Rock Shrimp, Tomato, and Leek Risotto with Basil and Meyer Lemon

December 13th, 2010 by admin


This is a sort of mating of my favorite Shrimp Scampi recipe with a recipe for a Mushroom Risotto that I really like (sans mushrooms though).  It should be almost soupy.

3 leeks, divided
1 cup cream
1 large tomato (or 5-6 roma tomatoes) cut into small 1/4 inch dice
10 large basil leaves cut into chiffonade, divided
1 cup arborio rice
3 tbsp butter, divided
1 cup white wine, divided
2 large cloves garlic
3-4 cups shrimp or chicken stock
1 lb fresh rock shrimp
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 Meyer lemon
Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and pepper

Carefully wash the leeks, then trim the root end and the tops just where they start to turn light green.  Halve them longways, then check for mud and dirt again and rinse if necessary.  Slice into thin half-moons, keeping the slices from one of the leeks separate from the other two.

Put the slices from two of the leeks into a small saucepan, cover with the cream, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer gently for about 10 minutes.  Add tomato and continue to simmer.

Meanwhile, start the risotto.  In a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized stock pot, melt 1 tbsp butter.  Add leeks, and sauté over medium heat for a few minutes until softened and beginning to brown slightly.

Add rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes until coated with butter-leek mixture and beginning to toast.  Add 2/3 cup wine and stir until wine is mostly absorbed. Add about 1/2 cup chicken or shrimp stock at a time, stirring frequently, waiting to add more stock until there’s just a little bit of liquid left.  Continue to add stock until the rice is cooked through and just barely firm in the center.  Grate a bit of the Meyer lemon rind (from about 1/4 of the lemon) into the risotto, and season to taste.

Add 1/2 basil and peas to cream mixture and stir.  Check seasoning, then pour into risotto and gently fold to combine with the rice.

Heat a large non-reactive skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tbsp butter and melt, then add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until cooked through — about 2 minutes.  Add shrimp to risotto, then return skillet to heat, melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter, then add the garlic cloves, pressing them through a garlic press.  Sauté for just a few seconds, then pour in 1/3 cup wine to deglaze, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Pour liquid into risotto, then squeeze 1/2 Meyer lemon on top and fold gently to combine.

Serve in shallow bowls, garnishing with a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano and some of the basil chiffonade.  Serve with the same wine you used to add to the risotto.

Kung Pao Chicken

May 30th, 2010 by bettyrocker


Some things are so tasty that people you know demand that you make them over and over again. This is one of them. Both a Chinese-American standby and a classic Sichuanese dish, the Americanized version tends toward the gloppy, sugary and watery, while the real deal is an architecture of flavor constructed around spicy chilis, numbing but floral Sichuan peppercorns, nutty fried peanuts, and tangy marinated chicken flavored with garlic and scallion. My version is close to the real deal but a bit non-traditional, with celery, chilis de arbol, and cilantro. Have with beers — especially if you use the Sichuan peppercorns, steer clear of wine. When half your tongue is numb, wine just tastes really wierd, and for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to happen with beer. This is not a complicated recipe but it does require some fussy sautéing at the last minute, so I recommend you mise-en-place just so you’re not chopping one thing while burning another. All of the more unusual ingredients are easily obtainable in a good Asian market, except for the Chilis de Arbol, which can be purchased here.

Kung Pao Chicken


2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp shaoxing cooking wine
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp toasted sesame oil


2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
2 tbsp brown sugar

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in to 1 cm cubes
2 tbsp canola oil
15-20 whole dried chilis de arbol, chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 tsp-1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns (start with fewer to see if you like them)
5 large stalks of celery, cut lengthwise in thirds, then into 1 cm pieces
4 cloves of garlic, chopped medium
4 scallions, green and roots removed, cut by slicing once diagonally, then rotating 120 degrees, then slicing, then repeat (the idea is to get thin angled slivers)
Deep fried salted peanuts (some Asian markets like New Kam Man on Canal St. have these housemade) or dry roasted salted peanuts
1 large handful cilantro, washed, dried, and chopped fine

