Monday, August 24, 2015

Nameless Hawthorne's Birthday Dinner.

 August is the Birthday Month for the Hawthornes.
Three out of five Hawthornes have birthdays this month.
 The Birthday Person always gets to pick
what Birthday Meal he or she wants.

I didn't have to ask.
I know.
It's his favorite.

 Spinach and sun-dried tomato risotto,
with a Parmesan crisp, topped with seared scallops,
pesto, and caramelized onions.

First, I had to make some pesto.
I went out to the garden and picked a bunch of basil.
When I make pesto, I make A LOT!
I freeze it in ice cube trays and small freezer bags,
so I can have pesto throughout winter.
I prefer using pecans instead of pine nuts.
I prefer pecan flavor.
And I use Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil.
I don't want an olive oil that overpowers.

Rosie's Pesto
4 quarts lightly packed basil leaves
10 garlic cloves
6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, grated
5-6 cups pecans
4 cups Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil
kosher salt to taste
Process everything.
Spoon into ice trays and/or freezer bags for individual servings.

You can divide this to make smaller quantities.
Taste test as you go along.

Now for the Parmesan crisps...
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
I use about 2 TB grated Parmesan for each round.
Press rounds to flatten.
Use a flat bottom of a glass.
Bake at 425°, turning pan once,
 until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes.

Let cool.

These Parmesan crisps make terrific snacks.

For the caramelized onions,
I sautéed sliced onions in a little unsalted butter and olive oil.
Medium high heat.
I like to sprinkle a little sugar over the onions
to aid in caramelization.

When onions are browned, throw in a splash of white wine.
Let it cook away, then cover and remove from heat.

On to the risotto.
Risotto is more a technique than a dish.
Once you understand the process -
toasting the rice, adding in warm broth a ladle at a time -
you can vary the dish with other combinations of flavors and textures -
mushrooms and sausage,
asparagus, lemon, and Parmesan,
peas and mint,
tomatoes and basil,
you name it!

2 TB unsalted butter
1 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
32 ounces chicken broth, heated
1/2 bag fresh spinach (4 ounces), chopped
handful of sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup cream
kosher salt, to taste
extra unsalted butter

Place the tomatoes in a small bowl,
pour in boiling water, cover, and set aside.
When ready to add to risotto, drain and chop.

 Heat skillet over medium heat.
Add oil and butter.
When butter melts, stir in onions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add rice, stirring to coat, and cook for about 2 minutes, 
or until the rice takes on a pale, gold color.
Stir in a ladle (1/4 cup) of warm broth
and stir until broth is absorbed.
Continue adding a ladle at a time,
stirring until absorbed.
Don't rush this part.
The gradual addition of the warm liquid
is the key to getting the rice to release its starch,
thus creating its own velvety sauce.
You want just enough liquid to cook the rice.
This will take maybe 20-25 minutes.
Start taste-testing about 15 minutes in.
You want the rice al dente and the dish almost porridge-like.
When you run a spatula through the risotto,
it should slowly flow back to fill in the space.

Add in the spinach and tomatoes.
When spinach is wilted,
pour in the cream and stir in the butter for enrichment.

Risotto should be served immediately.
If left standing, the starches will set
and you lose the creamy silkiness.

To prepare scallops,
first remove the little side muscle where it attaches to the shell,
rinse with cold water, and thoroughly pat dry.

In a hot iron skillet, melt 2 TB butter and 1 TB oil.
Place scallops in at 350°.
Do not crowd the pan and don't let the scallops touch.
Sear about 90 seconds each side.

To plate, pour a base of risotto.
Add a Parmesan crisp and scallops.
Top with caramelized onions and pesto.

A most excellent meal.
Birthday Boy-approved!

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