Risotto Cakes with Roasted Vegetables in Rose Sauce

I went to lunch last Saturday with Kª (of KK fame, otherwise known as The Lady Downstairs) at The Rooms, St. John’s only museum/archives/art gallery/restaurant.

One of the few vegetarian options on the menu was risotto cakes with roasted vegetables in a rosé sauce, so I ordered it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The Pie and I kind of have a policy where we won’t order it in a restaurant if we can make it ourselves, and I think this is one of those things that I could easily re-create.

I had to think about this for a bit, and do some research.  I haven’t made risotto in years and the last time I did so things ended badly.  Not only did this risotto have to be well-done, but I had to figure out how to bake it into wedges.

I also had to think about the sauce I was going to use.  I could just buy some rosé sauce in a jar from the store, but I figure if I was going to take the time and have the patience to make risotto that turned out right, then I was going to make the effort to create an original sauce to put it in.

Also, I was on a quest for the right kind of roasting vegetables.  The vegetables I had at the restaurant were red, yellow, and green peppers, with eggplant and I believe zucchini.  I was going to do it with red peppers only, onions, zucchini, and butternut squash because I couldn’t find any eggplant anywhere (you make do with what you have, right?).

The nice thing about this recipe, I think, is you can do all three parts separately and ahead of time, and then heat the whole thing up later on.

Toss in a bowl with pepper and salt.
Oiled up like a Turkish oil wrestler.

So let’s start with the vegetables.  Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cut one large onion into eighths and chuck in a large baking pan.  Chop 2 small zucchini into thick discs and add it to the pan, along with a red pepper, cut into long thick strips, and one butternut squash, seeds and stringy bits removed, cut into wedges.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss with olive oil until all the vegetables are coated.  It’s easiest to do the tossing in a bowl, actually.  Cover tightly with foil and bake until golden and aromatically soft, about 30 minutes or so.  I then uncovered them and baked them for a further 30 minutes so they crispened up a tad.  Use your judgment.  Leave the vegetables to cool for a bit while you do other things, but leave the oven on.

Roasty toasty.

While the vegetables are doing their thing you can start on your sauce.

Finely chop about 6 or 7 regular-sized mushrooms.  Sauté them in a large pan with a bit of butter and a bit of olive oil (the oil keeps the butter from burning) until brown and tender.   Add 3 or 4 teaspoons of minced garlic (from a jar, because that’s how I roll) and reduce the heat.

Sautee with butter.
Spice it up.
Add cream and stir carefully.

Add a 28oz can (about 800mL) of crushed tomatoes to the pan.  Add a 5oz (150mL) can of tomato paste and mix evenly over medium heat.  Sprinkle in generous amounts of dried parsley, dried basil, and dried oregano.  Let this simmer for about 15 minutes, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream).  Alternately, you can use plain yogurt or coconut milk.  Stir carefully until fully integrated, then reduce heat to low and leave it like that, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Now we can work on that risotto of ours.  In a medium saucepan, melt some butter with some olive oil (again, to prevent the butter from burning), and chuck in one whole onion, diced.  Sauté that sucker for a little while until translucent.

Saute until translucent

Add in one cup arborio rice (that’s right, it’s not actually called risotto — risotto is what you make out of it), one cup of dry white wine, and a heaping tablespoon of powdered vegetable broth.  Stir at high heat and allow the liquid to evaporate.

Add wine and rice.

Add one cup boiling (or very hot) water to rice and stir occasionally to release the stuff that sticks to the bottom.  After about 3 or 4 minutes, the water will have been absorbed by the rice.  Repeat this step twice more, so the total amount of liquid you will have added will be 3 cups of water and one cup of wine.  It will take about 20 minutes for the risotto to achieve its signature creamy consistency.  While it’s doing that, carefully butter a springform pan and set it aside.

Creamy risotto

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the rice as well as 3 tablespoons grated romano cheese.  Remove from heat and beat in 2 eggs.

Quickly stir in the eggs.
Level the top.
Bake until set and golden.