Make the marinade in a medium bowl (I usually make the sauce at the same time in a separate container). Add the diced chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

If you haven’t already, make sauce by combining soy, shaoxing, and brown sugar. Stir well. Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed skillet. When oil shimmers, add chilis and Sichuan peppercorns and agitate the pan for a few seconds until the oil colors and smells fragrant. Add celery and sauté until barely cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Remove celery and spices from pan and reserve. Try to leave as much oil behind in the pan as possible. Add chicken to pan and sauté until browned and cooked through. Add celery back to pan. Give the sauce another stir and pour over the chicken and celery. Add garlic. Cook for another minute until some of the moisture cooks off and the sauce gets a glossy look and coats the chicken. Turn heat off and add scallions and peanuts. Add salt to taste if necessary, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with plain rice. Serves about 4.

First Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

August 11th, 2009 by bettyrocker

When my son turned one year old last week, I wanted to make a delicious-but-somewhat-healthy treat for him and our guests, both little and big.  Nothing too grown-up and chocolate-y, but nothing plain and boring either!  This carrot cake fits the bill perfectly, it’s moist and rich-tasting, but it has 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables.  Fiber city!    I wanted to make a bumble bee-themed cake, because every day I take him to a garden near our house to see the butterflies, flowers, and “bizzzy bizzy bees,” so I tinted the frosting yellow and piped little blue dotted bee trails all over it.  My lovely and talented friend Sarah, author of “Organic and Chic: Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets That Taste as Good as They Look,” made me the sweetest little bumble bees out of gumpaste, with parchment paper wings. 


This recipe will make either 24 cupcakes (see Cherry Orange Carrot Cupcakes, an earlier variation) or 3 9-inchx1-inch cake layers. If you make the cupcakes, you will only need 1/2 recipe of frosting.

Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup apple sauce
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease 3 9″ cake pans. Cut a circle of waxed paper to line the bottom of each one, then lightly grease the paper. Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and apple sauce in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift dry ingredients into the wet and stir to combine. Stir in carrots, pecans, and raisins. Divide batter between 3 cake pans. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean and the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes I add lemon or orange zest or chopped candied ginger for a more interesting flavor, but for a first birthday I thought the classic combination was just fine.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
4-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 tsp vanilla extract

With the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, combine butter and cream cheese. Gradually add powdered sugar to taste — I like it less sweet, but sugar makes the frosting easier to work with, so use your best judgment. Add vanilla and combine thoroughly. Color frosting as you like. If you want to make more than one color, don’t forget to reserve frosting for your second color before you start tinting.

To assemble the cake, choose the plate or cake stand you will be serving the cake on. Place three small pieces of waxed paper overlaping around the edges like a camp fire, so that when you put the first cake layer down, there is a layer of waxed paper between the bottom of the cake and the plate or stand going all the way around. This will protect the plate from frosting messes.

Carefully place the bottom layer down in the middle of the cake plate or stand over the waxed paper. Frost the top of the layer, then place the second layer down. Repeat with the third layer. Frost the sides first, then frost the top generously, gently spreading excess frosting down the sides to blend with the frosting there. Decorate as desired — if you need inspiration, Sarah’s book is full of great ideas.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Shortbread Tart

June 14th, 2009 by bettyrocker


tart1Sometime during the ’80s, my mother made a lot of fruit tarts like this — I seem to remember they always had kiwi slices on them.  Her versions were also glazed with melted currant or apple jelly, so they were a little more polished than this version, which is nice too, or you can stick with the naked fruit, as I have.  The taste combination of nutty crust, creamy filling, and fresh fruit is perfectly delicious and summery, and it’s easy enough to make without dragging out the food processor or the KitchenAid (welcome to my new TV show: “Cooking Very Quietly While the Baby Sleeps.”)  You can make this with a combination of fruit, whatever is fresh, but it is especially delicious with sweet, slightly soft spring strawberries.  I also like it with blueberries or peaches.  Last night I tried it with Clotilde Dusoulier’s pâte à sablé tart recipe from the Chocolate and Zucchini Cookbook, which she advises that you may mix with your fingers, forever winning my heart.  I cooked it about 5 minutes longer than she calls for, so it would brown really well and have a nice toasty flavor.  Despite the unorthodox method, the crust is really delicious, nutty, crunchy, sweet, and sturdy — it might be my new favorite.  I can’t wait to try it with something chocolate-y and salty. 


