Scallop and Parmesan Risotto with Shitake, Oyster and Baby Bella Mushrooms

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Risotto requires mothering and a watchful eye more than almost any other dish in the world. You stir, pour, stir, pour – wash, rinse, repeat. On a busy night after work, I usually don’t want to put in the effort for anything really complex. However, every now and then you have to go all out. This version of “all out” utilizes ingredients I tend to have on hand: lemon, chicken broth, butter, white wine, and Parmesan cheese. How about going “mostly out,” then.

Luckily for us living in the northeast, scallops are relatively inexpensive this time of year, and Whole Foods carries packs of mixed mushrooms so you aren’t stuck buying a bunch of each kind for a recipe.

So I bought and I stirred, and I poured, and I stirred some more until I got a bowl full of absolute majesty. A word of advice, since this is a very active recipe, I would suggest getting everything prepped and ready before you start cooking the risotto. Therefore, when you’re at the end of the recipe cooking mushrooms, scallops AND still stirring the risotto, you’re not feeling overwhelmed.

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Chicago-style Baked Polenta

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Pizza and I have a bit of a history together. One of my first jobs as a teenager was in a big chain pizza restaurant, and I grew up making homemade thin crust pizzas with my dad. I had no concept of deep dish anything really. Even more so, that it could be such a varied dish. The weather this past February was brutal; it was so windy and cold tights became a necessity, and my mind inevitably went to Chicago.

The last time we were in Chicago, Davis and I were attending the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2011. We found the city in the middle of a heat wave so intense my pasty self turned lobster red, even sitting in the shade. I enjoyed hearing Beach House’s set as I lay down like a grassland lion and napped under an umbrella in the harsh sun. We got to see some old friends and see all the landmarks from one of my top five all time favorite movies – High Fidelity. Even despite injuring my foot on a 4 mile run and Michael Bay cutting off most of the city due to filming Transformers 3, I had a fantastic time.

Upon our return, I even took virtual real estate tours of available rentals to try and imagine a life where we lived there. It wasn’t a bad life, but I have moved on to imaginary real estate tours of other areas of fine nature when a little downtime leads me into a geographical daydream.

Culinarily, I fell in love with the vegetable, meat and sauce-laden pile of deliciousness that is the Chicago Deep-Dish style pizza. Things are finally starting to move beyond the freezing temperatures we saw earlier in the year, but hopefully this dish can warm up your day.

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Homemade Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

 

My Gramma Ginger is one of the best conversationalists in the world, in my opinion (she’s also one of the namesakes to this blog). This is probably due to the fact that she never sits down with a group of people without a list of prepared questions for any lull in the dialogue. Although she has never asked me this specific question, it came up during a recent get-together with friends. This certainly seems like a question that is quintessentially Ginger-esque – “what would you cook for the president if they came over for dinner?”

While I’m not 100% sure this my go-to presidential dish, it’s definitely in my top 5 contenders. I got the idea to add raisins from eating at Frankie’s Sputino in Brooklyn a few years ago, and their inclusion has been the only change to my recipe in the past 8 years. I make this dish at least once a month, and I consider these the perfect potluck or impromptu dinner party food.

You gotta get your hands a wee bit dirty here and allow yourself the time to let the flavors sit, but how long has it been since you’ve played with a big bowl of tomato chunks? C’mon, it’s fun.  Keep in mind – this takes a full 3 hours to make the sauce, but I promise you, the result is worth the wait.

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Pasta Carbonara

Pasta carbonara is something that I’d actually never tried until I moved to NYC. We ate a lot of pasta when I was a kid, but normally pasta was with tomato sauce and that was about it. Lately, Davis has been the one to break out this dish on nights when I get home late from work. It is incredibly easy to make and always super filling. I normally am not one for carb-bomb dinners, but Davis can’t get enough of them. Somehow, he manages to stay rail-thin in spite of his predilection for less than nutritious fare. Life isn’t fair.

This weekend, with the slightly cooler breeze coming through the windows, I decided to make an all out carbonara feast. A small thank you, if you will, for him always trying to make it easier for me to come through the doors after a rough day

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Fusilli with Clam Sauce

I know this recipe doesn’t follow the strictly traditional version we’re used to seeing, which typically uses linguine. However, I like to make it with fusilli for the way the pasta catches the sauce. I typically use quinoa-based pasta and fresh clams. However, canned clams will do, and if you prefer standard linguine – go for it.

This recipe is easy and not super expensive, but it is dependent on the freshness and flavor of the ingredients to really stand out. Try to not buy the clams until the day you’re going to cook them, and if you need to shop ahead, make sure you put the clams in a bowl of cool water and keep it (uncovered) in the refrigerator. It will help keep them from opening, a trick I learned from Mr. Mark Bittman’s quintessential How to Cook Everything.

If you use fresh clams, it can be labor intensive to cut the clam meat out before you’re eating, so Davis and I just pick them out before we go to town on the bowl. When serving others, I cut out the meat ahead of time and toss it in the pasta. Either way, the pay off is there.

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