Candace Karu

The Classic Bellini

CocktailsCandace KaruComment
Harry's Bellini

Harry's Bellini

(Originally created sometime in the 1930s by Giuseppi Cipriani in Venice)

Nothing could be simpler or more exotic than the original Bellini, named after the 15th Century Venetian painter, Giovanni Bellini. Start with a good Italian Prosecco. Add the puree of ripe white peaches. The perfect Bellini requires exquisitely chilled Prosecco and equally icy white peach puree. Even the glasses should sit in the freezer for at least an hour before making the cocktail.

The original recipe insists that only white peaches will do for an authentic Bellini, grated and not blended in a food processor, which will aerate the fruit.

The original recipe also states emphatically that one should never use yellow peaches to make a Bellini, but I’m sorry. I live in Maine. White peaches almost never make an appearance at my local grocery store

I’m perfectly happy to use peach nectar, which can be found in most grocery stores, to create my at-home Bellinis. But please don’t tell anyone at Harrys. They may not let me back in.

 

A Perfect Bellini

Ingredients:

·      1 part frozen white peach puree

·      3 parts chilled Italian Prosecco

Instructions:

·      Chill all ingredients – and glasses – within an inch of their lives.

·      Combine and enjoy.

 

Saluti!

Unzipping: The Green Teani

CocktailsCandace KaruComment
The Green Teani

The Green Teani

I begin each morning - usually very early - with a cup of jasmine green tea from the Grace Tea Company. It's light floral scent suits my break-of-day mood and whispers, not yells, for me to start my day. Coffee comes later, when I need a firmer hand to push me on my way.

And let's not forget the health benefits of green tea. It stumps me how something with such a lovely flavor can be so good for you. Green tea is loaded with powerful antioxidants like flavonoids and catechins. Studies show that green tea increases the body's ability to burn fat and can improve physical performance. (Have you seen the Chinese acrobats and contortionists at Cirque du Soleil? I'll bet they drink green tea with abandon.) Other studies have shown that the catechin compounds in green tea can also protect aging brains, lowering the risk of age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Check out more health benefits of green tea here.

Jasmine Green Tea - a gentle way to start the day.

Jasmine Green Tea - a gentle way to start the day.

But, I digress. This is a cocktail post and cocktails it shall be.

On a magical night at one of my favorite restaurants in Portland - Empire Chinese Kitchen - my date and I ordered a martini made with oolong tea. It was, in a word, divine. Several weeks later on a whim I decided to create my own version with my beloved Before the Rain Jasmine Green Tea.

Picture courtesy of St. Germain

Picture courtesy of St. Germain

My version is simple - light with slight floral notes imparted by both the jasmine-infused tea and the addition of a splash of my favorite liqueur, St. Germain. This artisanal French liqueur is made from the hand-picked blossoms of elderflowers. It smells and tastes like springtime in the South of France. St. Gemain takes so many classic cocktails to delightful new heights. I encourage you to peruse their website and try some of their creations.

The Green Teani is surprisingly refreshing, the perfect cocktail to welcome the advent of a new season. It's like springtime in a glass.

Three simple ingredients to produce such a delightful drink!

Three simple ingredients to produce such a delightful drink!

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz of your favorite Vodka
  • 1 oz Jasmine Green Tea
  • 1 splash St. Germain

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and give it a good shake. Then shake a little more for good measure. Serve in your favorite martini glass with a twist of citrus or a few fresh raspberries. 

#cheers #clink #weekend

Tito's Greyhound

CocktailsCandace KaruComment
Tito's Greyhound

Tito's Greyhound

Like much of what happens in Austin, Texas, a Tito's Greyhound is a cocktail with a unique appeal. What could be simpler? Take an award-winning, hand crafted vodka and douse it generously with fresh grapefruit juice. The two ingredients combine to create a drink that is tart and refreshing, while retaining a sophisticated edge. Garnish it with a sprig of rosemary if you're feeling rakish or a simple wedge of grapefruit if the night calls for classic accessories.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz. Tito's Vodka
  • Fresh grapefruit (use bottled in a pinch, but we both know there's no substitute for fresh)

Instructions

  1. Pour the vodka over ice in a cocktail class. If you're so inclined, salt the rim of the glass to create a Salty Dog.
  2. Top off with grapefruit juice. 
  3. Garnish with a sprig rosemary. 

