Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Spring Spinach Frittata with Ricotta

Spring spinach frittata with ricotta and recipe

Are you a sweet or savory breakfast person? If you are like me, someone who finds it difficult to choose between the two, frittatas are a wonderful choice and a healthy(ish) alternative to quiche. Because frittatas lack an all butter pastry crust, heavy cream and extra cheese, they are not as rich as quiche, Plus they are much easier to make. What this means is, you can serve up a savory frittata as a main course and include all the pastries or coffee cake you crave. Sweet and savory satisfaction without the guilt, (kind-of). I created this spinach frittata with the dual purpose of making something elegant and savory to serve for breakfast or brunch that also leaves room for something sweet, like The Best Damn Lemon Cake or Apple Muffin with Lemon Glaze.

Ricotta and Spinach Frittata and recipe.

Spinach Frittata Inspiration

My spinach frittata recipe combines two ideas from my favorite egg dishes. The first idea is from Deborah Madison’s  cookbook, In My Kitchen.  She adds saffron to her Swiss Chard Flan recipe, giving the custard an exotic floral nuance that I love. Saffron compliments custards and leafy green vegetables nicely, so I decided to use it instead of freshly grated nutmeg for some extra elegance in the frittata. I love saffron and don’t mind spending the extra money to buy it. However, if you rather not use saffron, add some freshly grated nutmeg directly into the egg mixture. Fresh basil or mint provides a brighter and fresher tasting substitution for saffron, and it pairs very nicely with the spinach frittata.

The second idea is the addition of fresh ricotta, whipped smooth and spooned on top of the spinach frittata. The first time I tasted a ricotta topped frittata is when I made Joshua McFadden’s Red Pepper, Potato, Prosciutto Frittata with Ricotta from his cookbook, Six Seasons. The ricotta transformed an ordinary western omelet into a very special occasion. The ricotta gets soft and warm baked with the frittata and you want every bite filled with this light creaminess. I totally got hooked on ricotta topped frittatas and now want to add ricotta cheese to just about everything.

It pays to buy the freshly made ricotta cheese, there is a big difference in taste. Usually you can find good quality ricotta near the deli department at your grocery. Or make a small batch of ricotta cheese. It takes a lot less time than you think and tastes like real milk.

Julienne Leeks

Making a frittata is fairly straight forward and quick. The only challenging part in this recipe is to julienne the leeks. For a change I decided to julienne slice the white and light green parts of the leek instead of cutting them into circles or half-moons.  It doesn’t really matter how they are prepared as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked till soft and translucent. The julienned leek disappears into the spinach and eggs but adds lovely sweet onion background flavor.

To julienne the leeks, cut the leek in half lengthwise then clean between the layers. Then cut across the leek dividing it into chunks the size of your desired length, mine where about an inch and a half (3.5 cm). Then slice the portioned leeks, lengthwise in very thin strips, mine were about 1/16-1/8 of an inch (about 2-3 mm).  Because you won’t see the leeks you do not have to worry about being precise like you would for julienned carrots in a vegetable sauté, so don’t fret about it.

Check out this video for a live example of how to julienne leeks. In this video he discards the root end of the leek. I do not discard it and julienne cut the root as best I can.

Spinach Frittata

Coming up with a name for this spinach frittata was challenging. With all the special ingredients, it could easily have a name that takes longer to say then it does to cook. Yet the mood of this frittata is all about spring and representing new life and the warming of the earth and air. Fresh farm eggs give the vegetables its foundation with a salty bite of Romano cheese. Young spring spinach and leeks provide a sense of newness to the frittata which in turn is gets grounded from the floral but earthy notes from the stamens of spring crocuses, otherwise known as saffron. Warm, creamy fresh ricotta tie all the flavors together for a sunny “Good morning” greeting. All that goodness is invigorating but not filling leaving plenty of room for pastries or dessert.

Frittatas are delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. For a spectacular Mother’s Day brunch (or any brunch), serve the spinach frittata with your favorite sides like sausage, bacon, green salad, fruit salad and your favorite pastries.

Ricotta Spinach Frittata with recipe.

Ricotta Spinach Frittata

An elegant frittata recipe for the times when you want a special breakfast or brunch that is also easy to make. It is a lighter and healthier substitute for quiche.  

