Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not Your Usual Side Dish

Potatoes and rice, potatoes and rice, sometimes bread. These are side dish staples in my household, and I am bored. A couple of weeks ago, I had a lovely bulgur wheat salad with my sea bass at Farmerie 58, so I decided to try my own take on bulgur tonight for dinner. We are having balsamic glazed pork chops for a main dish, so I thought it would be nice to flavor the grain with apples and raisins. Next time, I might add a little apple juice to the cooking liquid for the grains, or use a little olive oil instead of all butter (ran out of olive oil making the glaze for the chops!).

Bulgur Salad

1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup bulgur
2 cups water
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Heat the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the bulgur and raisins and stir. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the onion, celery, and apple in 1 tablespoon of butter until softened. Add the last 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and melt with the sauteed vegetables. Add the bulgur/raisin mixture and the cider vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Comfort Food, Veggie Style

I'm tired tonight, still recovering from all of the bar food served at our Super Bowl soiree (chicken wings, sliders, guacamole, and white bean dip), and craving comfort food that's good for you. So, I stopped at the market on the way home, picked up some oranges and some asparagus and a butternut squash, and I'm cobbling together a vegetarian risotto with a fresh winter salad. Risotto is a simple and satisfying main dish; make sure to get real Parmesan, not the canned wood shavings that they sell in the grocery aisle. The peppery arugula salad is a nice counterpoint to the creamy, unctuous risotto. And the whole thing can be prepared and served in an hour.

Vegetarian Risotto with Butternut Squash and Asparagus

Peel a medium butternut squash and core out the seeds. Chop into 1/2 inch pieces; toss with a little olive oil and spread out on a sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, clean a bunch of asparagus and chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with a little olive oil. Chop a large shallot and set aside. When the squash looks hot and is beginning to brown on the bottom, pull it from the oven and toss with a spatula. Add the asparagus to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so until the asparagus is tender.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat a little olive oil. Add the shallots and saute for a couple of minutes until tender. Add two cups of arborio rice and saute until the rice becomes translucent and shiny. Slowly add chicken stock, about a cup at a time, stirring with each addition and bringing the risotto to a low simmer. The rice will take 5-6 cups of stock. When it looks as though the rice may be done, start tasting; keep adding stock until the rice is cooked but al dente. With the last addition of stock, add the roasted vegetables, and stir and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add a couple handfuls of Parmesan; taste and season with salt and pepper.

Winter Arugula Salad

Supreme two oranges, squeezing the pulp to extract as much juice as possible. Separate the orange sections from the juice. Toss the sections with three generous handfuls of baby arugula and some thinly sliced purple onion. For the dressing, whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 3 tablespoons reserved orange juice, 1 minced clove garlic, 6 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. If the dressing is too sweet, add a dash of rice vinegar. Toss over the salad and serve.