Cheesy Polenta Hearts

Candace KaruComment

These Cheesy Polenta Hearts are a perfect way to say "I love you" in the tastiest possible way. The recipe is impossibly simple and polenta plays well with just about everything else in the kitchen. You can dip these little lovelies in your favorite marinara sauce, serve them for breakfast with scrambled eggs, smother them with salsa and top with a ripe avocado...the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Polenta Fries

And don't feel you have to make them into hearts. Cut them into squares, brush them with olive oil and grill for a real summertime treat. Cut them into strips, oil them up, add a little salt and bake in a 350º oven for 15 minutes for cheesy polenta fries. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal

  • 4 cups chicken broth

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1 cup of your favorite grated cheese (parmesan or cheddar are both good)

  • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

  1. Combine chicken broth, milk, and butter in a large pot and bring to a boil

  2. Slowly add cornmeal and reduce heat to medium low

  3. Stir continuously until mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pot

  4. Add cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste

  5. Spread polenta evenly over a greased cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 - 45 minutes

  6. Once the mixture has cooled you have your cheesy polenta canvas. Make hearts! Squares! Fries! Whatever your little heart desires. They're so yummy, and so much fun.

¡Viva Margarita!

CocktailsCandace KaruComment

There are dozens of origin stories about the invention of this universally loved cocktail. Many of them involve suave bartenders creating a special drink for a favorite show girl or socialite. The truth of the cocktail's genesis is lost somewhere in the mists of time, but its legend and appeal live on.

With many variations available to customize a Margarita, the basic recipe is nonetheless quite simple. Esquire magazine named the Margarita its "Drink of the Month" in December, 1953 and its proportions have stood the test of time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce tequila
  • Dash of Triple Sec
  • Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

Instructions:

Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin in salt—pour, and sip.

A simple formula, yes, but open to change and suggestion. Do you like a frozen Margarita? Increase the measured ingredients a little and throw them in the blender with ice. I'm a fan of this basic recipe shaken and poured over ice in a cocktail glass with a salted rim. Some people prefer the mellower effect of lemon juice over lime, but I'm of the opinion that fresh lime juice is key. And don't skimp on the tequila. Buy the highest quality you can afford and revel in the smokey nuance of this drink.

A final word of caution. A well made Margarita goes down easily. It also packs a punch that can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Proceed with caution.

Buena suerte, amigos.

Lychee Martini

CocktailsCandace KaruComment

Let it be known that the Lychee Martini is no quotidian cocktail, but an alcohol-infused punctuation to an important event. It is slightly sweet, light, and fragrant, an exotic take on an iconic libation.

Yes, you could call it a Girlie Drink, but you’d be wrong. Think of it more as an exotic alternative to a classic Martini, a luscious libation with a hint of mystery and intrigue.

Ingredients (for one Lychee Martini)

·      1 oz Vodka

·      2 canned lychees

·      2 oz syrup from canned lychees

·      juice of half a lime

 

Instructions

  • Put two lychees in a martini glass and freeze for half an hour.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Extra points if you are dancing as you shake.
  • Pour over the frozen lychees.
  • If you are feeling particularly festive, add a splash of Champagne or prosecco. Because…bubbles!

The Perfect Martini

CocktailsCandace KaruComment

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • Vermouth
  • Ice
  • Olives

Instructions:

My recipe for a perfect martini involves the full complement of aggressively chilled gin with almost no Vermouth. You may want yours less dry, if so you can add up to 1 oz of Vermouth, according to your taste. Like James Bond, I want my martini shaken - not stirred - in a cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice, so the resulting drink has tiny ice crystals floating in the gin, keeping it properly chilled. I prefer olives to a lemon peel. I also believe that a dirty martini - one with a splash of olive juice - isn't really a martini at all.

If you're a fan of tiny cocktail onions, drop a couple into your martini and it is magically transformed into the cocktail known as a Gibson.

Take all caution with this powerful cocktail and remember what Dorothy Parker had to say:

"I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under the host."

 

 

Rosemary Gin Fizz

CocktailsCandace KaruComment

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) gin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary simple syrup
  • 1/3 cup club soda
  • lemon and lime slices, and rosemary sprigs for garnish

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Add sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir and bring to a boil. Stir continuously until sugar dissolves.
Remove from the heat. Add rosemary to the simple syrup and let steep for about an hour. Discard rosemary sprig and refrigerate until you use it. Simple syrup can be kept refrigerated for up to a month.