Course Breakfast, Brunch, Light Supper, Lunch, Vegetarian
Cuisine Italian American
Keyword Frittata, Spinach Frittata
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 pinch of saffron 1 TB boiling water
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup 24 g finely grated real Romano cheese
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1 leek about 6 oz (187 g) Pale green and white parts only
  • 5 oz 142 g spinach cleaned, and stems removed
  • ½ cup 117 g real ricotta cheese

Instructions

Prepare your ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

  2. Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add 1 TB of just shy of boiling water to the saffron. Set aside and let the saffron steep.

  3. In a medium size bowl, mix the eggs together with a fork until there are no egg whites visible in the mix. Add the Romano cheese and mix again until combined. Set aside.

  4. Thoroughly clean and julienne slice the white and pale green parts of the leek, about an inch and a half in length and about 1/16 of an inch wide. See blog post for a video demonstration. 

  5. In a small bowl, whip the ricotta with a pinch of Kosher salt and a few grounds of black pepper until smooth. A fork works nicely for this job. Set aside. 

  6. Place an 8-inch (20cm) skillet, preferably a non-stick skillet with an oven-proof handle, on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the olive oil and heat up. Add the sliced leeks and turn down the heat to medium then sauté until soft, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the prepared spinach, in batches, and cook down until completely wilted and soft, about 5 minutes. 

  7. Meanwhile, pour the saffron and water to the eggs, making sure you get every last drop and all saffron threads, and whisk together with a fork.

Make the Frittata

  1. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the spinach and leeks. Tilt the pan to make sure the egg mixture is evenly distributed across the whole skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let the eggs cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes.

  2. Run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen the eggs. Pull the eggs toward the center with the spatula creating pockets for uncooked runny eggs to fill up. Repeat this step going around the circumference of the frittata. Continue to gently cook the frittata until there is a thin liquid layer on top of the frittata. 

  3. Drop spoonfuls of whipped ricotta cheese around the frittata, about 6-8 spoonfuls. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until it is solid all the way through, about 6 minutes. You may need to place the frittata under the broiler to brown the top. It is not necessary, only if you want browning on the top. If you do, watch the frittata carefully because it should only take a few minutes.  

  4. Remove from the oven and run the frittata around the edge of the skillet, then slide the frittata  on to a serving plate. 

  5. Frittata is best eaten warm the same day it is made. 

< div style =”display:none;”>Ricotta Spinach Frittata. Spring spinach frittata recipe with leeks, saffron and ricotta. An elegant frittata recipe and a great healthy substitute for quiche. Perfect for any meal of the day.,

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

A Family Favorite, Guacamole!!

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite foods, ever. I loved it since I was a child and have never stopped. My love affair with guacamole comes from an even greater appreciation for avocados. They are on my desert island list of food that I can’t live without. It is just so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. Avocados remind me of California and eating them is one way I stay connected to my home town.

For most of my lifetime, I have made guacamole and never look at it as a recipe, but something that is fluid and develops into a moment depending on place and time. There is a foundation to build on, but each time I add or omit an ingredient whenever I see fit. Over the years, my guacamole recipe is the one food that people always ask me, “What is my secret for making delicious guacamole?” My answer is not one they expect or want to hear but, I feel like I am stating the obvious. The secret to good guacamole is, making it with perfectly ripe avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole reicpe

Ripe Avocados make the Best Guacamole

Ultimately, guacamole is only going to taste as good as the avocados you make it with. So, it pays to learn how to identify when they are ripe. It is rare to find them ripe at the market so, it is important to let your avocados ripen to that sweet spot at home. Too hard and the flesh will look pale in and taste bland. Too soft, and the avocado gets gray veins and has bruises on the flesh and tastes over ripe.

The sweet spot is when there is some firmness in the body, but also has some yield when you press on the north and south poles of the avocado. It is like Goldilocks, looking for the right chair to sit in. One that is not too hard, or not too soft. Just right. With experience it gets easier to identify that perfect state of ripeness and learn which store sells the best avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

Living in New York, avocados travel long distances to reach our markets and usually are as hard as a granite counter top. Typically, when I buy avocados I let them rest on my window sill for 2 days before I use them. On occasion, they need more time, sometimes less. First, remove them from any bag, even the mesh bag, but especially a plastic one. Then place them in an area where they will get some sun and air circulation. Never put avocado in the refrigerator unless they are cut open. Check them daily and handle them carefully so they do not bruise.

