Sunday, May 21, 2006

Vegan Delights -- Asparagus & Lemon Risotto

It comes as no surprise that I have food on the brain. It's the free time I've had this week that gives rise to my urge to create, cook and bake.

The catering slowed to a mere one gig this past week. I suspect this is due to the long weekend and people heading out of town to open up their "cottages" (quotes here are referring to the misuse of the noun since many of these rural dwellings are luxury homes with more amenities than most homes in whoville). The one catering job I did work further inspired me to cook because of the sad state of the food I had to serve. What a pleasure to come home and have a beautifully cooked meal full of flavour and made with care.

So...when i did have a little extra time I took a browse through my new veg slow cooker book (even though I told myself I was going to wait until I got my own slow cooker. I've been using my sister's occasionally mostly to do cereals. I had boxed it up again to return to her, but I pulled it out once more when I came across a chili recipe with corn and chive dumplings cooked in the last 40 minutes of the process. I was really pleased with how it turned out. D. was concerned that it couldn't be chili without ground round or tofu, but I assured him that many of my previous chilis had neither. However, in a last minute feeling of uncertainty I added a bit of Yves veggie ground round to bulk up the chili.

The verdict? D's brother arrived in town and joined us for dinner. Everyone enjoyed the chili. So I'd say it is a keeper. I also enjoyed making dinner in the afternoon when I got home from work and then having the rest of my evening to enjoy. The dumplings were awesome. They're a simple recipe of cornmeal, flour, chives, frozen thawed corn, baking powder and soy milk that you mix until just combined and then drop into the slow cooked chili to cook. Delicious.

Next in the slow cooker: tamari almonds. I've tried various methods of oven cooking tamari almonds, and with some success. This is a shorter timed slow cooked recipe and I needed to be around in order to stir every now and then. The result on this one is very tasty almonds but next time I would omit the tbls of oil since I don't like oily nuts. They're not super oily, but there is enough of a sheen to bother me. So next time I'll play with the recipe.

While the almonds were slow cooking in another part of the kitchen, I made my favorite risotto dish: asparagus and lemon risotto. We got some local asparagus in our organic fresh box this week. Usually D. puts it on the pizza but the stalks were too large for pizza so we saved it for another dish. Here's my recipe (which I essentially got from Linda McCartney's cookbook and made it my own).

Asparagus & Lemon Risotto

1 tbls ex virg. olive oil
1 1/2 cups of carnaroli rice (I prefer this over arborio -- it seems to be creamier)
1 bunch of asparagus cleaned, ends broken off, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
zest and juice of 1 organic lemon.
4 cups of veggie stock (or more as needed -- I find this does depend on the rice)
1/4 cup of white wine or white vermouth for deglazing.
salt and pepper.

In a medium sized pot keep the veggie stock warm over a low heat. Add the discarded aparagus ends to the stock for extra asp. flavour.
In another medium sized pot (one with a heavy bottom) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the rice and stir, cooking the rice slightly (about 2-3 minutes).
Add the wine or vermouth and continue stirring until the wine cooks off (it evaporates and lifts any of the stuck rice and starches from the bottom of the pot).
Add 1 cup of the warmed veggie stock (keep the discarded asparagus ends out of the rice --this was just to flavour the stock afterall -- and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed.
Continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time and continue stirring. Keep stirring.
After 10 minutes of total cooking time, add the asparagus pieces and the lemon zest.
Guess what? Continue stirring.
Continue adding the stock. Test your rice for doneness (it will be al dente and have a very creamy consistency). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.
Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped basil if you like or another herb of your choice.

Tonight we're making spinach gnocchi with tofu ricotta from Nonna's Kitchen another new vegan cookbook we're delving into.

I'll take pictures, but until I have an update browser that can load them onto my blog I won't be able to post for now. You'll just have to use your imagination and wait for future posts when I can put up the photos.

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