Sunday, July 20, 2008

Finally, a savory post

I'm making good on my promise to post about something other than a dessert. Voila, Rice and Spinach Soup, which I found in one of my favorite cookbooks, From Biba's Italian Kitchen. The ingredients are few, fresh and uncomplicated, but the resulting soup is rich and satisfying, without being heavy. I have a feeling I'll be making this soup a lot this winter. The only departure I made from the methods in the original recipe is that I tempered the egg mixture with some of the hot broth, so that the eggs wouldn't curdle when I added them back into the main soup pot. I recommend you go buy this book, because every recipe I've made from it has turned out wonderfully. Without further blather, here is the recipe:

Rice and Spinach Soup
(minestrina di riso e spinaci)

1 lb fresh spinach, stems and bruised leaves discarded
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 quarts chicken broth
3/4 cup rice (arborio preferred)
3 large eggs
salt to taste
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Wash the spinach thoroughly under cold running water. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil over medium heat. Add pinch of salt and the spinach and cook, uncovered, until tender, 5-6 minutes. Stir a few times during cooking. Drain the spinach and squeeze out any excess water. Chop the spinach with a large knife or in a food processor pulsing the machine on and off. Do not puree the spinach.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the spinach and mix quickly. Place spinach in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the rice and cook until tender but firm to the bite, about 15 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Season with salt and nutmeg, and add the cheese, blending thoroughly. Stir the egg mixture into the spinach. To temper the eggs, slowly add 2-3 ladles full of hot broth to the egg-spinach mixture, pouring in a thin stream and whisking quickly. Add the tempered egg-spinach mixture to the soup pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring. Taste and adjust seasoning, and serve hot.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

More bakery blather

I've made my second batch of chocolate chip cookies using roasted pistachios instead of walnuts. This may seem like a small thing. It's not. These cookies kick major ass. Another chocolate chip cookie variation: use milk chocolate chips and chopped crystalized ginger. You can add nuts to this, too (pistachios work, as well as pecans--toasting makes all the difference). 

A tip from my random kitchen experimenting: when you use vanilla beans in your cooking, don't discard the pods after you've scraped out the seeds. Instead, cut the pods into 1- or 1.5-inch pieces and drop them into a small, covered jar that holds about a cup of vodka. Keep the jar in the pantry where you'd normally keep your vanilla. Shake it gently every other day or so, and in 2 months or so you'll have a nice jar of homemade vanilla extract. As you use your vanilla, just keep dropping in more scraped pods and adding dashes of vodka. If you want, you can just split a pod, chop it without scraping the seeds, and add that as well. That'll power-pack your extract. You'll never need to buy vanilla extract again. If you want to give it for a gift, just strain it through a super-fine sieve or some cheesecloth into a small, decorative jar.