1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

7 tbsp cold butter, cut into small cubes

1-2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the butter and work together with a fork or the tips of your fingers until there are no butter blobs larger than peas.  Sprinkle with 1 tbsp milk and stir.  It will still look like a big bowl of crumbs but it should clump together well if you squeeze it in your hand — if not, add the 2nd tbsp of milk. 

Pour into a 10 inch tart pan, spread evenly over the bottom, and press down and into the sides of the pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until it’s slightly browned and smells nutty and toasty.   Allow to cool completely.


1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 – 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (sweeten to taste)

1 tbsp honey (optional)

zest and juice of 1 lemon

Beat the cream cheese well with a wooden spoon (or mix with the paddle attachment in the KitchenAid).  Add remaining ingredients and combine.  For variations, try orange zest and juice instead, or try adding 1/2 tsp vanilla.


1-2 pints fresh strawberries or other perfectly ripe summer berries or stone fruit

To assemble the tart, spread the cream cheese filling evenly in the tart shell.  Arrange berries or fruit on top. 

Serves 6-8.

Raspberry Buttermilk Whole Wheat Scones

May 16th, 2009 by bettyrocker


I am not a scone person — they are usually dry, solid, and crumbly, with so much baking powder that they squeak in your teeth!  These are different.  Based on a recipe from one of my favorite bakeries in the whole world, the Beach Pea Bakery in Kittery, Maine, they are light, moist, buttery, and just barely sweet. 

3 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

5/8 cup sugar

1 1/4 tbsp baking powder

2 1/2 tsp salt

6 1/2 tbsp cold butter

1 cup raspberries

zest of 1/2 lemon

2 cups low fat buttermilk

Additional sugar or turbinado or demerara sugar for dusting.

Combine dry ingredients in a stand mixer.  Mix at the lowest speed until combined.

Cut butter into small cubes (I quarter the stick, then chop into 1/4 inch slices.)  Add butter to mixer at low speed, and mix for 3-4 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer, and add lemon zest and raspberries. Then add buttermilk and stir until just combined — do not overmix.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Grease 2 cookie sheets with paper left over from butter.  Spoon 1/2 cup mounds onto cookie sheets, evenly spaced at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar.

Bake about 20 minutes, until nicely browned and springy to the touch (don’t push too hard!)

Makes 16 medium sized scones.

Salmon with Lentils and Mustard Herb Butter for Babies, Moms and Dads

April 24th, 2009 by bettyrocker


I’m on the hunt for recipes that work for both my husband and I and for our almost 9-month-old baby boy. We’re in danger of (or more accurately, firmly entrenched in) an oatmeal and sweet potato rut. Recently he’s gotten very interested in picking up tiny pieces of food and aiming them torward his mouth (he ate a whole pile of steamed zucchini the other day!) Yesterday, another mom at playgroup mentioned that her daughter loves lentils, which sounded like a perfect finger food, so I decided to look for something made with lentils that was simple and not spicy that would also appeal to grownup palates. I found this Gourmet recipe which fits the bill perfectly, with a few minor tweaks. I prepared and served it in two stages: first the lentils and the compound butter, made without salt, with the leeks finely chopped, and with the addition of some carrot for the little man, which he ate up happily, then adding salt, a splash of wine, and preparing the fish for me and dad. Dad is a little iffy on salmon, and he even liked it! I haven’t fed the baby fish yet, but he’ll have a few flakes of the leftover salmon with his lunch today.