How-To

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add gin, lemon and lime juice, and rosemary simple syrup. Strain into a glass filled with ice (I like to use the ‘dirty rocks’ from the shaker). Add club soda. Make it pretty with a lemon or lime slice and s festive sprig of rosemary.

Mocktail Version

For a refreshing, non-alcoholic version of this cocktail, substitute lemonade for the gin. Pink lemonade is even better, because it makes the drinks so darned pretty!

 

Murphy & Duncan's Doggy Delights

Food For the CrittersCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
15 Min

Cook Time:
30 Min

Yields:
14 Cups

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, buffalo – your choice)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) sweet potato puree (or 2 cups fresh, diced small)
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (don’t use pumpkin pie filling, too much sugar)
  • 2 cups green beans, chopped (or ½ bag frozen)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced small (or ½ bag shredded carrots)
  • 1 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 3 – 4 tbls olive oil

Directions

  1. Saute ground beef in olive oil until browned.
  2. Add broth and vegetables and simmer until veggies are very soft.
  3. Mix thoroughly and store in small containers.

Freeze until needed.

I add fresh veggies that are in my fridge – zucchini, broccoli slaw, spinach – whatever’s on hand that the dogs like.

Frozen Puppy Pops

Food For the CrittersCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
5 Min

Freeze Time:
60 – 120 Min

Yields: Many Treats

Ingredients

Sweet Treat ingredients

  • 1 32 oz container of plain Greek yogurt, I used Cabot
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup peanut butter, softened briefly in microwave
  • 1 tbls honey

Savory Treat ingredients:

  • 1 32 oz container of plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbls beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • Random bits of beef, pork, or chicken, diced

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients well, either by hand or in a food processor.
  2. Pour into appropriate sized paper cups. (Your average Bernese Mountain Dog will need the 8 oz. Dixie cup, my Yorkies are happy with 2 oz.)
  3. Prop an appropriately sized bone shaped dog treat into the middle of the cup to create a handle. (or pour into ice cube trays or muffin tins for handle-free treats).

Cranberry Heart Tarts

SweetsCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
10 Min

Cook Time:
15 Min

Yields:
Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 box of pre-made pie crusts
  • Leftover cranberry sauce (these are equally yummy using raspberry jam or fig spread)
  • Sugar
  • Heart-shaped cookie cutter
  • Preheat over to 425º. Unroll pie crusts and cut out heart shapes.

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 425º. Unroll pie crusts and cut out heart shapes.
  2. Put a tiny dollop of cranberry on half the hearts. Don’t overfill the hearts or you will have oozing issues. Top with the remaining hearts. Crimp edges together with fork tines.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle tops with a bit of sugar. OK, get festive and use that red sugar you probably have in the back of a cupboard somewhere. Cook until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  4. Let cool, then serve to all your friends, making sure to give first dibs to those who professed cranberry love before they tried these.

Haddock & Olives

Large PlatesCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
40 Min

Cook Time:
20 Min

Yields:
4-6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2-ish pounds of fresh Haddock
  • 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz.
  • 1/2 cup chopped, pitted green Olives
  • 1/4 cup capers (with juice)
  • 2 tbls dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º.
  2. On medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until softened, but not browned.
  3. Add white wine and bring to a boil.
  4. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano, salt and pepper and simmer on low heat for 20 – 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer tomato sauce to glass baking pan and place Haddock fillets on sauce.
  6. Place in oven and cook until fish is just cooked through and flakes with a fork, between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.
  7. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

Chicken & Artichoke Casserole

Large PlatesCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
10 Min

Cook Time:
60 Min

Yields:
4-6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2-2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs (or breasts)
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts (packed in water)
  • 10-12 large Spanish Olives, stuffed with pimentos
  • 1 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Place chicken in a 3 quart casserole dish.
  3. Drain artichoke hearts and place them on top of the chicken.
  4. Cut olives in half and sprinkle on top of artichokes.
  5. Add white wine. Season to taste.
  6. Cover with casserole lid or aluminum foil and place in center of preheated oven. Cook until chicken is done and tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Smack 'N Cheese

