Risotto: The New Mac & Cheese!

Okay, so don’t start writing in and defending mac & cheese.  It’s delicious and oooey & gooey and, quite frankly, sometimes that & a bottle of wine are THE best way to spend a Friday night (oh c’mon, we’ve all been there)!

BUT…

When you want something a bit more, uhhh grown-up, then my dear friends, expand your horizons to risotto.  It’s so easy that it has quickly become my go-to in comfort food (and that’s saying something!).  The key is to keep stirring and add the liquid in slowly, allowing for the rice to cook into a creaminess most assume is just a lot of cheese.

I owe a HUGE thank you to Giada De Laurentiis, whose book Everyday Italian, showed me step by step how to make what is now considered my signature dish.

[on a side note: it’s a great book for Italian cooking.  There are a lot of great recipes, but the Parmesan risotto and Bechamel sauce recipes are completely worth buying the book for!!!]

As a testament to my love of risotto, I actually purchased another cookbook simply because it had 36–THAT’S RIGHT, 36!!!–risotto recipes.  Of course, the possibilities are endless: start with arborio rice and experiment to your heart’s delight!  The other night I was in the mood for risotto and usually I just make a simple risotto and serve it with roasted veggies, but I had some button mushrooms and fresh corn on the cob that needed to be used, so I added them in and O-M-G! It was delicious goodiness.  So much so that I’ve actually been eating the leftovers all week (and honestly, I’m not usually a big fan of leftover risotto). I think what I loved the most is that the mushrooms give it a savory richness and the corn a slight sweet finish that makes me sad when I get to the end of my bowl!

fresh corn & mushrooms make it pop!

fresh corn & mushrooms make it pop!

Mushroom & Corn Risotto

  • 6 cups of veggie or chicken stock
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of diced mushrooms
  • 3 ears of corn worth of kernels that you’ve carefully cut off

Warm the stock in a saucepan.   In a large skillet (I use my wok!), saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add the rice and saute the rice for a couple of minutes until it starts to brown (the longer you let it brown, the nuttier your risotto will taste!).  Add the wine and start stirring! Season with salt & pepper.  Once the wine has been reduced, add a cup of warm stock (I use a soup ladle) and stir, allowing stock to absorb.  Once the stock is absorbed, add another cup, stir, and allow stock to absorb.  Continue on until you have about 2 cups of stock left.  Add mushrooms and corn to remaining stock.  Then continue adding stock mixture to rice, stirring, and allowing stock to reduce.  Once all the stock mixture is added, sprinkle cheese on top and add butter, stirring thoroughly.  Take a quick taste and adjust salt & pepper if needed.

mmm...cheesy!

mmm…cheesy!

buon appetito, ya’ll!

Light Lunch…Or Dinner…or Whenever

This recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  She created them as an appetizer.  I love, LOVE, LOOOOOVE avocados so much, I just use a bigger piece of toast and a bit–okay a LOT–more avocado and voila!  Lunch….or dinner…or 2nd breakfast!

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Tomato-Avocado Toasts

  • 1 avocado, peel & mashed and seasoned with sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 4 pearl tomatoes (or a handful of grape or cherry tomatoes), diced
  • 4-6 pieces of artisan bread toast (Martha, of course, brushes them with olive oil and puts them in the oven to toast…I’m too impatient and put them in the toaster!)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro (I’m quite sure Martha doesn’t use this much.  I’m quite sure I used more–so use as per your taste!)

Spread avocado mash evenly among the pieces of toast.  Same for the tomatoes and then cilantro.  Top with a bit more pepper, if desired, and serve with cucumber slices (I use Persian because they’re my favorite!)

Bon Appetit, ya’ll! 

BBQ–The Stuff Legends Are Made Of!

Call me biased (but I’m not wrong!), Texas has THE best BBQ on the planet.  Sure, you can go to other places that like to brag about their BBQ-making abilities and you can find really good BBQ, but it’s just not the same.

I could probably fill an entire blog with every place in the great state of Texas to get BBQ that will make your eyes roll back in your head, but my favorite place is Coopers BBQ in Mason or Llano, Texas (go to Austin & head west or go to San Antonio & head north–I don’t think either town has more than 5,000 people–and that’s being very generous!).

When I pull up with newbies, their first comment is “This is it?” because it doesn’t look like anything special.

Why?  Because the specialness is in the BBQ.

Don’t wear white.  And don’t panic–there are no plates.

And yes, you really DO pick you out your meat on the grill before you go inside.  Try a little bit of everything (this is why it’s good to go with people–you can each get something different and share!).  Just don’t get too overzealous (it’s hard not to!) because you pay by the pound and it’s easy to rack up quite a bill!  Don’t know what to try?  Ask the guy manning the grill wearing boots, Wranglers, and a BBQ sauce stained tshirt who’s name is probably Bubba.  Don’t make fun of him because he’s probably related to me and I’ll have to kick your ass.

After you pick out your meat, you’ll go inside to get your sides.  There are a plethora to choose from, but I always get the potato salad–it’s a nice cool compliment to the BBQ.  And beans.  Don’t ask for them–they’ve been simmering in a big pot since about 5am.  Grab a bowl and fill’er up.