My kitchen windows do not get a lot of direct sunlight, and two to three days usually is enough time. If your kitchen streams with sunshine all day, your avocados may take less time. None of the tricks, like putting them in a paper bag to quickly ripen avocados, work.  Time, warm air and sunlight are essential for ripening avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe

When your avocados are ripe, begin making guacamole with the foundation ingredients, avocados, garlic, lime juice, pinch of salt, and minced cilantro. As you make guacamole remember this rule, start with less and add more if needed. It is a lot easier to add seasoning then take away. My preference for guacamole is create a nice balance of all the ingredients to enhance the flavor of the avocados without any one flavor coming on too strong. There are other traditional ingredients in guacamole like white onion or chopped tomatoes, but I prefer a smoother guacamole. Plus, I am not a big fan of raw onions. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped white onions or tomatoes if you wish.

Once you get the foundation mixed together, taste and assess what the guacamole needs if anything. With perfect avocados it doesn’t take much to make good guacamole. Sometimes, the avocados lack some flavor and need some boosting. The easiest way to boost up the flavor is by adding a tablespoon of salsa, either tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa. Also, a small spoonful of mayonnaise helps make the guacamole creamy. Even a scant amount of Dijon mustard can offer the right amount of tang when the guacamole needs some acid to brighten it up. However, be careful not to add too much because you don’t want to taste the mustard or mayonnaise, these flavors should be in the background.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

Extra Tidd-Bits for Boosting Guacamole Flavor

Just like adding a spoonful of salsa to your guacamole, you can achieve the same effect, if not better if you roast a tomatillo, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and garlic then add them to the guacamole. Personally, I love adding these roasted vegetables to guacamole, especially the garlic. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, and the harsh bite disappears. These roasted vegetables bring a slight tangy smokiness to the guacamole that just fits, like bacon and eggs.

Learn how to roast tomatillos and chili peppers by reading, Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce or White Chicken Chili.

A couple of years ago, I discovered how fresh fruit like strawberries is delicious with guacamole. Either serve strawberries on the side or chop some up and mix in the dip. You may need to add more salt and adjust the other seasoning, so taste and build the flavor as you go.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

How Many Avocados?

3 avocados are a good place to start. It should make enough guacamole for 5-6 people. However, if your family is like my family it will disappear in less than 5 minutes and you will feel like you did not make enough. Avocados are expensive, at least in NY, so buy as many as is within reason. The most avocados I ever used to make guacamole are 6-7 avocados. It was for a decent size party of 15 or more people. However, if there are several appetizers in addition to the guacamole, there is no need to make so much.

Keep in mind, guacamole does not keep well. No matter how much lime juice is in the guacamole, eventually it turns gray from being exposed to the air. The oxidation also effects the flavor. Guacamole is a dip to serve right away and at room temperature.

Need more appetizers for your party? Try, Roasted Shrimp with Sriracha Cocktail Sauce and Deviled Eggs.

Family Favorite Guacamole

The secret to delicious guacamole is using perfectly ripe avocados. Avocados are ripe when they are still firm but there is some give in the top and bottom of the fruit. I find it is best to buy avocados a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on a sunny windowsill. 

This is a foundation recipe to build your guacamole as you make it. Adjust any amount of your preferred seasonings to enhance the flavor of your avocados.  

This is not a recipe to make in advance. Guacamole is best served at room temperature and immediately after it is made. Serve with corn chips or some fruit like strawberries and vegetables such as jicama, carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic peeled and green germ removed
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 tea Kosher Salt
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro
  • 1 roasted jalapeño chili optional
  • 1 medium roasted tomatillo optional

Instructions

  1. Cut each avocado in half by holding the avocado in one hand and with the other hand make a slice with a 6-inch chef's knife though the top of the avocado towards the middle until you reach the pit inside. Rotate your knife around the perimeter of the avocado. Set down the knife and hold the avocado in both hands then twist the avocado halves in opposite directions until they separate. Pull apart the avocado halves. 

  2. Securely hold the avocado with the pit like it is resting in your palm and the pit is facing up. Make sure your fingers are away from the edge of the avocado. Carefully, but firmly, take your chef knife and hit the sharp edge of the blade in the center of the pit until the knife sticks. With the knife blade secure in the pit, twist your knife counter-clockwise to loosen the pit from the flesh. Lift your knife with the pit still attached and remove the pit from the flesh. Whack the side of your knife against the edge of your cutting board, or the rim of a garbage pail, to loosen the pit from the knife and falls off. Repeat until all the avocados are cut in half and pits removed.

