Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Corn Risotto

After a year of living in Los Angeles, I’m still a little bit confused by the seasons. (Yes, we have seasons here.) I was all settled into a routine of eating apples with my granola and yogurt every morning, and suddenly my CSA started delivering peaches, nectarines, and apricots. I frantically checked the calendar. Had I overslept and missed May and June?

Nope, it’s still May, and I’m already crying over how much zucchini is getting delivered to my apartment. (Please send zucchini recipes my way.) I have to stop saying “knee high by the Fourth of July” because we already have sweet corn too. I will admit, it’s not as good as the Midwestern variety, but it’ll do. Summer seems to be here already, even if the calendar says spring.

And yet, I had a little twinge of sadness the other day when I remembered how delightful spring in Minnesota could be. Those heady days of sunshine and snowmelt, when it feels like everyone, even the earth itself, is letting out a sigh of relief. I would grin like a crazy person at the thought of wearing a skirt or ballet flats. I wanted nothing more than to eat my lunch outside and spend lengthy evenings sitting on the balcony, sipping margaritas.

So for those of you who are scattered throughout the rest of the country, waking up to the delights of springtime, here’s a recipe to enjoy with your balcony margaritas. Kernels of sweet corn are folded into a creamy risotto and then stuffed inside roasted poblano peppers. This recipe is warm enough for those still-cool nights, but the flavors will transport you right into summer, wherever you are.

Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Corn Risotto

Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Corn Risotto

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Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Corn Risotto

  • 8 large poblano peppers
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup light beer
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 cobs; can also use frozen corn that’s been thawed)
  • 3/4 cups freshly shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese
  • 3 Tbs. sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. milk
  • 3 Tbs. freshly chopped parsley or cilantro

Roast the peppers: You can do this by cooking them on a baking sheet under a broiler, turning every few minutes, until the skins blister. Or, you can roast the peppers on a gas stove by placing them directly on the burner racks with the flame on medium-high, turning every so often until the skins are blistered. On the stove, it takes about 5 minutes for each pepper, so the broiler method is a bit quicker. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside so they can cool slightly.

Heat the stock to a low simmer in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to low, just to keep the stock warm.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the beer and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about another minute, until the beer is mostly absorbed.

Ladle 1 cup of the warm stock into the rice mixture and simmer, stirring frequently, until the stock is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining stock, about 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in the corn with the final 1/2 cup of stock. The total cooking time for the risotto is about 30 minutes, and it will be thick and creamy when done, and the rice should be tender. Stir in the Monterey jack cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Uncover the chiles and gently rub off the skins. Carefully slice a lengthwise slit in one side of each chile and pull out the seeds and membranes. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just do the best you can. Stuff each poblano with some of the risotto and arrange in a baking dish. Sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco and bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned on top.

Meanwhile, whisk together sour cream and milk in a small bowl, along with a pinch of salt. Drizzle over the peppers and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Wild Rice Gratin

Oh kale. You poor thing. First, you were a modest dietary staple. Then people kind of forgot about you because food scientists started inventing magical food like cheese puffs. But wait! You rose from obscurity to become obscenely trendy. Of course, your hipsterific popularity made it inevitable that you would eventually become a punchline.

(Exhibit A: What vegetable do only rich people eat? Upskale.)

Now that we got that history lesson out of the way, here’s yet another kale recipe. I know. Bear with me. The problem is that I get kale delivered practically every week nowadays, so I have to come up with interesting ways to eat it. Being a native midwesterner, I turned my latest bunch of kale into a hotdish, minus the tater tots and tuna-noodles.

First I cooked the kale with onions, garlic, and butternut squash until the veggies were soft. Then I tossed in some cooked wild rice and stirred in a creamy homemade cheese sauce, using gruyere and comté because I’m fancy like that. I also had parsley from my CSA box so I added that to the breadcrumb topping. As it emerged from the oven, the final dish was a cheesy, nutty, indulgent yet vegetable-packed meal that let me conquer one more week’s worth of kale. Victory was mine! Until next time.

