Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pancetta and Pea Risotto


Oh Jamie Oliver, you always inspire me. Whether it's from "Jamie at Home" , "Jamie's Food Escapes", or even his "Food Revolution", he inspires me to be adventurous and try new things.

On one of his recent episodes of "Jamie's Food Escapes", he traveled to Venice where he made this incredible array of risottos from one basic recipe. I decided it was high time to rid my fear of making risotto and dive in to the deliciousness.

Basic Risotto Recipe (adapted from Jamie Oliver):
32 oz chicken stock (I used Progresso Tuscan Chicken Stock, yum!)
1 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 head celery, finely chopped (confession, I left this out and it's still fine!)
14oz of risotto rice ( I get it in the bulk bin at Whole Foods, it's called Arborio rice)
2 glasses of white wine (about a cup to a cup and a half)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBS butter
1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese

1. Heat the stock. In a separate pan heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions, garlic and celery, and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

2.The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring — it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence.

3. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and almost massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

4. Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes outrageously creamy and oozy like it should be. Eat it as soon as possible, while the risotto retains its beautiful texture.

Variations :

  • I added cubes of pancetta while the veggies were cooking, then added blanched peas at the end.

  • You could use leftover rotisserie chicken with some steamed asparagus.

  • crushed tomatoes with sliced basil

  • roasted butternut squash for the fall

  • sautee some sliced cremini mushrooms in marsala wine and mix in at the last minute.

  • Get creative!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Simple Pleasures

A tasty breakfast and a good book to read on a Sunday morning is one of my favorite things! Poached eggs with asparagus and chorizo.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Easy Salad Niçoise


Feeling inspired by a recent Barefoot Contessa episode and my recent haul from the Riverside Arts Market, I decided to throw together a Salad Niçoise for lunch.

A traditional salad niçoise features canned tuna, olives, and french haricot verts to what I've shown here. I had some fresh sugar snap peas and asparagus from the market, so I used that in place of the haricot verts. I made Ina Garten's Mustard Vinigarette to pour over the top of this.

All of the green vegetables were blanched, the potatoes and eggs were boiled, the tuna was seared (1-2 minutes on each side in a lightly greased pan).

I love how pretty this looks arranged on the plate and this would also be a great dish to serve at a party, like a wedding shower. It's fresh, beautiful, and best of all... delicious!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Friends of the James Beard Foundation Dinner Benefit

One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa, Northeast Florida’s newest beachfront boutique resort, located in Atlantic Beach, announces the premier partnership with the renowned Friends of James Beard Foundation through a Dinner Benefit on Saturday, April 9, 2011 from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. Bringing together the best of the best in Florida’s First Coast cuisine with prominent area chefs, the five-course benefit dinner proceeds contribute to a local scholarship for culinary education and Friends of the James Beard Foundation while building national awareness of the gourmet food movement in Northeast Florida and education of the James Beard House in Jacksonville.

The prestigious benefit will be an intimate seated wine dinner for $125 per person for non-James Beard Foundation members and $100 per person for James Beard members. The exclusive team assembled includes Chef Ted Peters and Pastry Chef Nancy Slatsky of Azurea, Chef Tom Gray of Bistro Aix, Chef Matthew Medure of Matthew’s and Chef Brian Siebenschuh of Orsay. All wine pairings for the spring season courses are from the Foley Family Wineries.

Proceeds from the dinner will be divided equally between a local culinary scholarship in the name of Azurea Restaurant, the James Beard Foundation’s scholarship program and general operating fund (which enables the foundation to maintain the historic James Beard House as a performance space for chefs and to administer educational programs).

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) is a not-for-profit culinary organization and its mission is to celebrate, preserve and nurture America’s diverse culinary heritage and future. The JBF’s programs include workshops, classes, conferences, readings, and other educational experiences that help people learn about and engage with food. JBF offers scholarships to culinary students who need financial support to pursue careers in the food and beverage industry. JBF invites chefs to participate in events at the James Beard House in New York City and at events abroad to allow people to experience America’s dynamic cuisine first hand. JBF also administers the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, which recognize and honor excellence among chefs, cookbook authors, food journalists, restaurant designers, and others working the food and beverage industry.

The benefit dinner is hosted at Azurea, the signature restaurant of One Ocean Resort, which has established its own food and wine personality, creating a culture of passion and seeking perfection. True to its coastal surroundings, providing an elegant, artfully inspired atmosphere, Azurea offers a view of the ocean from any seat in the house while recently honored with an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.
To join the Friends of James Beard Foundation Benefit Dinner at One Ocean Resort, call Jennifer Aringdale 904-853-2346.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review : 'town

While browsing the streets of Avondale during the "Christmas in Avondale" celebration, I decided to give the much talked about " 'town " a try. I snagged a seat at the open kitchen bar, so I could get a full view of Executive Chef Scott Ostrander work his magic. Just like an alchemist brewing a concoction, I watched him add butter, stock, and mirepoix to a pan to begin making his bouillibase.

To begin, I ordered the Sweet Potato chips. These sweet potatoes were thinly sliced, almost translucent. Deliciously crispy, drizzled with a sherry-bacon dressing. The sprinkling of fresh parsley on top gives the dish a great peppery note. I love making sweet potatoes into something savory, and this hit that spot perfectly.

The bouillibase is served in it's own individual le cruset pot. The moment it's served, I can smell the inciting broth, with fennel and fresh herbs. The pot is filled with a generous portion of mussels, shrimp, fish, and half a lobster tail. Chef Olestrander did a great job with this marsaolle based dish. The dish was so wonderful, my only wish was that I had a crusty piece of French bread to soak up that wonderful, flavorful broth.