  3. Use a soup spoon and scoop out the avocado flesh. Run the spoon around the inside edge of the avocado to loosen it free from the skin. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it into a mixing bowl. Repeat until all the avocados are scooped out. 

  4. Mash the avocados with a fork until all the flesh is mixed together but still chunky. Add lime juice from half a lime. Stir to mix with your fork. 

  5. Mince or press the garlic and place into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch (less than 1/2 a teaspoon), of Kosher salt. and the cilantro to the avocados. Stir to mix. 

  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Too bland add more salt or garlic. Needs more acid add more lime juice or tomatillos or salsa. Start with less and add more if needed.  

  7. Optional Ingredients:

    The roasted tomatillo, process in a food processor first then add it to the guacamole. 

    The chili peppers, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds and white pith according to how spicy you want the guacamole. 

    Instead of the roasted tomatillo or chilies, add a spoonful or salsa verde or tomato salsa.

    For extra creaminess, add a spoonful of mayonnaise. For extra tang, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard. 

    Sliced fresh grape tomatoes for garnish or in the dip. 


  8. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Best eaten immediately with corn chips or cut up vegetables and fruit. 

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Earth Day Friendly Recips

View from Boscebel overlooking the Hudson River. Post about Earth Day with links to recipes.

Sometimes I just get so caught up in my own obligations I forget the time to set aside and pay attention to larger events going on around me. Earth Day is a couple of days away and I totally forgot about it. Besides from paying attention to keeping this planet healthy and clean, my son was born around Earth Day. It should be a day I never forget. Of course, I never forget my son’s birthday but now that my life no longer revolves around the school calendar, these extra-curricular activities are easily forgotten.

Fortunately, there are friendly reminders directing me to the goings on outside my work bubble. Recently, I came upon an article from Fine Cooking  with a list of recipes suitable for Earth Day celebrations and it got me wondering how many recipes on my website could I add to that list. Yet, because my blog includes recipes for all food groups and diets. At a quick glance I found 37 plant-based and environmentally friendly recipes out of 137 recipes on the blog. No dairy, eggs, cheese or animal proteins. If I add my fish recipes there are even more.

Spring Vegetable bounty from the Farmers Market. Earth Day post with recipes.

Earth Day Friendly Foods

What is Earth Day friendly food? Food made from plants that do not deplete our natural resources, pollute the environment, or contribute significantly to our greenhouse gas emissions. That is a tall order to fill because everything we grow, make and consume has an impact on the planet. Fortunately, there are farms that practice sustainable framing techniques with minimal impact on the environments. From my reading, I am a firm believer of buying local products from markets that source their products from local farms and venders, either livestock or plant-based food.

News to Me

From my reading and listening to Mark Bittman talk about food and the environment, I already knew anything related livestock and particularly to cattle, either beef or dairy contributes significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere. However, what I did not know about is rice. According to The Worlds Atlas, rice paddies are the “largest source of methane gas on earth.” Say whhat? Rice? Yes rice. Originally, I thought that distinction belonged to the cattle industry, but I was wrong. Carbon dioxide comes from microorganisms living in the rice paddies. As the world’s population grows, the more rice paddies there are, and hence more methane gas going into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, I also read about how almonds significantly impact the water supply. This piece of information almost made me cry and struck a chord that goes back to my teenage years living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whenever I buy a non-dairy milk, I buy almond milk. Unfortunately, growing almonds requires large amounts of water, and even more water to produce almond milk. (See The World Atlas link for reference). According to The World Atlas, a significant amount of the world’s almonds comes from California. Need I say more? That poor state goes in and out of droughts time and again. These droughts sometimes last for years at time.

While I was growing up in CA during the 70’s there was a terrible drought that lasted a couple of years. 40 years later I can still hear Mom pointing out all the wasted water and ways to reduce our water consumption. Sorry mom, I just did not know. Maybe, If I make almond milk  at home, it will have less of an environmental impact.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Carrot top pesto

Every Day is Earth Day

How do I manage eating environmentally responsibly on an omnivore diet? I buy locally whenever possible and within my budget, especially dairy and eggs. We eat beef maybe once a week at most, however we do eat a lot of chicken. Additionally, I buy fish that is considered a “Best  Choice” or “Good Alternative” from Seafood Watch.

