Cheesy Artichoke Rice

I hate the way when you look up “cheesy rice” and you get “minute rice” and non-cheese cheese slices. Ugh. That is just not right. And that is also not cheese either.  Who does this?  I ran out of orzo and thought to make a rice recipe that would work for my lunches at work. I prefer home-made lunch to restaurants, with some exceptions.  You know, things I just don’t make (Indian food) and that I know other people do a much better job than me. But pasta dishes, rice dishes, when lots of cheese or mushrooms are involved – I think I got this. No, I know I do. D&D_2081

So my thoughts on this are:

I need lunch for tomorrow.
I have no vegetable or chicken stock (unreal!) and I’m not going to the grocery store at 8:30pm. Nope.
I have lots of rice.
I have quite the variety of cheeses.
I have scallions that are mostly okay.~
Always have onions and garlic.
Lemon zest

With all that in mind, I’m going to figure out what to make tonight and here is what I did.
2 cups H2O
1 cup long grain rice
lots of salt

Cook like you always make rice – if you need a tutorial this is how it goes: Thank you The Kitchn.

Once you remove it from the heat, add 3 Tbs of unsalted butter while it steams on the back burner — important: lid on, heat off.

Unsalted butter
Olive oil
Small yellow onion, diced
3 good sized cloves of garlic, minced
artichoke hearts, drained & quartered (not marinated)
~ the scallions were past there “best buy” date at this point – too bad. But the onions and garlic made up for it.

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs unsalted butter and one small yellow onion diced and a good pinch of kosher salt. Saute on low-ish heat until soft. Then add three cloves (less or more as you prefer) minced and let them sit on the top of the onions  – you don’t want them to burn. Stir them in a bit and then remove from heat.

Now, here is where things get interesting – I opened a can of artichoke hearts and quartered them and added them to the onion mixture with a little glug of olive oil and let everything simmer until it was a cohesive mix of veg that was soft – that seems to be key.

D&D_iPhone_image1As mentioned – I have cheese options – so I pulled out all the cheese that had already been opened. Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego  – so the decision is which one or which combination to use. I used some Manchego because it is melty but it grates like a cheddar, but just a little softer and the Dog (Hood) really likes it. And then the Pecorino – for that salty flavor – a great sheep’s milk hard cheese. Not too different, really from Parmigiano, but not the same either. Manchego is another sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. So I guess this is the Spanish sheep milk cheese recipe.

I have to say cheese, for me, matters not if it from a cow, a goat, or a sheep. I just love cheese in a stupid sort of way. That is probably obvious by now.

But when I do it again, I will put some sharp cheddar in the mix. This time I added lemon zest at home and took that lemon to work for the juice for my lunch leftover hacks. Excellent.

I think that just might be the key to a great lunch hack at work. I always have a fresh lemon and a bit of grated Pecorino or Parmigiano in the fridge there – it really makes all the difference in the world. From boring leftovers to something special.

Manchego Crackers

So I had Manchego and had to figure out something to do with it. I buy cheese like that – buy it and then figure something out. Improvisation or some such. Manchego is sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. I guess this is the sheep milk cheese cracker. I am a big fan of sheeps’ milk cheeses, and goats’ milk cheese, and cows’ milk cheese. Well you get the idea. Fan of cheese is all possible variations.

This is a new recipe to me – so here we go.

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6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse just until a dough forms. Do not overwork dough, or crackers will be tough.

Roll dough into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter (is that the right word for round-ish? – don’t know). Refrigerate. I usually just refrigerate overnight just to be safe and it seems to work well.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Slice dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Dock the crackers with a fork. Bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Allow crackers to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer them directly to a cooling rack to cool.

Store crackers layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

Adapted from Epicurious. Via http://lifecurrents.dw2.net/manchego-crackers/

~Original directions: Gather dough into a ball, and flatten into a 5-inch disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill dough, until firm, about 30 minutes. The dough can be made ahead and chilled like this for up to 2 days.

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until about 1/8-inch thick, roughly 14-inch round.

Working quickly, cut out rounds with a 1 ¾ to 2-inch floured biscuit cutter, and arrange the rounds ½-inch apart on a silpat or parchment paper covered baking sheet. Re-roll scraps (but only once or they will get tough; chill first if soft), and cut out more rounds. Prick each round 2 or 3 times with a fork.

If your kitchen is warm, roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper.

~ Notes: I really hate rolling out crackers, or cookies for that matter. Let’s just keep it simple. I did the same thing with Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread just last week. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. At least, I’m two for two right now and I shall just keep going. I guess my exception is my favorite sugar cookies. I am not sure how they could be made any other way – but that does not mean I am not open to trying something new.

Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread

You know me – any chance at a cheese cracker, especially a cheddar cracker, and I am all in. This was a new recipe to me, but it seemed like it had all the things I like about a cheese cracker – with one glaring exception – you had to roll the damn dough out. Ugh. I just hate that beyond words. I will roll out sugar cookies. I will roll out pie dough, but why should I have to roll out crackers. It just seems unnecessary when you can roll cracker dough into a log – chill – slice – and bake and make perfectly good crackers.

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So I decided to buck the recipe and go for what made the most sense to me. Guess what? It totally worked and has made me be a little more critical of all future cracker recipes. Make it easier – why not; it also fits into my favorite way to bake – make the dough one day and bake a day (or two) later. Fits my work week baking plan to a T.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper – 1/4 tsp at a minimum
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat together butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne at low speed just until blended. Add Cheddar and flour and mix at low speed just until smooth, Do not over-mix because that makes crappy crackers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake shortbread until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Source: Epicurious

Original Directions: Shape dough into disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Reroll scraps if desired (rerolled scraps will be tougher).