Saumon Aux Lentils
Adapted from Shelly Wiseman, Gourmet March 2008

For mustard-herb butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For lentils
1 cup French green lentils
4 cups water
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tbsp white wine
1/2 to 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For salmon
4 (6-ounce) pieces skinless salmon fillet
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Make mustard-herb butter:
Stir together all ingredients. When you’re ready to cook the salmon, add 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper.

Cook lentils:
Bring lentils, and water to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid, then drain lentils.

While lentils cook, halve leeks, wash thoroughly to remove any sand, then chop fine. Finely dice carrots. Cook leeks and carrots in butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add lentils with reserved cooking liquid to leeks along with 3 tablespoons mustard-herb butter and cook, stirring, until lentils are heated through and butter is melted. Remove from heat. At this point, baby’s dinner is ready! I served him about 3 tbsp of lentils along with 3 defrosted mashed sweet potato cubes and 1 tbsp of yogurt.

When the baby is asleep, gently reheat the lentils and add lemon juice, wine and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered.

Sauté salmon:
Pat salmon dry and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (total).

Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté salmon, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Serve salmon, topped with remaining mustard-herb butter, over lentils.


April 21st, 2009 by bettyrocker


This morning I got a wild craving for char siu bao, which are Chinese buns filled with barbecued roast pork and either steamed or baked. The baby and I headed into Chinatown, (where all the bakery ladies were very nice and made him smile), and we bought everything we could possibly want, including a scallion roll (no idea what’s in there), two baked char siu bao and one steamed, plus steamed Chinese sausage and combination bao. We’ll have them for dinner with some bok choi sauteed with ginger, and maybe some bad beers or vinho verde. I can’t wait!

Lemon Tarragon Potato Salad

April 20th, 2009 by bettyrocker

lemonypotatosalad1Every spring, there comes a moment, usually near or on the first really warm day, when my potato cravings reorient themselves.  During the colder days, almost dessert-like concoctions of roasted and then mashed sweet potatoes flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, and butter are like cozy turtleneck sweaters you can burrow into.  More elegant preparations of thinly sliced russets layered with cream and Gruyere are the cashmere  cardigans that dress up a simple roast, and creamy purees of Yukon Golds blended with parsnip or celery root are the… hm — silk long underwear? — that make savory braises and stews that much more comforting. 

But just as we’re relieved to put aside our warmer layers and wiggle our toes in the grass, I’m always excited when the thought of waxy, creamy potatoes bathed in a light, tangy, herbal dressing pops suddenly into my head.  

I make many variations of this — it’s good with peeled or unpeeled potatoes, chives, shallot or red onion in place of the scallion, chervil, dill, parsley or basil instead of tarragon, and additions of chopped hard boiled eggs, blanched peas or asparagus or little slices of cornichon.  You can even add mayonnaise or sour cream or a mixture of the two if you want your potato salad to be creamy.  There are two critical things to get right though — one is making sure the potatoes are cooked to precisely the right texture, and the other is adding a  note of acidity to balance out the starch and sweetness of the potatoes.   Here, I’m using mild rice vinegar and lemon juice, along with some grated lemon zest for extra sunshine.

Potatoes can vary widely in size, shape, and texture, and as a result cooking times can be all over the map.  The size and shape variables can be mitigated by either carefully sorting through the bin and choosing potatoes that are as close in size and shape as possible, or by cutting the potatoes in halves, quarters, eighths, etc depending on their size so that all the pieces are approximately the same size, or into slices of the same width.  I don’t like to leave the potatoes whole, however, because I find that the exterior will usually be waterlogged by the time the inside is cooked through, and because the cut surfaces seem to absorb the flavors of the dressing more effectively.   The next step in achieving potato perfection is to carefully babysit your potatoes as they cook, judiciously poking and tasting, and draining them the second the crunch disappears.  At this point, a fork will encounter a small amount of resistance, and the potatoes should hold their shape well. 