Fortunately, we live in an area that has local dairy farms so buying local milk is easy and affordable. Cows no matter where they live produce methane gas, but I believe there is fewer emissions because the milk does not travel as far. Grass fed cows are also better for the environment. I used to be good about making my yogurt from the local milk. Making yogurt is something that Is easy to fit into your schedule, but yogurt from a half-gallon of milk should get eaten within the week.

We are by no means perfect and have behaviors that would receive a “needs improvement” score on our report card. My pet peeve are plastic shopping bags. We often forget to use our reusable ones. Reducing the number of plastic bags, we recycle and use, is one of my goals for the year.

Additionally, after reading the 10 worst foods for the environment, I realize we should eat more plant-based meals then we already do.

How to Begin

I recommend starting small and work your way into doing more each year. Years ago, the first act I did was not buy water bottles and sports drinks. That action saved me a lot of money and reduced the number of plastic bottles in my recycle bin. I bought water bottles to reuse and bought powdered sports drinks and made the beverage in reusable water bottles. Side bar – My sons were swimmers, and drinks like Gatorade were essential to replenish their electrolytes after a day’s practice. However, I do not recommend the daily consumption of energy drinks for children under the age of 12 and who do not participate in rigorous and daily sports activities. These types of beverages are full of refined sugar and salt, as is all flavored drinks. Studies show a direct relationship between obesity and the liquid form of sugar. 

Buy local whenever possible. Visit your local farmer’s market and buy your produce there. Even if the farmers are not certified organic, they possibly are practicing organic.

Remember the recycle symbol means, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce your waste cutting back on the amount of containers you buy. Reuse containers whenever possible. Recycle by either re-purposing or taking recyclable items to the recycling depot.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, South Indian Style Vegetable Curry

South Indian Style  Vegetable Curry

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Farro with mushrooms and roesmary

Toasted Farro with Mushrooms, add some chickpeas and swiss chard for a complete vegetarian meal

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Apricots

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Rosti, Potato Pancake with mushrooms

Potato pancakes, Rosti

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Fennel with Chickpeas Ratatouille

Fennel Chickpea Ratatouille serve with pasta or polenta

Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Broccoli and Spinach Soup with Mint

Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Puree of Vegetable Soup

Purée of Vegetable Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Kabocha coconut Curry Soup

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Miscellaneous Recipes

EArth Day Friendly Recipes, Parsley Juice

Parsley Juice

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Baked Oatmeal with Apples

Baked Oatmeal, made with non-dairy milk

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Aquafaba Meringue

Aquafaba meringue add whipped coconut milk with berries for a vegan pavlova

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar

Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar

Seafood recipes for those that need something more to eat besides plants

Buy fish that is sustainably farmed or harvested. Seafood Watch has reliable recommendations.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Seared Fish Tacos with Avocado Mango Salsa

Seared Fish Tacos

Earth Day Friendly Recipe, Oven Baked Sole with herbs

Oven Poached Sole with herbs 

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth Buy Pacific Cod or from the Arctic on the east coast

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Spanish Style Mussels

Spanish Inspired Mussels, without the chorizo

 

This is just a sample of my plant-based and other environmentally friendly recipes on my blog. Most of my vegetable side dishes are plant-based or can easily be adapted by substituting olive oil for butter, non-dairy milk for cow’s milk, and eliminating the cheese in pesto.

Happy Earth Day everyone. Here is to a healthy life and a healthy planet.

 

 

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Leek Asparagus Risotto with Sugar Snap Peas

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

Often, people believe making risotto is a chore. But I find it is not much more work than making a pasta dinner with a vegetable sauce or with shellfish. It takes about the same time and you must pay attention to what you are cooking. Regardless of your perspective, risotto is a meal worth having in your dinner repertoire. This recipe is inspired by Spring, using seasonal produce with the bright zing of lemon and mint. Leek asparagus risotto with sugar snap peas is pure comfort food. It is a blend of rice made creamy from stock and stirring, with a bounty of spring vegetables separately cooked to retain their crisp bite and shape.