Butternut squash, kale, and wild rice gratin

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Butternut Squash, Kale, and Wild Rice Gratin

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. bunch of curly kale, stemmed and roughly chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded comté cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2-3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 400° F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, squash, garlic, and kale, and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the wild rice.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a 2-quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour and stir for about 1-2 minutes, until it’s a light golden color and forms a thick paste. Slowly whisk in milk and keep stirring until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and whisk in gruyere and comté until melted. Stir in 3/4 tsp. kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the vegetable/rice mixture and stir until evenly coated. Taste the mixture and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Transfer mixture to the prepared casserole dish.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil, panko, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly sprinkle mixture over the casserole. (You might not need all the topping.)

Bake at 400° F for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam original, inspired by The Well-Cooked Life and Smitten Kitchen.

Arugula Pesto

Greetings from sunny southern California! Yep, we made the move. It’s been a hectic few weeks of packing, traveling, waiting, unpacking, organizing, and reorganizing, but I’m starting to feel much more settled in our new home.

Getting all my cooking gear off the moving truck was the first step in feeling at home. Of course I was most anxious about my stand mixer, but I was also excited to see our pizza stone made the 2000-mile journey intact. Gabe and I make pizza together quite frequently, because it’s easy, delicious, and endlessly versatile. Cranking the oven up to 500° and rolling out a fresh batch of dough was a surefire way for us to feel more at home.

Last week, I made a pizza topped with caramelized onions, ricotta, and arugula– and I was left with a boatload of arugula. Not wanting to let those lovely greens go to waste, I used my magical food processor to whirl up some pesto. Pesto is one of my favorite things to make. Greens, garlic, parmesan, nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice. So simple. So good. Arugula pesto has a delightfully peppery flavor that distinguishes it from standard basil pesto, but it can be used in similar ways. Toss it with pasta or fresh veggies. Or eat it as I do: on top of toast slathered with ricotta. Mmm, mmm good.

Arugula pesto

Arugula Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  •  1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic, arugula, parmesan, and salt. Chop until coarsely chopped and blended. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice, and blend until creamy.  (Add more olive oil if needed to make the mixture smooth.) Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if desired.

Makes about one cup.

Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for up to six months. I like to freeze it in an ice cube tray and then save the cubes of pesto in a plastic freezer bag to use as needed.

Source: Adapted from Max Sussman and Eli Sussman via Epicurious.

Skillet Lasagna

One of the most freeing things about my evolution as a “food person” has been learning my likes and dislikes and adapting recipes accordingly. Sounds simple, right? But when I was first learning how to cook, I felt chained to a recipe. I assumed every dish was quadruple tested, its methods and ingredients absolute truth.

And then I met my college roommate, who insisted that you could cut the amount of sugar in every cookie recipe by half, or even substitute honey. (Heresy!) And then I met Gabriel, who alarmed me with his way of just throwing in salt and pepper as he tasted a dish, rather than measuring it out by the teaspoon.

Guess what? The food cooked up by those recipe-challengers was delicious! As I became more comfortable with my own cooking skills, I emulated Alex and Gabe and learned to approach recipes as starting points, not rigid contracts. And so it was with a big freaking smile on my face that I finally dumped out the jar of dried cilantro in my spice drawer a couple weeks ago. Because it turns out I don’t like cilantro.

I also can’t stand fennel seed, which is unfortunate, because the sausage I chose for this otherwise amazingly delicious recipe was rife with it. But now that I’m 100% sure of my distaste, I’ll be sure to choose the fennel-less sausage next time. Because I can.

Skillet lasagna

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Skillet Lasagna

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 8 oz. dried pasta (I chose pasta that looked like broken-up lasagna pieces)
  • 42.5 oz. canned, crushed tomatoes (I used one 28-oz can and one 14.5-oz can)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Heat olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in  crushed red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Add sausage to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken into pieces and no longer pink (3-5 minutes).

Stir in pasta and tomatoes. Cover and continue to cook on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Be sure to stir fairly frequently, otherwise the pasta will stick to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. When pasta is done, remove skillet from heat and stir in half the parmesan and ricotta. Adjust seasoning to taste. Sprinkle the pasta with the remaining parmesan and chunks of mozzarella, and dot with the remaining ricotta.

