Stuff My Kid Eats: Seafood and Asparagus Risotto

Stuff My Kid Eats

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“Risotto! Risotto! Risotto!” my toddler squeals with delight as she jumps about the kitchen clapping her hands. This is not a typical response to many of the dishes I serve for dinner. Dinner, in fact, is her least favorite meal, as it usually doesn’t arrive in the form of a sandwich or a waffle. But risotto is different; especially seafood risotto. She thinks she’s getting away with something when I serve it, “You mean I get to eat a whole plate of rice and nobody’s gonna stop me? Yes, please!” The only static this meal causes is when she runs out of shrimp and gets bent that my husband and I won’t fork over ours. Not a bad argument to have with a toddler, as far as I’m concerned!

Seafood and Asparagus Risotto

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Risotto is a traditional Italian meal made with a short-grain rice called Arborio. The higher starch content in the rice adds creaminess to the dish, without actually adding cream to the dish — so it’s a win-win for those calorie counters! This recipe takes a bit more hands-on attention, as it needs to be stirred continually for about 30 minutes, but it’s worth every bit of elbow grease — consider it part of your daily workout!

Serves 4

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fish stock, or chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc (see Note*)
½ bunch of asparagus, tender parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces
24 uncooked bay scallops
12-18 uncooked medium shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails removed
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

*Note: All of the alcohol in the wine burns off as it cooks, so it’s safe to serve to children, however, if you prefer, replace wine with an extra cup of stock.

In a saucepan, bring stock and wine to a low simmer. Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, melt butter and oil in a large straight-sided skillet until bubbly. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add risotto and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Using a large soup ladle, pour 1 ladle-full (about ½ cup) of stock into risotto and stir until liquid is absorbed. Gradually stir in remaining broth 1 ladle-full at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Continue this process until all but 1 ladle-full of stock has been used, approximately 25-30 minutes. Add the last ladle of stock with seafood and asparagus, and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until shrimp and scallops are fully cooked and asparagus turns bright green. Uncover and stir until all remaining liquid has evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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Sidekick: Serve with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or a non-oaky Chardonnay.

Shortcuts:

  • Replace homemade stock with store bought stock
  • Replace wine with an extra cup of stock
  • Use precooked seafood and toss it in at the end of the cooking process after the asparagus have been steamed. Stir until seafood is heated through.
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Beef Phở

Beef Phở

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Beef phở (pronounced fuh) is a traditional Vietnamese soup (typically made with beef although chicken and vegetable versions are also available), wide rice noodles, and served with a variety of garnishes. To me, there is nothing more comforting on a blustery winter day than sitting down to a steaming bowl of phở, slurping noodles off a pair of chopsticks, and feeling its warming effects spread to the ends of my fingers and the tips of my toes. The broth, steeped with spices and charred onions, is slightly sweet, highly flavorful, and wonderfully aromatic, which sets this soup apart from other “noodley” soups, as my toddler likes to call them. (If you don’t have time to make this somewhat labor intensive stock by hand, see the Shortcut at the end of the recipe for tips on how to quickly enhance store-bought stock.) Oh, and I promise next week’s soup will be an easy one. No really — chop a few ingredients, throw everything into a crockpot, then put your feet up and wait for the payoff! 

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(Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what phở is made of.)

Serves 6

 For the Stock:

  • 2 white or yellow onions
  • 1 hand of ginger root, about 6-inches long
  • 3 lbs. marrow bones
  • 2 lbs. oxtail
  • 1 lb. chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. beef brisket
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole star of anise
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 oz. yellow rock sugar (see Notes) or 2 Tbsp. Sugar in the Raw (or granulated sugar)
  • ¼ – ½ cup fish sauce, depending upon taste
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

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(Pictured from top: beef bones, oxtail, chuck roast)

 For the Soup:

  • 1 lb. rib eye, skirt, or flank steak, thinly sliced, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 cups oyster mushrooms
  • 1 lb. Phở noodles (see Notes)

Garnishes for Serving:

  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 3 cups bean sprouts
  • 1-2 cups fresh basil
  • 1-2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Thai chilies (Very HOT!), serrano peppers (HOT!), or Jalapeños (kinda hot), thinly sliced
  • Chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • Fish sauce and/or hosin sauce

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(A few phở garnishes.)