I had a wonderful meal expierence at 'town, and I plan on coming back for brunch soon.... I hear they put on a fantastic brunch!

'town on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review: Via Napoli at Epcot


As if gorging ourselves on delicious treats throughout the day at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival wasn't enough, my girls and I had made reservations to eat at one of Epcot's newest restaurants, Via Napoli. This sit-down restaurant is another one of the fantastic dining options at Epcot, located (obviously) in the Italy Pavilion. It's menu features all kinds of Italian specialities, but it's shining star is PIZZA. You can't miss the three giant faces of the wood-fire pizza ovens, each named after active volcanoes in Italy.... there's Stromboli, Vesuvius, and Etna.


Walking in, you feel like you're instantly transported to a well worn in, much loved restaurant in the heart of Italy. The walls are painted with a nice fresco, with views of sun lit vineyards. It may seat 300 but it feels cozy at the same time. We were seated at the GIANT family style table in front of the pizza ovens, it seats about 40 people.

Picnik collage

We ordered a glass of red-wine sangria ($7.00) and an Aqua Fresca ($5.00), which is made in-house and is a combination of water, sugar, and fresh fruit. I ordered the Limonata flavor. It was like a better version of a homemade lemonade. Tart, refreshing, and a good way to begin our evening.

Picnik collage

Since there were three of us, we decided we wanted to try the Fritto Misto platter ($24.00), which is a sampler platter of a few of Via Napoli's appetizers. It comes with fried calamari, zucchini, asparagus, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, eggplant, and fried risotto balls. Served with a side of zesty marinara sauce, this was a HUGE hit with us. We all got to try different things, and there was plenty for all of us. My favorite was the fried asparagus, that was new for me and it was surprisingly delicious! I also ordered the Proscuitto e melone ($7.00), which was slices of juicy cantaloupe draped with thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma, and is one of my new favorite combinations in life!


Then the crowning glory of the evening arrived, our Quatro Formaggio pizza ($28.00 for the large) was here. Crispy crust, oozing melty cheese on top, this pizza looked divine and we hadn't even tasted it yet. With a blend of four cheeses : Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fontina, Provolone, this pizza's flavor was out of this world. It was without a doubt the richest, most delicious cheese pizza I've ever had. The only thing that could have made it better was if we had gotten sliced pepperoni on top to cut through some of the richness of the cheese. But it was still good either way!

Our server for the evening was Francesco and between him and the other waiters in the place, they had us in tears over how delightfully funny they all were. He was a wonderful server and we will be back to Via Napoli very soon!

Please note that park admission into Epcot is required, and it's highly recommended to make advanced reservations when visiting Disney World, you can call the dining hotline at 407-WDW-DINE or log into Disney's website and make online reservations there.

Via Napoli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Taverna San Marco

I'm lucky enough to get emails from Groupon on a daily basis, alerting me to special deals around Jacksonville. One afternoon, I saw that they had a deal going on for Taverna so I grabbed it and made plans to visit with an old friend of mine.

I made reservations for 8:00pm on a Friday night, which may have been a crazy mistake of mine.... the San Marco area on a Friday night has a serious lack of parking! After a few rounds up and down the boulevard (cue "Don't Stop Believing here) I finally found some parking and made my way in. So just a heads up if you plan to visit, get there way ahead of schedule so you can find parking.

The decor is very nice, the bar has rustic wood accents, the lighting is chic, and the layout is cozy. Our waitress came right out to present us with the charcuterie and cheese menu, along with the dinner menu, and described to us the specials of the day.

After a good look on the menu, my friend and I decided on the Gambas al ajillo ($9) (Prawns with garlic and chili), and the House-made mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma, grilled peasant bread platter ($14) to start with.


The prawns arrived in a mini skillet, and were perfectly cooked. The tender shrimp were covered in a chili dry rub, then cooked in a sauce of sliced garlic, chili oil, and a squeeze of lemon. These were a great choice, and both of us used the rest of our peasant bread to soak up the rest of the juices.


Our platter came out on an aged wooden board, and was artfully presented. The slices of fresh mozzarella were drizzled with olive oil and smoked sea salt. The peasant bread was grilled and had a slight smoky flavor to it. The platter was even served with dried figs, which was a key element. The combination of these flavors with the silky prosciutto were marvelous.


My friend ordered the Skirt Steak a la Plancha ($22) for his entree. This skirt steak was served with roasted fingerling potatoes and a chimichurri sauce on top. This steak had such incredible flavors going on, with a bit of chili rub on the potatoes and steak, and the chimmichurri sauce was delicious.


I ordered the fish special of the evening, which was Tuna, so I got it Pesce style ($28). The tuna was seared, and then served with haricot verts, fennel, fingerling potatoes,
nicoise olives, tomato confit, fresh picked herbs. I chose to leave out the olives, but all of my other veggies were so fresh and amazing. The crisp fresh green beans and a perfectly seared piece of tuna was a good choice.


Not to be missed are the Patatas Bravas ($5), which are fried fingerling potatoes with spicy paprika served with a garlic ailoi. I would have been so happy having just these and the platter as my meal. Their garlic aioli is to die for, and if you want more to dip in, just request it and they will gladly bring you more!

We finished off the evening with a glass of Sorracco for me and a Sam Adams Oktoberfest Brew for him. An overall great evening trying out a new place that will definitely be added into a rotation for me!

Taverna on Urbanspoon