Place skillet under broiler and cook until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil, and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution via Pink Parsley

Pesto Barley Salad

I know, I know, the suspense has been killing you. What did I make with those oven-dried tomatoes? I had a fair number of good guesses, but no one got it right on the head. My sweet little sister even suggested, “Whatever you’re making, I don’t want it. Tomatoes are icky.” Thanks for the support. ;)

We did enjoy these tomatoes on a margarita pizza two nights ago, but my real purpose for making them was to use them in lunches this week. If I’m really on top of things, I try to make a big salad during the weekend that I can bring for lunch all week long. This week it was pesto barley salad.

One of my new cooking goals is to branch out a bit with grains. As Gabe was helping me put away groceries this week, he stared at the pile of barley, farro, quinoa, and couscous amassing on the counter and said, “So apparently we live 3000 years ago.”

Not quite. But it’s definitely fun and challenging to introduce new old foods into our diet. And considering I’ve only ever had barley in soup (and beer, of course), this recipe was a great first step.

Pesto barley salad

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Pesto Barley Salad

Cook barley according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. Stir in pesto. Slice mozzarella into bite-size pieces and add to bowl with barley. Stir in tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray.

Flatbread with Egg, Parmesan, and Arugula

I’m in the middle of kind of a weird food week. Gabe and I are back from a weekend of camping, but we only have a few days at home before jetting off to California for his brother’s wedding. So aside from one glorious meal of homemade pesto featuring the first crop of my miraculously growing basil plant (wahoo!), we’ve been eating sandwiches and takeout.

Meal planning can feel like just one more chore sometimes, but I know I’m so much calmer, healthier, and less impoverished-feeling when I know exactly what we’ll be eating everyday and don’t have to depend on a nearby restaurant. Last week was a pretty successful week in that regard, and I kicked it off with this fun and unusual flatbread. I mixed the dough up before heading off to work, so it rose in the fridge all day and was ready for toppings come dinner time. It’s amazing what a little advance planning can do.

Flatbread with egg, parmesan, and arugula

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Flatbread with Egg, Parmesan, and Arugula

Dough

  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water (110° F)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour

Toppings

  • olive oil
  • cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup freshly shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup roasted or grilled red pepper slices
  • 8 large eggs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups baby arugula

Make the dough: In large bowl, stir together yeast and warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Stir in olive oil, salt, and flour until dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 6-8 minutes or until smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, place in a warm location, and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes. Punch down dough, cover, and refrigerate at least 6-8 hours or overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about an hour. Preheat oven to 450° F. Prepare two cookie sheets by lightly greasing with olive oil and sprinkling with cornmeal. Divide dough in half and roll each section into an oval about 7×13 inches. Place each oval of dough on a cookie sheet.

Lightly brush dough with olive oil. Top with shredded parmesan and red peppers. Bake flatbreads for 8 minutes. Remove from oven. One at a time, crack an egg into a small bowl, and then slide the egg out of the bowl onto the flatbread, until each flatbread has four evenly spaced eggs. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Return flatbreads to oven and bake until eggs reach desired doneness, about 5-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 Tbs. olive oil with vinegar in a large bowl. Toss arugula with dressing until well-coated, and then top the baked flatbreads with the arugula. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

Source: Slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well.

Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

This post isn’t so much a recipe as it is a proclamation: Try weird things sometimes. It’s good for you.

I bought a quarter of a watermelon for the Fourth of July because a) it’s a holiday requirement, b) a whole watermelon would have been a lot to carry back from the grocery store, and c) I’m the only watermelon-eater in this household. Inspired by the rapidly expanding mint plant on my balcony, I threw together this watermelon salad with mint and feta. Salty cheese with juicy watermelon and refreshing mint? Now that’s different.

After a few deeply pondered bites, I declared to Gabe, “This is weird. But I like it.” And now that my watermelon salad is all gone, I’ve found myself craving the unusual but exciting combination of flavors it provided. This funny little dish made me even more excited to try new and “exotic” recipes. So there you have it: try weird things sometimes. It’s good for you.

Watermelon, mint, and feta salad

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Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

  • 4 cups seeded, cubed, and chilled watermelon
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbs. fresh mint, coarsely chopped

Place watermelon in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with feta and mint, and stir to combine. That’s really all there is to it!

Source: Slightly adapted from Joy the Baker.