Directions:

Char Onions and Ginger

Charring the skins of the onions and ginger gives the broth an appealingly smoky quality that’s quintessential to phở. Follow one of these three charring methods:

  1. On an outdoor grill: Place onions and ginger over direct heat on high. Allow the skins to become black, then turn, continuing to char on all sides, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Over an indoor gas burner: Turn on exhaust fan. With a pair of kitchen tongs and working one at a time, hold onions and ginger over open flame until skins have blackened, then turn, continuing to char on all sides, 5-8 minutes. (If your kitchen tongs are metal, you may want to wear an oven mitt — trust me!)
  3. In an electric oven (pictured below): Turn oven on to broil. Place onions and ginger on a foil-lined roasting pan and place on an oven rack set 3-4 inches below the broiler element. Allow the skins to become black, then turn, continuing to char on all sides, about 20-25 minutes.

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The onions and ginger should be very dark and burned on the outside, yet soft and slightly cooked on the inside. (I swear the photo below isn’t one of my kitchen catastrophes – I meant to do this!)

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Peel onions and ginger, rinsing off any blackened bits. Cut into quarters and set aside.

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Make Stock

Add beef and bones to a large stock pot. Cover with water by 2-inches. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Dump water, beef, and bones into a colander set in the sink, allow to cool slightly. Rinse stockpot clean of any residue. Run cold water over beef & bones, and gently scrub any scum from the surface. This will eliminate cloudiness, leaving you with a crystal-clear broth. Beautiful!

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Return beef & bones to stockpot and cover with 5-6 quarts water (20-24 cups). Add onions, ginger, spices, sugar, ¼ cup fish sauce, and 1 Tbsp. salt and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for at least 5 hours, and up to all day, skimming any fat that rises to the surface. (Do not allow to boil otherwise your stock may become bitter.)

Once stock is done simmering, remove onions, ginger, and spices and discard. Gently scoop beef & bones from stock and set aside. Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large storage container. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

Carefully remove any meat and connective tissue from the bones and oxtail and place in a storage container, cover. Slice brisket and place in a separate storage container, cover. In a third storage container, add the beef chuck. Cover, and refrigerate all three. Discard bones.

After the stock has cooled overnight, use a slotted spoon to gently remove the layer of fat that has risen to the top, discard.

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You may end up with more stock and beef than you need for 6 servings. Both stock and beef can be refrigerated separately for up to three days, or frozen for 4-5 months (see tips on freezing stock in Homemade Stocks).

Make the Soup

Evenly divide garnishes (bean sprouts, lime wedges, fresh herbs, green onions, and chiles) among 6 small plates.

Microwave reserved beef until warm, and place in three separate serving bowls.

In a large stock pot, bring stock to a simmer. Test for seasoning and add more fish sauce and salt & pepper if needed.

Add mushrooms to stock and continue to simmer until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add thinly sliced beef (rib eye, skirt, or flank steak) to stock and cook for 1 minute, until rare.

Cook phở noodles per package instructions, strain and divide among 6 bowls.

Ladle stock, thinly sliced beef, and mushrooms into bowls over top of phở noodles.

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Place serving bowls of reserved beef on the table, allowing guest to add what they like. Serve with Sriracha, fish and/or hosin sauce, and a plate of garnish for each guest.

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Notes:

  • Yellow rock sugar can be found in many Asian markets or online, however, you can always substitute Sugar in the Raw or regular granulated sugar.
  • Phở noodles can also be found in many Asian markets, however, if they’re unavailable in your area, look for another style of Asian noodle (see examples pictured below). And if you’re really in a pinch, you can always use instant ramen noodles.