Large PlatesCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
15 Min

Cook Time:
50 Min

Yields:
4-6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups cauliflower florets (1 head) I used more, almost two heads
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt I used Maine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp unsalted Cabot butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream I used Half & Half
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese I used Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar. I also added about 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese for a little kick.
  • Next time I’m going to add a bit of diced pancetta for a flavor and texture boost.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400º. Toss florets in oil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and reduce heat to 350º.
  2. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for one minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened, two to four minutes. Whisk in cream and cook for five minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat and stir in salt and pepper and all but two tsp. of cheese. Stir over medium-low heat.
  4. Place cauliflower in an 8 x 8 glass baking dish or four 10-oz. ramekins. Pour cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until sauce is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sweets & Beets

Large PlatesCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
5 Min

Cook Time:
40 Min

Yields:
4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs beets w/ greens.
  • 1 lbs sweet popatoes
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 4-8 pcs crusty bread

Directions

  1. Start by cutting the greens from the beets, and washing and draining them both. Save the beet greens for later. Scrub the beet and sweets and cut both ends. Cut the top from a large head of garlic so all the cloves are exposed.
  2. Put them all in a casserole dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Let them hang out in a 400º oven until the beets are fork tender,  the sweets are creamy soft, and the garlic is golden brown and fragrant.
  3. While the veggies roast away in their bright red juices, prepare the beet greens by removing the tough red spine. (I put them into my brand new counter top composting bucket. Isn’t it adorable?) Wash the remaining leaves thoroughly – they can be gritty – and give them a large chop.
  4. When the veggies have finished cooking, move them from the casserole to a plate to let them cool a bit. Pour the oil – now brilliantly colored from the beets – into a saute pan and heat. Cook the beet greens for about 3 – 5 minutes, until the turn dark green and tender. I add a tiny splash of balsamic vinegar for extra flavor.
  5. While they’re still warm, peel the skin from the beets. I like to leave the skin on the sweet potatoes, but that a personal call. The skins slip easily off both.
  6. Put some crusty bread into the oven for a few minutes, and while it is hot spread a clove of roasted garlic on each piece.
  7. Serve the vegetables on a warm bed of greens with a hunk of garlic swathed bread.

Pizza Pot Pie

Large PlatesCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
30 Min

Cook Time:
40 Min

Yields:
4-8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium summer squash, quartered and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 20 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 box ready-made pie crust (2 per box)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400º and brought the pie crusts to room temperature,
  2. Put first crust in a deep dish pie plate and cover the bottom of the crust with shredded mozzarella.
  3. Heat olive oil in large saute pan then add onions, mushrooms, garlic, and squash.
  4. Cook over medium heat until softened, 8 – 10 minutes. I had a bit of good red wine left over from the night before and added that, too. This is completely optional…but adds a very nice flavor and depth.
  5. To the softened veggies, add the marinara sauce and let that simmer for about 15 minutes on a low heat.
  6. Let the sauce mixture cool a while before adding it to the crust covered with the mozzarella.
  7. Before adding the top crust, sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the filling.
  8. Finished constructing the pie with the second crust.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, maybe with some sauce bubbling in a couple of places where it escapes the bounds of the pie crust.

I would definitely advocate for a pie guard, like the one you see under the pie above or a cookie sheet to protect your oven.

Cheese Balls

Small Plates & AppetizersCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
5 Min

Cook Time:
5 Min

Yields:
Servings

Ingredients

BASIC CHEESE BALL FORMULA

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups Cabot Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 2 shakes Worcestershire Sauce
  • a dash or two of Tabasco or Sriracha Sauce (optional)
  • Add something fun and delicious to roll the whole thing around in. Preferably not nuts of dubious origin.

 

Directions

  1. Mix the cheeses, Worcestershire Sauce, and hot sauce food processor until smooth and blended.
  2. Let chill in refrigerator for several hours.
  3. Make a big ole cheese ball and surround it with crackers. OR:
  4. Make tiny, bite size balls and mix ’em up a bit. Add interesting tastes to your balls. Roll your balls in different kinds of yumminess. Bottom line? Have fun with your balls.

Here is just a partial list of fun ways to deck your balls for wows and jollies!

Fiesta Balls: Use Cabot Habanero Cheddar and roll in chopped cilantro.

Bunny Balls: Use Cabot Mild Cheddar, add chopped spinach when you process the cheese, and roll in chopped carrots.

Sharp & Sweet Balls: Use Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar and roll in chopped dried fruit.

Seedy Balls: Use Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar, add a dash of soy sauce and roll in toasted sesame seeds.

Green Balls: Use Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar and roll in chopped pistachio nuts.

Caprese Balls: Use Cabot Tomato Basil Cheddar, add 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves, and roll in sun dried tomatoes.