This is why rolling out crackers is just annoying. I think I have figured out the best way to do it. Out of laziness. Yep, that is me.

It is August – what’s with the pumpkins??

This happens every year. It is so amazingly annoying. Why are pumpkin recipes showing up in my in box in friggin August? Okay, I get that it may be towards the end of summer in parts of the country. But for the lord’s sake, it isn’t even Labor Day yet. Do we have to anticipate this much.

Hello, Williams Sonoma – I do not want pumpkin plates in August. Do you not have an algorithim for different zip codes? We’ll be damn lucky if it gets cool in, um, November. Right now we are worried about record heat, serious rain fall, flooding, and the possibility of hurricanes. Fuck pumpkins.* Not everyone lives in the north east. I am really thinking the people in California are feeling the same way – excepting the hurricane bit.

dd_img_0850-edit*Sorry, slightly rude, but so on point.

Blueberry Upside-Down Skillet Cake

I think this is such a great idea. I love blueberries.  A lot. I really am not too much of a fan of other fruits. There are just a few:  Blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, grapes, apples, esp. Granny Smith, raisins, but that is dried fruit but it is still fruit and I love that. Are cranberries a fruit? I am not sure, but I like them both fresh and dried. I guess they are a fruit. This just shows my lack of knowledge. And I am too lazy to check it out.

I think the orange juice in this in this recipe will likely make it. I have orange juice in my cranberry relish recipe for Thanksgiving and it makes me happy. It just works. Sometimes you just need that slight acidity with a little sweetness – not the over powering citrus like a lemon. But some times you need that too – Pecorino Chicken is a great example. Indeed.

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4 Tbs unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 orange juice
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a ten-inch oven proof* skillet, melt butter over medium low heat, stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in orang juice and the place blueberries over mixture.

In a large-ish bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, mix together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add wet ingredients into flour mixture, until it just comes together – do not over mix. Pour over blueberry in the skillet.

Bake 18 – 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto serving plate. Dust with some powder sugar, or, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream or whatever strikes your fancy.

Notes: I am going to make this again. I did not let it bake enough to set the cake. Boo. That said, the parts that I did eat were really good. I may make this the next time with frozen (organic – yes, I did it) blueberries which means I could make it just about any time.

Source: I got nothing. And I really feel bad about that. If someone recognizes this –  let me know. I want to give credit where credit is due. But sometimes I just mess up in this department.

* If you are not sure if your skillet, esp. the handle, is heat-proof at this temperature, just wrap the handle in a couple of layers of heavy duty foil. It works. See: Apple Sour Cream Butterscotch Upside-Down Cake that I make all the time, especially for the Boy’s birthday.

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Pesto – amazing 

pesto [pes-toh]

noun, Italian Cookery.
1. a sauce typically made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan blended together and served hot or cold over pasta, fish, or meat.
In college, I made some great friends, and one of them was a girl named Karen T. (cannot believe I remembered her whole name, but somehow that makes me feel good, but won’t divulge).
She threw excellent (read: grown up) parties. If you said you would attend, you were actually expected to do so. She was a great cook – the first person I knew to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. She totally rocked, and she also introduced me to pesto. I think it was her mom’s recipe, photocopied, and I remember this most clearly, the recipe was called “Pesto by the food processor method.” Hysterical now, but at the time a totally new thing for me.
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It is basically the “recipe” I still make today, except I substitute walnuts for pine nuts. I don’t notice a difference, so it works for me. And I always have walnuts in the freezer.
It’s great for pasta, for pasta salad, add some sun-dried tomatoes and it is excellent in my sun-dried tomato pesto torte. Have I not made that for you? Damn, will rectify that situation soon.

Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed mostly
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.
1/4 cup really good olive oil
A good bit of freshly grated Parmesan – indeed.

First chop the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in and the when it is all done, add the Parmesan. And if you want to go crazy add some sun-dried tomatoes. Because that is amazing. Yep.

I was to go to Italy with Karen and Dierdre in the spring of 1993, but giving birth to the Boy put those plans into a stall. Never regret it. And he was eating pesto as a 3 years-old – he was that kind of boy. Sushi, sure. Pesto, yep. Mushroom pate – always. Kids will try anything if you don’t make a big deal of it.
Karen moved to New Jersey and we lost touch, but some things stick with you in an important way. And I miss them both.

July – August 2016 – butter & eggs usage

9 July 2016 – Pear Bleu Cheese Turnovers – 1 large egg

And here is where is gets really sad –  nothing else until …

6 August 2016 – Creamed Corn – 3 Tbs butter

7 August 2016 – Chicken Salad & Egg Salad – 8 large eggs (boiled)

10 August 2016 – Red Onion, Asparagus Fettuccini White Wine, Orange Juice, Butter Sauce – 4 Tbs butterD&D_1533

17 August 2016 – Roasted Mushrooms – 2 Tbs butter

26 August 2016 – Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Chip Sour Cream Cake – 5 Tbs butter – 1 large egg

16 August 2016 – Brownie Cups – 16 Tbs butter – 4 large eggs

Well, I will give myself this excuse that summer is not terribly conducive to baking – or cooking – honestly. I can just skip dinner at this time of year.