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Shortcut: In leu of making your own stock, add 12-16 cups of store-bought stock (about 2 cups per person) to a large stockpot. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 3 whole star anise, 2-inches peeled and sliced ginger root, 6 whole cloves, 2 tsp. coriander seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, 1-2 tsp. sugar, 2-3 Tbsp. fish sauce (plus more for seasoning later) and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Scoop out spices and discard. Continue with directions: Make the Soup.

Sidekick: The choice beverage selection with this slightly sweet, somewhat spicy dish is a Vietnamese beer (which can be hard to find), so try looking for other more commonly found Asian beers such as Sapporo. For wine drinkers, a chilled glass of Gewürztraminer or Riesling would also pair well.

Your best bet for finding a Vietnamese beer is at a local Asian Market or World Market.

Stuff My Kid Eats: One-Pan Pasta

Stuff My Kid Eats

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What kid doesn’t love pasta? For that matter, what adult doesn’t love pasta? Much like soup, pasta has become a staple in our home. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s the energy-booster my toddler needs to continue terrorizing our cat* on a daily basis. With as much pasta as we eat, I’m always searching for new recipes to liven up the routine. I found this one in Martha Stewart Living a while back, and regularly change up the ingredients depending on what I have in my fridge. See VARIATIONS at the end of this post for ideas on how you can alter this dish and make it your own. (Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

One-Pan Pasta

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I have to admit, as much as I trust Martha Stewart and her very accomplished staff (not that I’m biased or anything), I was a bit skeptical when this recipe called for throwing all the ingredients into a pan and cooking them together, rather than separately. Pasta in one pot, sauce in the other, that’s how I was raised — but WOW! this is so much better. And at the end of the meal, you only have one pan to clean. Brilliant!

Serves 4

  • 12 oz. linguine
  • 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ tsp. red-pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 4½ cups water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

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Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

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Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.

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Sidekick: The simplicity of this pasta pairs well with a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc.

VARIATIONS:

Silky Carbonara

Omit:
Basil
Mushrooms

Add:
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. water
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup cooked bacon, chopped

Beat egg yolks with water until smooth. After pasta has finished cooking, remove from heat, add egg mixture, butter, and bacon and stir until creamy. Season with salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmesan.

Spring Greens

Omit:
Tomatoes
Basil
Mushrooms
Red-pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese

Add:
1 bunch of asparagus, tender part only, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lemon
1 cup spring peas, fresh or frozen
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped

Add asparagus at the beginning with dry pasta. Meanwhile, juice and zest lemon. Once pasta has cooked for about 7 minutes, add lemon juice and peas. Stir and continue to cook for 2 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 bowls and garnish with parsley and lemon zest.

Italian Chicken and Peppers

Add:
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 precooked chicken breasts, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped

Add bell peppers at the beginning with dry pasta. Once pasta has finished cooking, add diced chicken and oregano. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan.

Photo: The Toddler Terrorizing The Cat.

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Stuff My Kid Eats – Lemony Pasta with Tuna Sauce

Stuff My Kid Eats

Stuff My Kid Eats

(Photo credit: Audrey Kranz)

I have been fortunate enough to have a toddler who is relatively adventurous in the foods she will try — and often even like. This is not to say that we don’t have our moments of refusing to eat, declaring something “yucky” simply because it’s brown, or ending a meal in tears; she is 2 years old, after all! But almost without fail, I can count on her to at least taste everything I put in front of her, even if she won’t finish it. When I do find a dish that is particularly popular with her, I feel like SuperMom and do a private little victory dance in my chair across the table from her.

In this weekly segment, I’ll be sharing quick, easy, healthy recipes that break away from the mac-‘n-cheese/quesadilla/chicken nugget rut that’s so easy to get stuck in. All of the meals I post here are great for kids, and delicious for adults as well. Good luck and enjoy!

