Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is a meal meant to be made with a glass of wine in hand.   I’ve done the research.  White wine is best, after all it’s hot at the stove top, and the first sip should coincide with the first sizzle of vegetables being sautéed in butter.   With ingredients ready, it’s just a matter of adding and stirring, adding and stirring, adding and…you get the point…until dinner is ready.   From there, you need only refill your wine glass before heading to the table for one of the most comforting, yet still sophisticated meals you can make.

Arborio Rice

If you’ve never made risotto before, there are some things you must know.  First, it’s not made with your typical long grain rice, but rather a type of rice called Arborio.  Arborio rice grains are short and fat and they have far more starch than normal rice which is what makes risotto so wonderfully creamy.  Arborio rice, unlike long grain rice, is prepared using a 3:1 ratio of liquid to rice (long grain rice is made using a 2:1 ratio) and unlike long grain rice, the liquid is not added at the beginning, but slowly in ladlefuls.

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Summer Corn Chowder

Summer Corn Chowder Close-up

For all the fuss that goes into preparing for summer, we certainly shut it down quickly.  One minute you are at the beach with hardly a care in the world and then it’s Labor Day and white shoes are out and pumpkin is everywhere.

I always struggle this time of year with cooking.  The past couple of months, I grilled my share of squash and zucchini and I’m dying to turn on the oven and roast, bake, and braise my way into fall. Yet my calendar tells me to slow down; that October is still far away despite the Halloween candy on display.

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Dill Egg Salad on Homemade Rye Bread

Homemade Rye Bread with Dill Egg Salad

I was about thirteen years old when I first made bread.  It was a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread complete with a swirl of cinnamon.  The recipe came from the Joy of Cooking and I simply followed it.  I had no idea what gluten was and certainly had no understanding of the importance of kneading.  The end product was homely and delicious; that I had made bread with my own two hands –  a miracle.

Rye Bread from Side

Perhaps because my first experience met with success and not failure, baking bread has never intimidated me.  This puts me in the minority of cooks.  Even with the most well-written recipes in hand, most cooks balk at the idea of baking bread. It’s too laborious, complicated, or time-consuming to name just some of the excuses I’ve heard throughout the years.  Bread baking, one might surmise, is best left to bakers and only the most experienced cooks.

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Banh Mi Burgers with Sriracha Mayo

Banh Mi Burger with Sriracha Mayo

In the past, despite the fact that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a classroom, back to school has been my favorite time of year.  Armed with new office supplies, it’s my hot weather version of New Year’s.  A time that to me represents a fresh start and the return of a more regular routine.

This year, things have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start.  Last week, I had a “dog ate my homework” moment.   Returning from being out-of-town, I just needed to add the recipe for a post on “Ginger and Jalapeno-marinated Grilled Chicken” before I could publish it.  I’m still dumping out folders and flipping through stacks of paper in hopes of finding my recipe notes.  They remain elusive.

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Rules for Reheating

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For all the time and attention that goes into creating a meal, the leftovers are sadly neglected.  We eat them cold straight from the fridge or nuke them on high to a blistering, rubbery mass.   We don’t plan for them to taste all that great.  But are we selling leftovers short?

Earlier this summer, the staff at Charlotte Today asked me to do a segment on tips for reheating popular foods.   I have some favorite tricks that I like to employ when it comes to giving food a second act, but what I learned when I did a little research to prepare for the segment surprised me.  Leftovers have been given a bad rap and your microwave, and how you use it, might be the problem.

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Baked Brioche French Toast

Breakfast is Served

I hate to throw things away.  Look in my freezer and you’ll find chicken bones for stock, egg whites frozen in ice-cube trays, and bags of leftover cornbread to make stuffing.  My aim to make use of everything is a noble one although I sometimes find myself despairing in the face of so many bits and pieces to use up.  After all, there’s only so many ways one can use a ham bone from Easter brunch or the two tablespoons of raspberry coulis leftover from dessert this spring.

Of all the things that tend to build up in the freezer, it’s bread I tend to hoard the most.   Hamburger buns, half-eaten sandwich loaves, dinner rolls, and even pastries stuff my freezer in hopes of being reincarnated into something else.   Brioche, leftover from an early spring lunch, got a second act last week.

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Pickled Shrimp

Pickled Shrimp

Pickled shrimp are the perfect combination of casual and sophisticated.  To serve, they are pulled straight from the fridge, which is hardly stuffy.  Yet, they also seem to be the type of food that you would expect some smartly dressed South Carolinians to be noshing on in the Battery.   I’m not sure what it is about them, but in truth, when I have these pickled shrimp on hand, I kind of hope someone will unexpectedly stop by so that I can say, “dah-ling, go rest yourself on the front porch while I pull together some refreshments.”  

Pickled Shrimp Ingredients

I’ll then, with the air of someone who does this all the time, walk back to the kitchen where I’ll whip up whiskey-sours and serve them with these shrimp like an unflappable Southern hostess.   Better yet, that kind of hospitality sounds like something I would like to experience myself, so perhaps you should make these shrimp and then let me know that I should be dropping by your home in the near future.  Shoot, I’ll even wear seersucker for the occasion.   

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