Then go sit at a picnic table, unwrap your BBQ, and introduce yourself to your neighbors at the table.  Everyone shares.  Everyone laughs.  Everyone has a great time.  It’s a good mix of locals and tourists, both of whom have been stopping in for decades.  Everyone leaves happy…and with a little BBQ sauce on their chins.

Go to Texas.  Eat BBQ.  Fall in Love.  Send me a thank you email.

Olive You.

 

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Olives.  One of the healthiest foods on the planet–their oil is touted as a miracle worker.

I have never been a big fan.

Ever.

Except maaaaybe when they were marinating in gin or vodka.  And then only occasionally.

Then it happened.

A trip to Turkey and Greece, where every meal–including breakfast!–included olives.  Of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  And by colors, I don’t mean red, purple, and teal, but black and varying shades of green from a very light, almost in the yellow family to a very dark, well, olive color.

For 18 days, I would force myself to eat a handful of olives at each meal–even breakfast!  What I discovered is that the olives we were served tasted so much better–milder, but more flavorful.  I know that seems like an oxymoron and perhaps it is, but the pungent-ness experienced with my former associations with olives was no longer present.  Miraculously, after a few days, the forcing became less and less and the olive eating and enjoying became more and more.  I still do not like black olives, and honestly, probably never will.  But I have become a fan of green olives, especially the smaller Spanish variety.  I now seek them out in grocery stores–especially places like Whole Foods, where there is an olive bar.

They also serve as a reminder that “when in Rome…” because you just never know.

Of course learning to develop an appreciate for olives doesn’t have to include a trip to the Mediterranean–while fabulous, it’s not always practical. Many grocery stores (even the one in my very small hometown) are starting to carry olive bars–try a few types this week, then a few more next week.  You’ll soon find that you’re truly an olive aficionado with not much effort.

Weekend Getaway?

The Unpredictability of Love…

One of the most important epicurean things you can know about me is that I have a love affair with oysters.

Raw.  Oysters.

Keep your “eeeeuuuwww-ing” and “gross-ing” to a minimum and where I can’t hear you.  I love them.  And true love lasts a life time.

Of course, growing up smack dab in the middle of Texas there weren’t many opportunities to eat raw oysters.  So my love of oysters really blossomed when I moved to Australia, where 85% of the population live within 50 miles of a coast and fresh seafood is always on the menu.

Several hours drive south of Sydney is a small coastal town named Narooma.  Narooma offers many wonderful things for visitors and is a favored vacation spot for many Australians.  Whale watching is the most popular, but, in my humble opinion, the best is their boat tours of the inlet.  On the tour, we saw a variety of wild and plant life and even stopped for billy tea (an Australian bush tea).  But my favorite part of the tour is when we came across a bed of oysters and the captain began harvesting and shucking them for us–right out of the water!

Okay, so realistically, I know this is what happens, but this landlocked Texan had never seen such a thing!  I was hesitant, but my sense of adventure and excitement to try something so new quickly overcame any kind of “are we sure this is safe?” qualms I might have had.  I was justly rewarded.  The taste of the oyster was silky and creamy and the saltiness of the water created a nice compliment. IT. WAS. AWESOME!!!!!

And, as such, my like for oysters instantaneously turned to LOVE.  and thus it started.  and just you wait–oysters have their own tag, so trust me–there will be lots of posts about them!

Meanwhile, I owe a lifelong enjoyment of this delicacy to my Captain and crew in Narooma!

Introductions Are In Order

G’day ya’ll.

You’re probably wondering why I’m here.  I love to travel.  And write.  And when I think about it, my best experiences while traveling usually revolve around two things: funny mishaps and eating & drinking.  Because, well, I am a die-hard foodie who, along with food, loves coffee, wine, and beer.  Plus, I tend to collect funny travel stories like most collect books or stamps or junk mail. If I am forced to pick my favorite type of food, it would probably be Italian and TexMex, followed very closely by…well…anything.  If it’s good, it’s my favorite.  I feel the same about wine, coffee, and beer.  I have worked with all three, which only served to increase my passion, my knowledge, and my need to have it.

You should also know (if you haven’t guessed by my address) I am a Texan.  If you are or know any, you’ll know that you don’t actually have to remember that fact because we will–at any and every given moment–remind you.  🙂  I grew up in a small town, Fredericksburg, smack dab in the middle of the state.  I started traveling when I was 18, got bit by the traveling bug and have no intentions of stopping. Ever. Thus far, I have lived in three countries on three continents and counting.

Most importantly, I have a dog: The Darling Princess Adelaide, aka Addy, or as she is commonly known on the interwebs, the pupcicle. Quite honestly, she is the reason I come home.  I mean, c’mon–look at that face!

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I live by the following mottos:

  • I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
  • Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible”
  • I’ll try anything once because in the end we only regret the chances not taken.
  • Don’t take life too seriously, you’re not getting out alive.

I’m Shez…and these are my stories.

Enjoy!