Sunny Balls: Use Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar and roll in roasted sunflower seeds.

Fancy Balls: Use Cabot Private Stock Cheddar and roll in chopped scallions.

Kickin’ Balls: Use Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Jalapeno Cheddar, add 1/2 a mashed avocado, and roll in chopped almonds.

Horsey Balls: Use Cabot Horseradish Cheddar and roll in crumbled bacon.

Cheezy Poof Balls: Use Cabot Sharp Cheddar and roll in crushed cheese puff snacks.

Quick & Easy Pesto

Small Plates & AppetizersCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
5 Min

Cook Time:
5 Min

Yields:
3 Cups

Ingredients

  •  1 cup toasted nuts (walnuts, almonds hazelnuts)
  • 2 packed cups of herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup hard, aged cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Zest from half a lemon (optional)

 

Directions

  1. I use a generous handful of toasted nuts, my favorite are walnuts and almonds. (I’ve stopped using pine nuts in any dish after having a case of Pine Mouth last year. Read about this weird phenomenon here.) I pulse these, along with three cloves of garlic in the food processor.
  2. Next come the herbs. I made several batches with basil and several more with parsley. I love cilantro pesto, but I didn’t have enough from my garden this time. I fill the food processor bowl with herbs, usually about two packed cups and blend nuts, garlic, and herbs. If I’m using parsley I also use the zest of half a lemon.
  3. Then I add about 1/2 cup of cheese. I usually use a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano, but lately I have loved the addition of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. It has the same earthiness and texture as the Parmigiano, but a depth of flavor that really stands up to the strong taste of the herbs.
  4. Finally I drizzle about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil in the processor as I pulse. That’s about it. Nothing could be easier.

Adobo Salsa

Small Plates & AppetizersCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
10 Min

Cook Time:
30 Min

Yields:
1 Pint

Ingredients

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 2 tbls. Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Cook the onions in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until translucent, adding minced garlic halfway through.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, including the juice from the tomatoes and a little of the adobo sauce that the chipotle peppers are packed in.
  3. Simmer over low heat for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. The sauce is ready at that point, but can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours if necessary. Heat before serving, either in the microwave or on the stovetop.

If you want a more protein-packed sauce, add a can of rinsed black beans as you simmer. This sauce is a versitile topping, and is perfect with grilled chicken or pork.

Autumn's Best Risotto

Small Plates & AppetizersCandace KaruComment

Prep Time:
10 Min

Cook Time:
45 Min

Yields:
8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 6-8 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable broth
  • 2 local apples, peeled, cored and cut into medium dice
  • 2 tablespoons Cabot Unsalted Butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed
  • 3 sprigs thyme, gently bruised with back of knife
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot or yellow onion
  • 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 ounces Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Optional garnishes: sliced green onions, Cabot Sour Cream, fried sage leaves

Directions

  1. In saucepan, bring vegetable broth to simmer. In saute pan, cook apples in 1 tablespoon butter until tender; set aside.
  2. Place heavy 2-quart stainless steel or other nonreactive pot over medium-low heat; add oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. When butter is just melted add garlic, thyme and bayleaf. Reduce heat to low and stir in shallot or onion.
  4. Cook shallots until translucent but not browned.
  5. Add rice and stir gently with wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed in and warmed. Stir in salt.
  6. Add wine and let barely simmer until almost fully absorbed by rice. Add enough of warm vegetable broth to just cover rice. When nearly absorbed, add another half cup of broth. Continue adding broth until absorbed, slightly reducing amount with each addition. Taste along the way and add more salt if needed.
  7. When rice is creamy and grains are firm (al dente) but not at all crunchy, stop adding broth and remove bay leaf, garlic and thyme sprigs. Stir in cheddar and reserved apples. Serve in warm bowls, topped with garnishes if desired.

I have learned over the years that perfect risotto cannot be rushed. Grab a glass of wine and a good friend who will keep you company while you stir over a very low heat. Don’t be impatient…love your pearly Arborio grains and they will yield their delicious flavor up to you.

I garnished my risotto with fried, salted sage leaves fresh from my garden, and topped with a little chopped parsley, also garden-fresh. This really was a perfect meal to serve as a harbinger of the great cold-weather meals of fall and winter. I’ve never been a big fan of cooked apples, but the combination of the very mild apple taste, the bite of the Extra Sharp Cabot Cheddar, and the divine creaminess of the risotto was irresistible.