This is good with roast chicken, fish, scallop chips, or anything grilled.

2 lbs buttercream, fingerling, or other waxy potatoes cut into either 1/4 inch slices or 3/4 inch-ish chunks
2 scallions, finely chopped
3 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
2 tbsp rice vinegar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt plus salt for cooking water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Put potates in a medium pot and add cold water to cover plus 1 1/2 inches.   Add a hefty pinch of salt to the water.  Bring to a boil, and continue to boil “rather hard” as Julia says, until one of the largest pieces of potato breaks apart with a fork and loses its crunch when you bite into the center.  Immediately drain and transfer to a bowl.  Sprinkle with rice vinegar and 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.  Add scallions, tarragon, lemon juice and zest and stir to combine.  Drizzle with olive oil and stir again.  Best served slightly warm or at room temperature.

Scallop “Chips”

April 18th, 2009 by bettyrocker


This addictive recipe comes from the Stonewall Kitchen Favorites cookbook.   The authors suggest them as an appetizer but they are great as a main course with lemony potato salad, cold blanched green beans, or as shown with a light salad of pea shoots, goat cheese, and pine nuts and a glass of chilled Torrontes. This is one of those things that you will be compelled to make again and again by peer pressure.

The inspiration for these crisp, savory “chips” came from an episode of the wildly entertaining show Iron Chef America on the TV Food Network. The “secret” ingredient was scallops, and Iron Chef Morimoto thinly sliced them and served them with a dipping sauce. That idea led us to remember how much we love an old New England favorite — deep fried scallops. These scallop chips are a combination of East meets West — very thinly sliced sea scallops are coated in panko breadcrumbs and fried so that they are crisp on the outside and tender inside –and they cook in about 2 minutes! We like making them in a wok because the oil sits at the bottom and none of it splatters.

Serve the scallops as an appetizer with Cocktail Sauce, Garlic Aioli, Asian Dipping Sauce, or lemon and lime wedges.

1 pound sea scallops, tabs removed
About 2 cups safflower or vegetable oil
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
About 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs, or fresh breadcrumbs
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Place the scallops in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes to make them much easier to slice.

In a wok or a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat about 20 seconds. Add the ginger to the oil and let it heat up for about 2 minutes. The oil is hot enough when you drop a tiny bit of panko into it and it sizzles immediately.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the scallops horizontally. You should get 3 to 4 slices from each large scallop. Place the panko in a bowl and lightly coat each slice of scallop with panko on all sides. Place on a plate.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Remove the ginger from the oil with a slotted spoon. Cook the scallops in batches in the hot oil. Add enough scallops to fit in a single layer in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds; gently flip them over and cook for another 30 seconds. Drain on paper towels. (If you’re making a double batch and need to keep the scallops warm, place them on an ovenproof plate and place in the oven while you fry the remaining batches; otherwise. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8 [very polite people or 2 lucky bastards. -Ed.]

Bread Porn

April 17th, 2009 by bettyrocker


Apparently, I completely missed the boat on the whole  no-knead bread thing starting back in 2006, in which Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery discovers the holy grail of making boulangerie-quality bread in a home oven and Mark Bittman tells the world about it. In between planning a wedding, buying an apartment, and having our first baby, things were a little zany, but I did have to sulk for a week or so after discovering how clueless I was about this fabulous foodie craze happening right under my very nose.  Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to throw some bread, salt, and yeast in bowl and risk blowing the handle off my Le Creuset dutch oven, which I am now doing on a more-or-less weekly basis.  I’m still tweaking flour (so far 2 1/2 cups King Arthur bread flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat, dusting agent (what to dust the bread with before it goes into the oven) and cooking time, but I’ve been producing some beautiful and delicious loaves of bread.  I can also report that this bread makes the most brain-meltingly terrific grilled cheese sandwiches with some good cheddar and a nice gentle fry in a pan with some butter. I’m looking forward to Jim Lahey’s new book, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method with giddy anticipation.