Friday, February 13, 2009

Romantic Red Wine Risotto

Looking for a recipe to "WOW" that special someone with on Valentine's Day? Here's a fantastic Red Wine Risotto with Peas recipe that I found on the Giada De Laurentiis website. My wife and I made this dish together a few years ago when the bad weather squashed our Valentine dinner reservation plans. It is tasty, filling, smells fabulous and is the perfect dish for two!

Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted, optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth 2 more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. At this point, the risotto can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool, then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed.

Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir 3/4 cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the peas and parsley. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.

For more information on this dish, please visit the Giada De Laurentiis wbesite.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sambuca Shrimp Wrapped in Prosciutto

Here's an incredible appetizer suggested by my friend and co-worker, Rachel. It's a top-shelf dish that's sure to impress your guests — in name, taste and presentation. Plus, anything wrapped in prosciutto has me listening!

I had given this recipe to my friend, Kerry Jo, as a suggestion for a New Year's Eve party. It went over so well, she immediately decided to make it again for another party. Less preparation time was left for round two, so instead of wrapping the shrimp in prosciutto, she decided to go rustic-style by chopping all of the ingredients and serving it with crackers. Whichever method you decide on, I'm sure it will go over extremely well.

Submitted by Rachel Renshaw

1 pound large or jumbo shrimp
8 slices of prosciutto (or more, depending on how wrapped you want your shrimp)
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 TBSP Fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Devein shrimp; peel, leaving tails on. In a shallow baking dish, arrange shrimp in one layer and pour in enough Sambuca to cover shrimp. Marinate for at least 4 hours. Drain shrimp. Combine finely chopped rosemary, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in bowl. Rub on shrimp. Use prosciutto in strips, tearing these with your hands, wrap and secure with a toothpick.

In a TBSP of olive oil, saute shrimp over medium-high heat until pink through and the prosciutto is crisp.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

"Try it, it tastes just like pizza!" That's what my mom always used to say when she made eggplant parmesan when I was a kid. I never bought it. Pizza isn't grown from the ground and it doesn't have all those little seeds in it. Plus, I knew it had to have some sort of vegetable tie-in for her to be that insistent on me eating it. She was never that enthused when we ordered a pepperoni pizza from Celebre's!

Today, eggplant parm is one of my favorite dishes. I am also proud to say that it is a dish that my 4-1/2 year old daughter, Julianna, enjoys making with me. To quote my friend Tiffany Longo from her recent article, Family Fun for Less..."When children realize that everyone is participating in an activity for them, it fills them with pride and excitement. Suddenly, they are the chefs; they are proud to be in charge of the kitchen, and whatever we make is their masterpiece." I couldn't agree more with this. Jules is at the age where she enjoys making cookies with my wife, pouring her own cereal, stirring and adding creamer to my coffee or honey to my name it. To have her show such enthusiasm to help me cook a main dish is simply amazing and makes me extremely proud.

The big benefit from Jules' participation is that, although she will not eat the final product as a whole (too "messy" for her), she is always anxious to eat a bunch of "her" cooked eggplant cutlets. Pretty awesome for someone who rarely strays away from chicken nuggets and pasta. Of course, I could also kill off at least a dozen of the cooked cutlets myself before assembling the parm dish...they are just so good! Also, this is a great dish to enjoy a glass of wine with while both preparing and eating it. Crank up a little Sinatra or Bocelli, and you're all set!


• 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced thin
• 1 cup flour plus salt and pepper to taste
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 cup breadcrumbs
• olive oil
• 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
• 1 2.25 can sliced black olives
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 1/2 cup Italian parsley
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• splash of red wine
• 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
• 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Step 1 - the Cutlets
Place flour w/salt & pepper, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs each in a separate bowl. Dip each slice of eggplant first into the flour mix, then into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs. Place breaded slices on an ungreased baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over all of the pieces liberally (the eggplant will soak up the oil). Bake slices at 350º for about 20 minutes or until golden and slightly crispy.

Step 2 - the Sauce
Drizzle bottom of a large skillet with olive oil, add onion; stir until onion is soft. Add garlic; stir about 1-2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, olives, Italian parsley, salt and crushed red pepper; stir. Add splash of wine. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer uncovered, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add basil.

Step 3 - the Assembly
In an 8x8 baking dish, alternate layers of sauce, eggplant and cheese. You should end up three layers deep. Cover with foil and bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for another 5-10 minutes.

COOKING TIP #1: Like the meatballs and sausage from my Gravy blog, I also bake my eggplant cutlets in the oven. It's a healthier alternative and it frees up some time. If you prefer frying, have at it. If you do decide to bake the cutlets, be sure to drizzle them with olive oil prior to baking. Otherwise the cutlets will dry up.

COOKING TIP #2: The sliced olives are optional. They don't add much more of a taste, but I like olives and feel that they give a nice and interesting texture to the dish.

Here's another great meal that we make using the breaded and baked eggplant cutlets. I love it so much, I've actually requested this from my wife as my birthday dinner. Slice up one yellow and one green squash into 1/4" chips, place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake at 375º for 10-15 minutes or until slightly crisp. Serve on a nice, crispy Italian roll with cooked eggplant cutlets, roasted red peppers, sauteed spinach or broccoli rabe and a slice of sharp provolone cheese. Goes great with a nice beer or a glass of wine. Make me a sandwich like this, and I'll be your best friend!