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

What is great about risotto, once you have the basic recipe down, the possibilities are endless. Anything goes. It is a great way to use up odds and end vegetables or leftover fish, chicken and cured pork. Any vegetable pairs nicely with the creamy rice. I like to add a lot of vegetables because I feel it is healthier for me. But many recipes include only just a cup of peas or no vegetables at all, like Risotto alla Milanese, which is the risotto that put risotto on the map. It is only made with the rice, stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, and saffron.

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

When I make risotto, I have my music playing in the background or I have the pleasure of a friend sharing relaxed conversation with a glass of wine. It is also a time for meditation, especially if it has been one of those days and you need some quite time. Whatever the mood, you should never feel rushed or stressed when making risotto, you will just end up making mediocre risotto. This just can’t be rushed and defeats the purpose of making a comforting meal.

Leek Asparagus Risotto, a recipe.

Variations for Leek Asparagus Risotto

If you want to give leek asparagus risotto an upgrade either for a fancy dinner or for a romantic dinner for two, add some seared sea scallops on top of the plated risotto. If you do not know how to sear sea scallops, click on this link for Dinner Salad with Sea Scallops and Greens for instructions. Brown some butter after searing the sea scallops and drizzle it over the scallops and leek asparagus risotto with a squeeze of lemon. It is a great dinner for a couple to make together. Each person has a job. One can stir the risotto, the other can keep you company and sear the scallops and brown the butter at the last minute.

The dinner salad is a great alternative to risotto when the weather gets hot and humid and you don’t want to stand over a hot stove.

Read more tips on making risotto here.

 

Leek Asparagus Risotto

A springtime risotto made with leeks, asparagus and sugar snap peas. For a romantic dinner for two, add some seared sea scallops. 

When I use a store-bought stock, I like to enhance it by adding fresh vegetable trimmings and simmer for several minutes. This adds some time to your prep, but it does add more flavor to the stock. If you are pressed for time omit this step and save 15 minutes but remember to heat up the stock before adding it to the risotto. 

I prepare the asparagus and sugar snap peas separately. This helps the vegetables retain their shape and color. I like the vegetables on the crisp side which is a nice contrast to the smooth and creamy rice. 

Serve immediately. 

Course Main Course, Vegetarian Main
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 -5 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Leek Asparagus Risotto

  • 6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable or chicken stock homemade or low salt store bought stock
  • 1 lb (414 g) asparagus
  • 1 leeks cleaned and sliced
  • 4 oz (119 g) sugar snap peas a heaping cup
  • 4 TBS (57 g) butter divided
  • cup (300 g) carnaroli or arborio rice
  • ½ cup (150 ml) dry white wine
  • ½ tsp Kosher Salt (more to taste)
  • ½ cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • finely grated zest from one lemon
  • garnish with mint and parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Preparing the stock and vegetables

  1. Clean and remove the dark leaves off the leek. To clean leek, cut off the root end and slice down the middle of the leek lengthwise but not all the way through. Open the leek like a book and run it under cold running water. Peel back the layers looking for the hidden dirt and rinse off. The dirt likes to hide between the layers of the leek almost all the way through to the center. Dry off the leeks as best you can. 

    Trim off the dark green layers of the leek and reserve for the stock, then slice in half all the way through lengthwise. Slice the leek in half moon slices about a 1/8 inch (.5 cm) thick and set aside. 

  2. Pour the stock into a 3-quart sauce pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Trim off the ends of the asparagus and add the ends to the stock. Add the cleaned dark green parts of your leek. Add a small handful of sugar snap peas to the stock. 

    Bring the stock to a simmer. Simmer the stock with the vegetables for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the vegetables with a spider or slotted spoon. Discard the vegetables.  Return the stock to the burner set to low heat and keep warm. 

  3. Fill a sauce pan with salted water and bring to a boil. 
  4. While the water is coming to a boil, trim the asparagus into one-inch (2.5 cm) pieces cut on a diagonal. Start by trimming off the top tip just where it begins to get smooth, then work your way down the stalk. 

    Remove the string from the side of the sugar snap peas and trim each end if needed.  Also, while the water is coming to a boil, make a water bath by adding cold water and ice cubes to a medium bowl.

  5. Once the water comes to a boil, add a pinch of Kosher salt then add the trimmed asparagus. Quickly blanch for 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the asparagus from the boiling water then add to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Keep the water on and boiling. When the asparagus is cooled remove them from the ice bath and dry on a clean lint free kitchen towel. Set aside. Add more ice to the ice bath for the sugar snap peas. 

