Tag Archives: side dish

Risotto Remix: Farro gives a classic Italian dish a whole grain twist

Risotto Remix: Farro gives a classic Italian dish a whole grain twist

Farro Risotto 2 sm text
I’m sure most of you have had or at least heard of risotto before — a creamy, classic Italian dish made with short-grain, arborio rice that’s a veritable blank canvas as it can be made with about a million different accompanying herbs, vegetables, proteins, etc. Well, I’ve recently come upon risotto in a slightly different form and I must admit that I’m quite smitten with it. What’s the difference in the recipe? Farro! Formally known as “farrotto” in Italian, it is made exactly like risotto except that the farro grain replaces the arborio rice. It cooks up just like arborio, creating a tender and creamy risotto-like consistency with a slightly nutty flavor, and, bonus: it has significantly more health benefits.

Farro is a grain that comes from emmer, a species of wheat and has been around since ancient Roman times — it was a staple of the Roman diet and was even used as currency at times. It has been grown in Tuscany for centuries and is always cultivated traditionally, without the use of pesticides. Besides being great because it’s a whole grain, farro’s other health perks include being high in fiber, B vitamins, and both simple and complex carbs.
This grain has quite a tough outer layer, or “hull”, and comes in three different forms: whole (hull intact), semi-pearled (semi-hulled), and pearled (hulled). While the semi-pearled and pearled versions are quicker-cooking, they do not have quite as much fiber and nutrients as the “whole” type of farro because said nutrients are mostly contained in the hull.

As I mentioned above, this super grain can easily be utilized in place of arborio rice for risotto. It cooks up to be creamy, but with a nice al dente bite to it — the farro’s starches are slowly released with the low and slow cooking, with each addition of cooking liquid. Farro can also be used in soups, grain salads, and it makes a great substitute for oatmeal in the morning.

This particular recipe for farrotto, below, is a very versatile vegetarian dish which can easily be made vegan by omitting the butter and cheese, and it also makes a great side dish pairing with beef, chicken, pork or seafood. I kept this particular recipe fairly simple, and it can also double as a good basic recipe for standard arborio rice-based risotto.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, head for the grains or bulk aisle, grab some farro, pick up some onion and herbs, and try this dish on for size. I guarantee that you’ll fall in love with it too.
Farro Risotto 1 sm text
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“Quick and Dirty” Greens: Braised collard greens with mustard spice rub

“Quick and Dirty” Greens: Braised collard greens with mustard spice rub

Collard Greens logo

Though traditional, “low and slow” cooked collard greens are grand, these greens can also be cooked (as I like to say) “quick and dirty” in a fraction of the time. Braising or stir frying collard greens at a high temperature keeps their verdant color and also helps to tenderize them quickly.

To kick up my collards, I like to use dried spices and — as every good Southerner does — a splash of red wine vinegar. Dried mustard powder goes well with sauteed greens, so I decided to use Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub. The dried mustard, smoked salt, honey and garlic complement the slightly bitter taste of the greens.

The next time you need a quick, vitamin- and nutrient-packed side dish, be sure to give this dish a try!
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Savory makeover for a Thanksgiving classic: Sweet Potato and Smoked Gouda Gratin (with a secret ingredient)

Savory makeover for a Thanksgiving classic: Sweet Potato and Smoked Gouda Gratin (with a secret ingredient)

Cheesy, smoky, creamy and downright delicious!

Many people associate sweet potatoes as a sugar-sweet side dish for Thanksgiving — swimming in butter and brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows. While this classic dish is fantastic, I decided to give it a savory makeover this year with the help of a secret ingredient.

Instead of boiling and mashing the sweet potatoes, I went for a twist on the classic baked gratin dish. I thinly sliced the raw sweet potatoes into 1/8″ thick rounds (a mandoline would make this job even easier) and layered them in a baking dish, scattering grated smoked Gouda cheese in between each layer (ending up with three layers of potatoes). For a typical gratin, cream is poured over the layered potatoes before baking. To spice this up a bit, I added chopped garlic and Stubb’s Pork Marinade — which contains spices garlic, lemongrass and ginger — to the cream.

