Author Archives: elaineallinson

Go ‘wild’ with mushroom risotto

If you are ever at a loss for what to make for an impromptu dinner party, especially if there will be vegetarians at the table, consider risotto.

Risotto with wild mushrooms always tastes luxurious, even when you buy cultivated “wild” varieties such as maitakes (also known as hen of the woods), enokis, shiitakes and oyster mushrooms at the supermarket.

In the past, I’ve made a robust mushroom broth for my risotto by infusing dried porcinis, but this time I decided to use a light chicken, vegetable or garlic broth because I loved the sweetness of the maitake mushrooms that I used.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion or 2 shallots, minced

½ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc

Heat oil in a wide, heavy nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium heat.

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Humble leeks can add brightness to winter

[…] the French have also named it asperges du pauvre, poor man’s asparagus.

First trim the scraggly root end, leaving a tiny bit of the bottom intact.

For large pieces, trim to size before washing.

Because leeks are grown in sandy soil, thorough rinsing is necessary to remove grit.

[…] never refrigerate leeks once cooked; they taste far better at room temperature, or they can be browned beneath a broiler or on a grill to serve warm.

The leeks’ sweetness needs a hit of red wine vinegar and mustard, even chopped capers or anchovy.

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Calendar of events

Hidden Wineries of France dinner, with selections from French Country Wines at Bistro Provence, 13616 Memorial; 7 p.m. Tuesday; $95 plus tax and gratuity; 713-827-8008.

The event includes a bake sale with items from local pastry chefs and home bakers, and a crafts table to make valentine cards to send to veterans.

To donate baked goods, write to or visit the website.

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Oh, my darling clementine: dishes that use orange

½ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon baking soda Transfer the chopped clementines to a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until mostly smooth (there will still be visible little bits of orange peel); set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture turns a pale yellow and thick ribbons of the mixture will sit on top of the batter for a moment when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. Slip a long spatula under the parchment paper to gently transfer the cake to a cooling rack; let cool completely. Just before serving, whisk together the powdered sugar and reserved clementine juice to make a glaze, if you like, and drizzle over the cake. Per serving: 395 calories, 7 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 192 mg sodium, 3 g fiber. Slice the clementine crosswise and, working over a bowl to collect the juice, pull the sections apart and remove seeds as necessary. Add the remaining ingredients, toss to combine and serve. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 5 cups peppery or strongly flavored greens such as mizuna, arugula or hearty chopped kale Lay the slices on a baking sheet and broil until just browned on the edges, turn slices over and broil to brown on the other side. Per serving: 142 calories, 1 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 153 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

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Stirring the Cioppino pot

Because there is really no authentic version of cioppino, I decided that the best route was to create a recipe that could be anything for anyone, easily customized to your preferences.

Start the cioppino base with fat – either butter or olive oil – and spice from dried chiles or chopped fresh jalapeños (I like using both).

Next comes the tomato sauce or tomato paste and/or canned tomatoes, then clam juice or fish stock.

[…] for spice you could use a ¼ teaspoon of chile flakes and ¼ teaspoon chopped jalapeños; for shellfish you could use 3 pounds of crab plus 2 pounds clams and 1 pound shrimp.

¼ to ½ teaspoon spice (cayenne, chile flakes, chopped jalapeño pepper, black pepper, saffron threads soaked in warm water)

2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish), or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, fennel fronds)

2 tablespoons tomato paste 28 -ounce can tomato product (whole canned tomatoes, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce)

6 to 7 pounds shellfish (cooked, cleaned, and cracked crab; clams; mussels; bay scallops; peeled or unpeeled large shrimp; calamari, bodies sliced)

1 pound white fish (California sea bass, black cod, true cod, halibut), skinned and chopped into 1-inch chunks

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat the fat with the spice briefly, then add the aromatics, garlic and herbs.

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Chard brings distinction to winter table

With brightly colored stems and deep green leaves with intensely curled grooves, chard is stunning – a bit of a vegetable fashion show, actually.

Whereas kale and other cooking greens in the cabbage family (collards, turnip greens, broccoli rabe, mustard greens and arugula, I’m looking at you) can be sharp or bitter, chard, a member of the goosefoot family that includes beets and spinach, edges more toward the metallic.

With their flexibility and room for improvisation, they should help keep your table nourishing and exciting throughout the winter.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium frying pan.

Per serving: 181 calories, 3 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 56 mg cholesterol, 910 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Keep stirring, or knead it in the bowl, until a spongy dough forms – it will be soft and sticky, but it will be easier to shape later.

Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1½ hours at room temperature, or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down, divide it in two, and let rise again until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the pancetta.

Let cool about 10 minutes before slicing, then cut into serving pieces and serve hot.

Per starter serving: 352 calories, 13 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 14 mg cholesterol, 870 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

[…] you can add the chopped vegetables and aromatics like onion, garlic, ginger, green onion, celery or carrots.

Add the chard leaves, return to a simmer and cook, stirring a bit, until the leaves are tender and the flavors are blended, about 10 minutes.

Garnish the soup, if you like, with a drizzle of olive oil or chile oil, grated Parmesan or other highly flavorful grating cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice and/or a sprinkle of lemon zest, or minced fresh herbs such as rosemary.

Per serving: 322 calories, 15 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 386 mg sodium, 14 g fiber.

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