Pour the risotto mixture into the buttered springform pan and level the top.  Pop the pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the ‘cake’ is firm and golden.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Run a soft spatula around the edges of the ‘cake’ and pop it from the springform pan.  Allow to cool a bit more, then cut into wedges.

Cool and cut into wedges.

While the risotto cake is cooling, go back to your vegetables.  Peel the skin from the roasted squash and roughly cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

Add the vegetables to the rose sauce and heat the whole thing up until it starts to bubble a bit.

Heat up the vegetables and sauce.

Arrange one or two wedges in a bowl and surround with vegetables and sauce.  Sprinkle with more grated romano cheese.  Serves 4-6.

I hope you're hungry.
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Blueberry Muffins with Yogurt and Lemon

The Pie had some classmates over to collaborate on a project, and I never feel like a good host unless I have something to serve for a snack. This recipe makes about 24 muffins, which leaves you with some to eat now and some to freeze for a time when you aren’t at leisure to bake.

These blueberry muffins are a modification on the classic recipe, and they’re super easy and super moist.  They remind me more of a cupcake than a muffin.  The yogurt keeps the batter dense and soft, while the lemon and nutmeg make for a tangier taste.

I mix these by hand because the batter is supposed to be lumpy, and I find an electric mixer tends to overmix.  I also prefer using a large whisk to do all of this, as it keeps flour and liquids from sloshing all over my kitchen.

Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray two 12-muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

Use a whisk to prevent flour clouds from attacking you.

In another, smaller bowl, whisk together 4 large eggs, 2 cups plain yogurt, 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup melted butter, the juice and zest of 2 lemons, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

This gooey mass will be muffins soon.

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened (a whisk will help you to prevent overmixing).

Add 1 to 2 cups frozen blueberries (depending on how berry-full you like your muffins) and mix in.

Add in as many frozen blueberries as you can handle.

Spoon generous amounts into the prepared muffin pans and sprinkle the tops with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar.

Bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the middle muffin comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the pans for a few minutes, then use a fork to gently pry out the muffins and place on a rack to cool completely.  Once cool, the muffins can be stored in plastic freezer bags and frozen for a couple of months.

Eat as soon as possible, or freeze for future snacking.

Classic Apple Crumble

My mother's cookbook.

You know the expression ‘easy as apple pie’?  Well this is easier.

I was born and spent a large part of my single-digit years in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  During that time my mother and our neighbour got together and wrote a cookbook of Maritime recipes: Two Cooks in a Kitchen.  You can even get it on Amazon for about $7.  This recipe is on page 84.

I remember one summer we borrowed another neighbour’s car, a slick BMW, and drove to the Annapolis Valley to go apple picking.  At one point, I was foraging for windfalls in an orchard when I heard a rustling above me, and then my dad fell out of the tree next to me.  Ah, childhood.  We returned with bushels of apples and huge jars full of fresh honey and apple cider.  It was a great day.  Apple crisp, one of my mother’s specialties, always reminds me of that day.

The recipe calls for Gravenstein apples, but anything other than Granny Smith will usually do.  You don’t have to get too fancy with the cutting, and don’t worry if your apples are a little bruised.  I like to leave the skins on my apples, but you can peel them if you want.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  In a bowl combine one cup flour, one teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1/2 cup oats.  I use a pastry cutter to mix them together.  The mixture should be crumbly looking.

Crumble mixture

Butter a 1.5L casserole dish (cooking spray just will NOT do) and sprinkle 1/3 of the crumb mixture on the bottom.

If you use anything other than butter for this someone will smack you.

Slice up 6 or 7 medium apples, and plonk them in the dish.  I press them down a little bit so everything fits.

Don't worry about perfect slices - they all look the same in the end.

Top with the remaining crumb mixture.  Again, I like to pat this down a bit just to keep everything together.

Pat down your crumbs so they don't get everywhere.

Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for a further 30 minutes.  Alternately, you can leave the whole thing uncovered – just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.  It’s done when the top is a nice golden brown.  Serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream.  I *may* (maybe) have eaten this for breakfast more than once (but without the ice cream, I’m not that decadent).

Serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream. My favourite!