    In the same pot of boiling water, quickly blanch the sugar snap peas for one minute. Remove the sugar snap peas from the boiling water and add to an ice bath. Once cool, drain and dry the sugar snap peas. Cut the sugar snap peas in quarter inch slices on a sharp diagonal. Set aside. 

Making the risotto

  1. In a Dutch oven or other 5-qt pot, add 2 TB of butter over medium heat. Once the butter stops sizzling add the leeks and cook until the leeks become translucent and tender, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. 

  2. Add the carnaroli rice and stir to coat. Cook the rice until they become opaque about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the white wine and stir until the wine completely evaporates. 

  3. Add about a 1/2 cup (150 ml) of warm stock and stir the rice until it has absorbed the stock. Add the Kosher salt and continue to add warm stock in 1/2 cup (150 ml) intervals, stirring the rice and waiting until the stock is all absorbed until you add more. Continue adding stock and stirring until the risotto is al dente, about 20-30 minutes. After 15 minutes of cooking, taste the rice to gauge your progress. The rice should be tender but still firm. You might not use up all the stock. 

  4. Towards the end, add the asparagus and sliced sugar snap peas to warm up. Add the remaining butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with a 1/2 cup of stock. Stir to mix and melt the cheese. 

  5. Loosen up the risotto with some warm stock and stir if it needs it. 

    Spoon a serving into a shallow bowl or plate, and garnish with lemon zest, parsley and mint. 

  6. Serve immediately with more cheese and fresh black pepper. 

Recipe Notes

Depending on how salty your stock is, will determine how much Kosher salt you need to add. I always use low salt or homemade stock, which gives me some flexibility for seasoning my food. Taste first and season with salt as needed. 

For a really special treat, sear sea scallops separately and serve 3-5 scallops person. Arrange the sea scallops on top of the risotto in individual serving dishes. Brown some butter and drizzle over the sea scallops on the risotto. Garnish with herbs and lemon zest. 

 

Leak Asparagus Risotto, A spring risotto recipe Leek asparagus risotto is gently cooked in with a rich flavored stock, leeks, asparagus and sugar snap peas. Fresh herbs and lemon zest garnish the risotto for a bright finish. Add seared sea scallops for a romantic dinner for two.
Leek Asparagus Risotto. A spring risotto recipe Leek asparagus risotto is gently cooked in with a rich flavored stock, leeks, asparagus and sugar snap peas. Fresh herbs and lemon zest garnish the risotto for a bright finish. Add seared sea scallops for a romantic dinner for two.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

 Recipe for Braised Baby Artichokes bathed in a sauce made from a reduction of the braising liquid, anchovies and capers. 

The birds outside are particularly chirpy today and it just might mean sprinter, spring that feels and acts like winter, is moving out. The light sing-song of robins is so cheerful and upbeat, it is hard to imagine anymore sprinter surprises. As I gaze outside my window, I can see all the animals in my yard scampering about like preschoolers on a play-date. “Olly Olly all come free,” it is safe to come out of hiding.

What does all this wildlife activity have to do with food? It is a reminder and affirmation of good things to come. Something which I appreciate after the long winter hibernation. The first of the local spring vegetables are ramps, spring mushrooms, and asparagus. Yet, these local harvests are not yet available, and I must look westward and south for fresh produce. I am so envious of the produce I see displayed all over Instagram from California farmers markets. California food bloggers and chefs spill their bounty on the kitchen counter and photograph their treasures for all of us to see, making me want to transport myself into their photo. Our day will come, at least the ground is no longer frozen.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovies Sauce, a recipe.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

Recipes with Spring Produce

Stove top Grilled Asparagus, Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise, Pasta Primavera, Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables

California Baby Artichokes

In the meantime, we can enjoy produce, like baby artichokes, from California and pretend we are in full spring bloom. Baby artichokes are spilling over the produce baskets at grocery stores across the country. They are more tender than full size artichokes, but no less flavorful. At this stage the baby artichoke bud has yet to develop the choke, making them slightly easier to prepare and eat. I believe them to be the perfect size and an ideal first course meal or appetizer.

