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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ratatouille Risotto

Yes, another risotto recipe, I know. But there is a method behind my madness. I'm hoping over the next couple of months to start putting together a risotto cookbook based on my favorite seasonal recipes. Currently, this one will make 6 risotto recipes on my blog - I'd like to have 12 in total. With that said, gear up for a slew of risotto recipes over the next few months. I promise to make them unique, though, so you won't get bored.

This risotto was birthed from my desire to whip up some ratatouille tonight. The farm I get my CSA from - Little Ridge Farm - grew eggplant for the first time this year, much to my excitement. I love eggplant, unexpectedly so. I grabbed four, hoping to put some in the freezer for winter, which is when I'm really craving it, all breaded and cheesy with red sauce....mmmm....eggplant Parmesan. However, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to cook up a nice batch of ratatouille since I have a fridge full of zucchini and summer squash. I started off making my own stock, and the rest fell into place.

Ratatouille Risotto
(serves 4)

For the risotto:
1 1/2 C arborio rice
4-6 C stock
1/2 C white wine
1/2 C reserved zucchini liquid (see instructions below)
1/3 C chopped onion
2 T chopped garlic
1/4 C chopped sundried tomato's
2 C shredded zucchini (salt and let sit for 30 minutes, then squeeze out liquid, reserving)
2 T butter
1 T oil
1/4 C Gruyere cheese
1/8 C nutritional yeast (or Parmesan cheese)
1 T Italian seasoning
salt & pepper

For the ratatouille:
2 C eggplant, salted & sliced (*see note below)
2 C summer squash*
1 C onion*
4 T garlic, sliced
1/2 C tomato, sliced
1/3 C nutritional yeast (or Parmesan cheese)
1 C stock
1 T butter
4 T coconut oil
1 T Italian seasoning
salt & pepper

*Eggplant - cut in half lengthwise and sprinkle flesh with salt and place in a bowl or plate for 30 minutes, then pat dry. To cut eggplant and summer squash - slice in half lengthwise and then slice those halves in half lengthwise again. Slice into 1/2" thick pieces.

*Onion - peel and cut in half lengthwise then slice into large chunks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking dish. Meanwhile, melt 2 T coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat and toss in eggplant. Cook about 7 minutes, stirring often, until it starts to brown a bit. Remove and set aside. In same pan, toss in another tablespoon of coconut oil and add in the summer squash, cook until it starts brown, about 5 minutes, then set aside. In same skillet, add remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and toss in onion and garlic, saute for about 5 minutes and set aside. Now time to construct ratatouille. In greased baking dish put down the eggplant in a solid layer, then the onions and garlic, then the summer squash. Place tomato slices over the top and pour stock over it all, then sprinkle nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper over it all and cover with tinfoil. Bake for 20 minutes covered, then up the temperature to 400 and remove tinfoil for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Once ratatouille is in the oven, it's time to start the risotto. In large skillet melt 1 T butter over medium heat and toss in onions and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, until soft. Add in risotto rice and stir thoroughly, coating with onion mixture. Cook for 2 minutes, then toss in sundried tomatoes and stir thoroughly. Add in wine and reserved zucchini juice and start stirring, constantly throughout the rest of this process. As the liquid is absorbed, add in a large ladle amount, stir and repeat. During this process, in a separate skillet add 1 T oil over medium high heat and add in zucchini. Cook for 10 minutes and add to the risotto with last ladle of liquid. Stir in last tablespoon of butter, Gruyere cheese, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.

To serve - place a large scoop of ratatouille on plate, leaving a hole in the middle and fill with risotto. Sprinkle with a bit of nutritional yeast and any Gruyere cheese you have left over. Serve with a side of hearty peasant bread. Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cheese Stuffed Shells

My roommate (and manny) recently helped me out tremendously with my kids, so as a thank you I decided to make him dinner. I have never made stuffed shells, but on a whim at the grocery store I bought a box last month. They've been sitting in my cupboard staring at me this whole time. Finally tonight I decided to pull them down and try my hand at cramming cheese into jumbo shells. I admit, I usually avoid this type of meal (manicotti as well) because the prospect of oozing dripping cheese and slimy shells seems like a miserable time for me. But I persevered with my plan and started boiling those shells. I cooked the whole box even though the recipe only called for half. I did this for two reasons: 1) what if I broke a ton of shells trying to coordinate the cheesing, and 2) stuffed shells are DAMN good and we'd probably go back for seconds (and thirds). I barely looked at the recipe on the box for the filling before I decided I need to just have it and do my thing. Given my vegetable situation - not a whole lot because I forgot to get last weeks CSA share - I went for a straight cheese filling, with just a few add ins. The result was delicious and filling, and even my 5 year old claimed "This is my favorite meal you ever made. Ever." Success! I made a smaller dish to bring to my boyfriend's house...I'm pretty sure this might win me a back rub!

Cheese Stuffed Shells
(serves 6)

1 box jumbo shells, boiled and drained
1 jar pasta sauce (something excellent REALLY matters here)
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 C cottage cheese
2 C mozzarella cheese
1/2 C nutritional yeast (or Parmesan cheese)
1 C broccoli soup (this can be replaced with water, stock, etc.)
1/4 C fresh basil, minced
1/3 C red onion, chopped
2 T garlic, chopped
1 T butter
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook jumbo shells according to package and drain. While those are cooling, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Mix ricotta, cottage, half the mozzarella and nutritional yeast, basil, onions, garlic, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix pasta sauce and broccoli soup (or other liquid). Take half the sauce mixture and place in bottom of a glass baking dish. Fill shells with cheese mixture and place open side up in baking dish. Cover with remaining sauce and then remaining mozzarella and nutritional yeast (or Parmesan cheese). Bake covered with tin foil for 30 minutes, remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving with salad and a thick chunk of bread to sop up the sauce.