomato risotto)
1 can of Shop-Rite cherry tomatoes
3 T of pine nuts
1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese

First, combine the onion, garlic and two tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan and cook over medium heat until the onions have softened. Add the thyme as well. Next, add the risotto and another two tablespoons of olive oil and mix to coat the risotto with the olive oil.  After another minute or so, add the white cooking wine, cherry tomatoes and tomato paste to the pan. Cook for about five minutes over medium-high heat before adding the chicken broth. You don't want to add the chicken broth until the wine has reduced by half. Then, add the first cup of the chicken stock.  As my husband, Brad explained in a previous post, add the chicken stock one cup at a time (and not all at once). Allow the first cup of chicken stock to reduce by half before adding the second cup, and so on. This allows you to make sure that there is always some chicken stock mixed in with the other ingredients and keeps the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The entire adding, reducing and stirring process should take about 20-25 minutes. When you add the last cup of stock, allow it to reduce completely. Then stir in the pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese.  I also added the shrimp at this point, which I cooked separately in a pan using the Shop-Rite extra virgin olive oil.  This was delicious, but if you prefer a vegetarian dish, feel free to leave them out - the cherry tomatoes can completely carry this dish!  The risotto tasted great, and is such a pretty color too!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Linzer cookies have long been my favorite European cookies. The have their origin in the Austrian Linzer Torte, which is traditionally made with flour ground nuts and spices into a tore filled with currant jam and topped with a lattice. I've always loved the American-style linzer cookie variation, using a similar pastry, often cut into heart shapes, filled with raspberry jam.

My blog is going to be featured on the upcoming ShopRite blog panel, and I received an introductory basket of goodies from ShopRite that got my creative cooking juices flowing. One of the items in the shipment was a jar of ShopRite raspberry preserves, made with fresh raspberries. I decided to sample the jam by making my own linzer cookies, using a set of heart shaped cookie cutters that I borrowed from a coworker.

The recipe for these cookies is adapted from a recipe that I found online from Joy of Baking. The main modification that I made to this recipe is that I used Bob's Red Mill blanched almond meal rather than grinding my own almonds. In addition, I didn't remember to dust the cookies with confectioner's sugar, but you can go ahead and do that if you like.

Cookies were delicious and lived up to expectations. Seconds after the last cookie was complete, my husband game running into the kitchen, eager to try one! The quality of the jam from ShopRite was also great - fresh and delicious!

Linzer Cookies (adapted from Joy of Baking)
1 cup almond meal
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Shop-Rite raspberry preserves
confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk together the almond meal, flour, cinnamon and salt. In the basin of your stand mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar for about three minutes, until smooth and combined. Beat in the vanilla extract, egg yolks and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated into a dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours (and up to three days). If you don't refrigerate first, the dough will stick to the surface when you roll it out.

Roll out the dough. Cut into cookies using a medium sized heart shape cookie cutter. In half of the hearts, cut out a smaller heart using one of the smaller sized heart shaped cookie cutters. Bake each tray (bake one at a time) for 12 minutes until just lightly browned.  Allow the cookies to cool completely.

Dust with confectioner's sugar. Place a heaping teaspoon of raspberry jam on the solid hearts (without the smaller hearts cut out in the middle). Top with the cut out heart cookie to form a sandwich. If you use the confectioner's sugar, sandwich carefully so not the disturb the sugar.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I love hummus, one of my favorite Israeli foods.  Eating hummus always takes me back to the summer I spent in Israel. It's not really necessary to make your own as you can get delicious hummus at pretty much any grocery store. But I figured I'd give it a try since it's not very hard. I also figured it would be a great way to use my new Strawberry Casserole Dish from Le Creuset that I got in a promotion from CSN Stores. I love Le Creuset for the colors and quality of the cookware and this strawberry dish is perfect for serving delicious dips and sauces.

For my first time preparing hummus, I decided to make a roasted red pepper flavored hummus, which was quite delicious. It's very simple to make as long as you remember to soak the chickpeas overnight. The rest is done using your blender. This probably isn't the most authentic Israeli version but it has the consistency and flavors right. It would likely taste delicious with homemade falafel, as well.

Sasha's Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
8 oz chickpeas (soaked in water for at least 12 hours)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chile powder
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup tahini
1 tsp diced garlic
3 roasted red peppers
1 T chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender, except for the olive oil. Blend until combined. Blend, adding the olive oil (between 1/3 and 1/2 of a cup total) until the hummus is smooth and has the right consistency. Serve as a dip with vegetables or with falafel and pita.

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