Seeing artichokes always brings me back to my childhood in Northern California, where artichoke plants grew wild in the hills around my neighborhood. I thought they were the strangest looking plants around and I never touched them. To me they were like the dinosaurs of the plant kingdom, with their prickly and ancient looking buds and jagged leaves.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

I’ll never forget the first time I ate an artichoke when I was a young girl. I gladly tried them being ever so eager to appear older and more sophisticated than I was. As I sat staring at my steamed artichoke, I studiously watched and listened to Dad’s instruction as he peeled off each leaf, dip the bottom fleshy part in warm melted butter then scrape off the meat between his teeth. With each step, Dad would explain and demonstrate how to get to the heart of the artichoke, what he referred as the “prize” and purpose for all that work. He spoke so ominously about the choke, saying we would choke if we ate the choke, hence the name. This terrified me, but his safe and loving expression in his fatherly eyes told another story, so I proceeded cautiously but without hesitation.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

Braised Baby Artichokes

Up front there is more prep work when you braise baby artichoke hearts, as opposed to steaming them whole, but the hearts get nicely flavored from the braising liquid and become so tender. Fortunately, because they are small it does not take that much time to trim off all the outer leaves. Braised artichokes are delicious eaten straight from the braising liquid, but I like serving them with a warm sauce made with the braising liquid and anchovies and capers. The anchovies and capers add extra body which compliments the mild artichoke flavor but does not overwhelm it. I purposely kept the anchovies on the light side for that reason.

If you are not a fan of anchovies, reduce the braising liquid as mentioned but omit the anchovies. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference then drizzle the sauce over the baby artichokes. This cooking method is also delicious with full-grown artichoke hearts.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Mild Anchovy Sauce, a recipe.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce

Baby Artichokes are braised in a stock seasoned with lemon, garlic, white wine and herbs. The artichokes are finished with a sauce made with a reduction of the braising liquid, anchovies and capers. There is just enough of the anchovy flavor to compliment the artichokes.  

Delicious first course meal, appetizer or vegetable side dish. 

Course Appetizer, First Course, Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Braised Artichokes

  • 16 baby artichokes about 1 lb. 9 oz (729 g)
  • bowl full of water
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and green germ removed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

Anchovy Caper Sauce

  • Braising Liquid
  • 2 T TB extra virgin olive oil Or butter
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tsp capers drained and rinsed
  • 1 TB white wine or vermouth (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • garnish with chopped parsley or chives

Instructions

  1. Peel off three strips of lemon peel with a vegetable peeler.  Set them aside. Thinly slice the garlic cloves and set aside. 

  2. Fill a medium bowl with water and the juice of one lemon. You want just enough water to cover the artichokes. 

  3. Trim the artichokes. Pull off the tough outer leaves by pulling them straight down and off. Continue until all the tough leaves are off until you get to the tender light green leaves. 

    With a sharp paring knife, trim a sliver off the end of each stem and clean around the edge where you pulled off the leaves. You do not want to cut away any of the artichoke meat, just trim the base to clean off any fibrous parts. Trim off about a 1/4 inch off the top of the baby artichoke. 

    Cut the artichoke lengthwise into quarters. As soon as you are finished prepping each artichoke, add the sliced wedges into the bowl filled with lemon water. The lemon water will prevent the artichokes from discoloring. 

  4. In a sauté pan add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil and heat up over medium heat. Add the slices of garlic, lemon peels, sage, bay leaf, black peppercorns, fennel seeds to the olive oil and sauté for about a minute. Add the artichokes, 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) of the lemon water and Kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn down the heat. Simmer the artichokes until they are tender when pierced with a fork or to taste, about 20 minutes. 

  5. Once the artichokes are tender remove them using a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to keep warm. Taste the braising liquid and add wine or vermouth if needed. Boil the braising liquid and reduce to a 1/2 cup (125 ml). Add the anchovies and break them up in the sauce. Add the capers. Simmer briefly to meld the flavors and taste. Adjust the sauce with more wine or other seasoning if needed.  

  6. Arrange the artichokes on a platter or shallow bowl, drizzled with the anchovy caper sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest. 

    Braised baby artichokes are best eaten warm or at room temperature. The braised artichokes can be chilled, but the sauce should be warm. 

Nutrition Facts
Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce
Amount Per Serving (2 artichokes)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce. Recipe for braised baby artichokes simmered in a liquid seasoned with garlic, herbs and lemon peel. The braised artichokes is drizzled with a mild sauce made with anchovies, capers and concentrated braising liquid. Delicious as an appetizer or first course.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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