Thursday, October 4, 2012

Saffron Risotto

Blog's Category: International, My Staple Food

Risotto is one of my favorite foods. Despite the fact that I've got familiar with this Italian staple relatively recently, I love it for its comforting smooth taste and beautiful buttery texture. I also adore it for the fact that it's never have failed for me, every time it comes out great.

- You just have to use arborio rice or other short grain type of rice. Actually this time I used calasparra rice which was left over after my recent paella experimentations.
- White wine is optional but it's the must to my taste. Very special taste of cooked out wine is a signature of the dish in my opinion.
- There are hundreds of variations of a risotto depending what you will be incorporating into it during the time when rice cooks. I do not like to add too many ingredients to it - one or two vegetables, seafoods or something else will do the job. Rice is the king here -  he just needs couple of servants to bring it to a throne :)
- As a fat, olive oil is the best here, of course, but lately I use a ghee (clarified butter). Honestly, I would not tell a difference between risotto cooked with olive oil and risotto cooked with a ghee.

Taste Description
Smooth is the first word that come to my mind when I think about risotto. Flavors of saffron (in the case of saffron risotto) happily marry with a fumes of wine. Onion, rice grains and creamy part of risotto create great 3-dimensional texture, which warms you up from the inside as you send spoon of this joy down your throat.  Should I mention parmesan which disintegrate in risotto passing its wonderful qualitis onto risotto?!

How to Serve
It's best when served right away. Also it is great reheated next day - just add generous amount of water (about 1/2 cup or even more) before reheating to recreate signature creamy consistency of the risotto. Stir it up nicely in the middle of the process and you'll get almost good-as-freshly-cooked one.

Saffron Risotto

For about 5 generous servings:

2 cup short grain (arborio) rice, dry, no rinsing please here
2 red onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
generous pinch of saffron (I used one from Trader Joe's)
1 cup of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 generous cup of grated parmesan
3 bullion cubes (guilty - I use it everywhere where when chicken stock called for)
whole kettle of hot water (more than 5 cups)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

- Boil water to have it handy before you actually start to cook. Dissolve chicken stock cubes in about 3 cups of hot water and set aside.

- In a small cup or bowl, pour about 1/2 cup of hot water over the saffron and set aside. It will steep and saffron will release its beautiful color and subtle aroma to be ready to be added to risotto later on.

- Grate you parmesan and set aside.

- In a large heavy pot or skillet, on a medium-low heat, pour olive oil and cook diced onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook it.

- Add dry rice and cook stirring for 5 more minutes.

- Add wine, cook stirring for a couple of minutes until liquid is almost evaporated.

-  Add one cup of a chicken stock and continue to cook and stir until liquid evaporates and rice become more creamy. Continue to add stock one cup at a time  (and then water when you are out of stock) until rice is cooked and risotto is shining and creamy.

- Add saffron water to the risotto, salt, pepper, parmesan and stir nicely. Let it cook for one more minute.

- And ...congratulations - you've done your risotto! Enjoy!

All preparations are done and let's fun to begin! The remaining actual cooking process will take about 20-30 minutes.

It's wonderful calasparra rice. It expands and coak in liquid a lot during a cooking. So 2 cups of this rice makes a lot of risotto.

Grated parmesan.

This is a ghee (clarified butter). This time it's just my replacement for olive oil .

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Blog's Category: USSR-era Recipes, My Staple Food

Olivier is a USSR-era staple salad, it's symbolic of celebrations, gatherings, the most desirable dish on a menu. After all, is there anything better than olivier leftovers next day, in a morning (of course if any left)?
If salads could merry, olivier would be beloved child of American potato salad and chicken salad (you decide which one is mom and which one would be dad :)). Sometimes child is mutant and has ham or bologna in place of actual chicken pieces but this does not make him less attractive (read - tasty).
I will mention all variations of the salad below, but actual recipe is very minimalistic and contains just ingredients necessary to make great tasting dish. Pea puree, I decided to make this time for garnishing, turned out to be great fun and very tasty addition to the salad.

- As I already said, you can use bologna, ham, salami, or even all together instead of chicken. In fact, to go back into my "meat-eating" days, I liked this variation more than chicken olivier.
- Some like to add boiled carrots (chopped of course). It adds another subtle taste layer to the salad.
- In real life we often use canned green peas instead of frozen - I still have hard time making preferences here:)
- Do not use canned potato for this salad - it would be way too lousy substitution.
- Store bought mayo works just fine (try to get the best brand though). But if you feel like making your own - just go for it!
- Use pickles that you would eat just as is. Do not try to use up pickles that are not very good in a first place (I like to use kosher baby dills).
- Add some fresh sweet onion for a punch if you like the idea (it is a legit version back there, in ex-USSR)
Taste Description
It is mildly tasting, although very addictive and filling, salad. You can pump up acidity by adding more pickles (or even pickle juice!). As always, great ingredients will give you the great result!

How to Serve
For the friends or family gathering, serve it in a pretty salad bowl. On my picture you see it served restaurant style, on the individual plate with pea puree and pickles on a side.


For 5 decent servings:

potatoes, boiled unpeeled, then cooled, peeled and diced (about 0.3" x 0.3")
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
5 boiled eggs, diced
2 cups of frozen peas (or 1 can of canned one)
3-5 tbs mayonnaise
1 small jar of kosher baby dills, diced
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

- Just mix all ingredients together. Make sure that potato and eggs are cooled down before doing this.

- Season to taste. I like to add couple of tablespoons of liquid from baby dills (but it's not necessary at all!) - first, it allows me to use less mayo, second, it adds a little bit of acidity to the dish and a third, it make consistency of the salad more smooth.

- Enjoy! It will keep in your fridge for a two-three days surely, of course if not food-stealers are around :)


..yes, it's 4 potatoes and 6 eggs on my pictures - you know, slight variations of quantities are allowed!

For myself, I've made Olivier version with crab meat instead of chicken, turned out very delicious.

To make pea puree, blend handful of fresh/frozen peas with a splash of light olive oil, tablespoon or so sherry vinegar and salt. My lovely immersion blender does a great job with this. Feel free to season puree your way but make sure you are not adding anything that will change it's beautiful bright green color and smooth consistency!

This is my crab meat (well, imitation of crab meat :)) olivier. I enjoyed it very much.