Thursday, May 19, 2016

Roasted Zucchini & Parmesan Arancini (fried rice balls)

Traditional arancini is one of the dishes in my “next 100 ideas” post. Why? Because fried rice balls with savory ground beef and pea filling in tomato gravy is just amazing. And I’m definitely going to share a traditional arancini recipe one of these days. However, zucchini are just coming into season, which gives this recipe precedence. Also, it was really fabulously tasty and I highly recommend trying it right away. You might compare these small bites to crispy yet also creamy risotto fritters. As for the taste: sharp, nutty and delectably meltable parmesan was a glorious counterpoint to sweet, caramelized zucchini and starchy rice. And the crunchy outside! Wow.

These rice balls were easier to keep together when they were cold, so if you notice them start to fall apart as you handle them, put them in the fridge or freezer for a bit before dipping them in egg wash and breadcrumb.

Zucchini & Parmesan Arancini

Yield: 12 - 16 (depending on size)

1 1/2 cups cooked short grain white rice
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise to matchstick length (1/8 inch)
3 ounces finely grated parmesan
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Oil, for frying (any neutral oil, such as vegetable or peanut)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss sliced zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay zucchini in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then roast until soft, about 12 minutes.
2. Allow zucchini to cool, then dice and mix with rice and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Form arancini into small balls and press firmly to compact. If they are too warm after handling cool them down.
3. Fill a small pot with about 1” of oil and heat over medium flame. Dip arancini in egg, then roll in breadcrumbs. Lay arancini in a single layer in oil and cook until the underside has become golden brown, 3 - 5 minutes, depending on size of fritter.
4. Flip and cook an additional 3 - 4 minutes.
Serve warm

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lentil & Bacon Stew with Italian Parsley

Split pea soup, an American institution, is nearly always made with ham. It is actually a really lovely pairing, with the salty, fatty meat enhancing the sweet earthy nuttiness of the peas. That is, if you like ham. I’m not a huge fan of ham, although I love pork loin, belly, shoulder and of course, bacon. As well I’ve always preferred green or brown lentils to split peas. There’s just something about that subtle combination of sweet and bitter; it’s almost clean like a good sweet mountain well water. I’m happy to eat lentils on their own or with a few chopped carrots tossed in, but one day I pondered adding something more. Something more conventionally sexy like...bacon! Bacon works as well with lentils as ham does with split peas. A really great pairing. As lentils are a bit on the sweet side and I like a bit of bitter with bacon’s salty, fatty smoky goodness I hit upon delicately bitter parsley. The three ingredients make a great combination.

I like to serve this soup with my smoked trout salad from the previous post. It freezes really well (I use a muffin tin and plastic wrap to freeze individual portions of
it) so it makes a really fabulous quick dinner when paired with a sandwich or salad.

Lentil & Bacon Stew with Italian Parsley

Makes approximately 10 bowls

3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
16 ounces green lentils, rinsed & picked through
~2 Tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of cooking vessel)
500 grams (about 1.5 cups) mirepoix (from about 3 small carrots, 2 stalks celery & 1 medium yellow onion
1 shallot, chopped
75 grams (about 1/4 bunch) Italian Parsley leaves & stems, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

1. Heat a heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, then add oil to cover the bottom. Add bacon and cook until bacon begins to crisp and fat has rendered.
2. Add mirepoix, shallots and a pinch of pepper and saute for 4 minutes, or until onions are starting to caramelize.
3. Add parsley, bay leaf and thyme and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes, or until you start to smell thyme.
4. Add lentils and 10 cups water. Bring stew to a boil, then reduce heat to low and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 50 - 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the lentils begin to soften, use the back of your stirring utensil to gently mash the lentils in the pot. This will release some more of their flavor into the broth as well as thickening it.
5. When the broth has reduced slightly and the lentils are fully cooked, take stew off heat and serve. Salad or sandwich optional.