toasted orzo risotto with corn, thyme, tarragon, and chives

The secret to this deliciously simple dish is the orzo. For best results, this tiny pasta must be al dente. And I recommend making it with a vegetable stock because it tastes so much better! As the orzo absorbed the stock, it turned brown. If you use water, the orzo will be white. I insist that all the ingredients must be fresh: fresh corn, thyme, tarragon, chives, garlic, lemon, and shallot. It’s surprisingly sweet but tangy, with a faint peppery flavor from the tarragon. To get the corn off the cob, I used a sharp knife to slice the kernels off the cob, then lightly chopped them to separate them. Be careful when you do this;  I put the cob lengthwise on the cutting board and sliced downward.  I added tarragon and chives because the thyme was already in the recipe, but I think experimenting with a combination of fresh herbs would be delicious. Savory Simple recommends Penzey’s Sunny Paris Spice for seasoning, but I think it is only available by mail order. I just used salt and pepper, which is simple and easy. Like this recipe. The whole thing took 25 minutes to prep and cook.

Toasted Orzo Risotto with Corn, Thyme, Tarragon, and Chives (adapted from Savory Simple)
Makes  2 entrees or 4 side dishes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
1 ear of sweet corn, approximately 3/4 cup kernels (see note)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, leaves only, minced fine
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced fine
1 3/4 water or homemade stock
salt & pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preparation

  1. In a 10 inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds Add the orzo to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the orzo to toast while stirring. You can go lighter or darker with the toasting. As the orzo browns, it will develop a nutty flavor.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the corn kernels, lemon juice, thyme, tarragon, and chives. Add 1/4 cup of water or stock. Stir frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/4 cup liquid. Repeat until a total of 1 1/2 cups liquid is added  to the pan and is absorbed by the orzo. Reserve the last 1/4 cup.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the last of the water or stock, pine nuts (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.
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pan-fried fish fillets with mediterranean tomato sauce

I’ve been cooking a lot with tomatoes lately!  Tomatoes are so versatile raw or cooked, so naturally, I had to try this new fish recipe. According to myrecipes.com, this recipe, if made with 6 ounce yellowtail snapper fillets with the skin on, amounts to 282 calories per serving. I used tilapia because it was available (and cheaper) but I think any white fish will do. The sauce has a nice light taste; not overpoweringly tomato-y. In fact,  all the flavors of the herbs come through, so be sure to use fresh as directed in the recipe.

Pan-Fried Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce (adapted from myrecipes.com)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (flat-leaf parsley in original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds tilapia fillets (approximately 2 large fillets)

1. In a medium skillet heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add tomato to the pan and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, and tarragon. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste. Cover the skillet to keep warm.

2. In a large nonstick skillet heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper per side. Add fish to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Turn the fish over; cook 3 minutes or until the fish turns white and flakes easily with a fork. Serve fish with the warmed sauce.

lotsa tomato! baked quinoa patties

I took a break from the blog but I didn’t stop cooking! I’ve been experimenting with this recipe from 101cookbooks.com. First I tried it straight but it came out too coarse. Then, on the second try,  I put in some blackbeans, salsa, and cheese, and it was moister but still coarse. On the third try I remembered that my aunt adds a tomato to her shrimp fritters to make them moist, so chopped up half a tomato and put it in with the original recipe. It did come out moist but still coarse. I finally realized what I should do is reduce the amount of whole wheat breadcrumbs in the recipe.  I served it with tomato salsa and arugula and plum tomatoes. Is lotsa tomato, like we say in Jamaica. But I love tomatoes. And this is the season for them.

Baked Quinoa Patties

2 1/2 cups / 12 oz /340 g cooked quinoa, at room temperature (1 cup raw quinoa)
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/3 cup/ .5 oz /15 g finely chopped fresh chives
1/3 cup /.5 oz /15 g finely chopped fresh dill
1 cup / 1.5 oz /45 g finely chopped kale
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon (toasted) cumin
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup / 3.5 oz /100 g whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
water or a bit of flour, if needed
1/3 cup / .5 oz / 15 g crumbled feta (optional)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400F / 200C.

Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, dill, kale, onion, garlic, and cumin. Stir well.

Add the baking powder and bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Gently stir in the feta. I’ve left out the feta cheese and it had no noticeable difference.

I used a one-third cup measure to make 11 patties. To make the patties moister, 101cookbooks recommends adding another beaten egg or water one tablespoon at a time to the quinoa mixture.  To make it dryer, add flour, one tablespoon at a time.

Generously spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and arrange the patties with a bit of space between each. Bake for ~20 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown. Flip the patties over and bake for another 5 minutes.

Enjoy hot, or allow to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack. Makes about a dozen patties. It tastes pretty good hot or cold.