The result: a tasty casserole that’s cheesy, smoky, creamy, slightly spiced and with a hint of sweetness from the sweet potatoes. After tasting this, I may never go the typical brown sugar and marshmallow route for Thanksgiving again.
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Spice up your Thanksgiving sides: BBQ roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon

Spice up your Thanksgiving sides: BBQ roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon

Secret ingredient: BBQ spice rub

Roasted Brussels sprouts are one of my very favorite side dishes, especially for Thanksgiving. This recipe gives a twist to this classic dish with the addition of barbecue rub, which doesn’t solely have to be used to add flavor to meats — rubs can also be used as an all-purpose spice mixture to jazz up side dishes. Many contain various blends of dried chilies, dry mustard, cumin, salt, pepper and other spices that can add a flavorful kick to your food. (I’ll even sprinkle barbecue rub on my scrambled eggs for breakfast!)

For this recipe, I used Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Rub which contains a mix of smoked salt, paprika and black pepper. It pairs perfectly with the crisp, smoky bacon in the dish.
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Tapas at Home: Spanish stewed chickpeas with chorizo

Tapas at Home: Spanish stewed chickpeas with chorizo

Tapas (or “small plates”) have been a popular restaurant trend for quite some time now; the fad of ordering multiple small plates filled with smoky chorizo, spicy tomato sauce and garlicky shellfish (to name a few) for sharing with tablemates is still going strong. Plus, they’re a great way to try an array of dishes without having to order huge portions that will just end up in a doggy bag.

Here’s a novel idea: You don’t need to venture out to enjoy these dishes, as many of them are pretty darn simple to whip up at home. The ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store and you may even have most of them in your pantry.

Here is an amazingly simple and exotic tapas dish to get you started on your culinary tour of Spain: stewed chickpeas with chorizo, aka “habas con chorizo.” Smoky and slightly spicy cured Spanish chorizo rendered and sauteed with onions and garlic, then simmered with cinnamon, cloves and broth until the liquid and aromatics have reduced and are absorbed by the chickpeas. Sounds complex but, trust me, it’s pretty foolproof and 100 percent delicious.

The key to getting the liquid to reduce is all in the pan. A large sauté pan with sloping sides will allow steam to be released, thus aiding in the liquid reduction process. A pan or pot with high, straight sides will keep more of the liquid vapor trapped inside the vessel and it will take the liquid twice as long to reduce; only choose this type of pot or pan if you’re making a soup or stew.

This dish hails from Catalonia, located in the northeastern region of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Catalan dishes rely heavily on ingredients used in Mediterranean cuisine — tomato, garlic, olive oil, legumes, eggplant, etc. One legume, the garbanzo bean (or “chickpea”), is used often in Mediterranean dishes either whole in salads or stews, or mashed up to make hummus or falafel. Pork products are widely used in Catalonia — since they’re the main producers of pork products in Spain — and cured chorizo (a hallmark of Spanish cuisine) is often used to flavor soups, stews and a range of other dishes. Put chickpeas and chorizo together and you’ve got a hearty, smoky dish that’s adaptable for any occasion (save for Jewish or Muslim holidays).
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Bet you can’t eat just one: Kale chips are crispy, crunchy and highly addictive

Bet you can’t eat just one: Kale chips are crispy, crunchy and highly addictive

Kale is an amazing super-vegetable. A cousin to collards and cauliflower, kale is low in calories and highly nutritious; high in beta carotene, vitamins C and K, lutein, rich in calcium, with powerful antioxidant properties.

On many menus, kale is only seen in its steamed or stir-fried form. But kale is very versatile and can be cooked using a variety of methods. Did you know you can bake it? The result: a crispy, flavor-packed, nutritious snack that’s so addictive, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one chip.
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Lemon-Mint Risotto recipe

Lemon-Mint Risotto recipe

Lemons always remind me of spring because of their sunny color and fresh flavor they add to food. I love to use lemon juice to add a bright citrusy flavor to dishes, and the zest shouldn’t be wasted either — it packs a punch of flavor in just a small amount. Mint is also another favorite flavor of mine and tangy lemon and cool mint taste great together.

Risotto is a creamy, traditional Italian rice dish that’s so versatile it’s great for any time of the year or occasion. So, thanks to my affection for lemon and mint during this season, I decided to marry the two in this dish.
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Asian-inspired Soba Noodle Salad recipe

Asian-inspired Soba Noodle Salad recipe

soba

As the temperature starts to rise (at least in this part of the country), its time for some refreshing and simple dishes for those hotter days, like my Asian-inspired cold soba noodle salad. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour and have a heartier, more substantial texture than regular pasta noodles. In Japan, they’re used in a variety of ways throughout the year: cold in the summer in a salad (like this one) or hot in a soup or broth in the winter months, and in a multitude of variations. Surprisingly enough, soba noodles are now more widely available now bring in the ethnic aisle many grocery stores. Or you could take a culinary adventure to your local Asian market and pick up other interesting ingredients to play with.

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