Lemony Pasta with Tuna Sauce and Arugula

Lemony Pasta with Tuna Sauce

I found this recipe in one of my husband’s Men’s Health magazines over the summer (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the similarity of a grown man’s pallet to that of a toddler’s.) I was able to throw this meal together in 15 minutes, then crossed my fingers that it was something my daughter would eat — she did, and now it’s one of her favorites. Hallelujuah!

Serves 4

1 lemon
8 ounces radiatore pasta
2 – 5 oz. cans of tuna in olive oil (see Tips*)
2 canned anchovies (even if you don’t like anchovies, don’t omit them! They really enhance the flavor.)
¼ tsp. red-pepper flakes, divided (see Tips*)
5 cups baby arugula
¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Juice and zest lemon. Cook pasta per package instructions; drain, saving ½ cup of cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, drain tuna, saving 3 Tbsp. of the oil. In a blender or food processor, combine tuna, reserved oil, lemon juice, anchovies, and ⅛ tsp. red-pepper flakes; process until smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the hot drained pasta with tuna sauce (thin with pasta water if necessary). Add arugula, lemon zest, salt & pepper, and remaining red-pepper flakes (see Tips*). Serve topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese and cracked pepper.

*Tips:

  • I waited to add the final ⅛ tsp. red-pepper flakes until after I dished my toddler’s serving to save her delicate tastebuds from too much heat (if there is such a thing).
  • To make this a heartier meal, buy an additional can of tuna, drain, then add chunked tuna to the finished pasta.
  • Look for Genova brand tuna, if available (pictured below).

Genova Tuna

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

This is the time of year when many of us fall ill with the flu, so this season, instead of downing a bottle of NyQuil ®, why not treat your symptoms the way our grandmothers did – with chicken soup!

Serves 6-8

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, diced (about 1 small onion)
2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds (about 4 carrots)
1 ¼ cup celery, sliced (about 4 celery stalks)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. Kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
2 tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. celery salt
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc
8 cups homemade chicken stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh oregano, plus 2 Tbsp. chopped oregano leaves for serving
2 cups reserved chicken from chicken stock recipe, chopped, mix of white and dark meat
2 cups dry egg noodles
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Heat butter and oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until butter has melted. Add onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until veggies have softened and onions become translucent but not brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add dry mustard, celery salt, 1 tsp. Kosher salt, and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until liquid has reduced by half, about 2-4 minutes.

With a 4″ piece of cotton kitchen twine, create an herb sachet (sachet d’ épices) by tying together bay leaf, and sprigs of parsley, thyme, and oregano (Figure 1). Add chicken stock and sachet to soup pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, partially covered.

Figure 1 – sachet d’ épices

Sachet

In a separate pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil with 1 tsp. salt. Once boiling, add egg noodles and continue to cook until noodles are al dente, about 5-8 minutes. Pour noodles into a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

After the 30-minute simmer is completed, add chicken and noodles to soup pot and continue to simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes. Remove herb sachet from pot and season with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, ladle soup into pre-warmed bowls and top with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh chopped oregano.

Soup can be stored in refrigerator for 3-5 days and frozen for up to 3 months.

Note: After refrigeration, the soup may accumulate a layer of fat on the top, remove with a slotted spoon and discard before reheating.

Sidekicks: 

  • There’s probably not a person in the world who would argue that the best accompaniment to chicken noodle soup is a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich – my recommendation is using a couple pieces of sourdough bread, unsalted butter, and a slice each of sharp cheddar and Muenster cheese.
  • Serve with a glass of Chardonnay, and you’ve got yourself a meal to beat any ailment!

Shortcuts:

  • Replace homemade chicken stock with store-bought stock.
  • Instead of using reserved chicken from stock recipe, buy a pre-roasted whole chicken (found in the deli department of most grocery stores), cut meat away from bone and dice. Use 2 cups for soup, then reserve remaining chicken for another use.