How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients

Collage of thai food - How To Prepare Thai Food With These Key Ingredients Thai food is internationally famous. Thai cuisine is essentially a union of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai.

A prepared dinner table with a Thai meal placed on it, consists of a spicy or non-spicy soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables, and there could also be a spiced salad.

Thai food has evolved much like Indian food, meaning the cooks or chefs take great care so there is a harmony of flavors and textures with each individual dish. One dish must compliment the other dishes positioned at the dinner table.

What is needed in your kitchen to make a great Thai dish? You need to know the “Key Ingredients.”

Key Ingredients Needed To Prepare Thai Food

When you dicide to make a Thai dish, the following is what you should find in your refrigerator or pantry.

Banana Leaves

Fresh banana leaves are used to wrap steamed fish, giving them a herbaceous flavor. Thai people also use banana leaves as cooking vessels, folding them into a shape that will hold and cook the food, and as “to-go” containers.

Idea: How To Make Banana Leaf Bowls by: Escape To Paradise 

Lemongrass

You can buy lemongrass fresh in thick grassy bundles or minced or chopped in jars or possibly the freezer section of your favorite Asian market.

RecipeLemongrass Basil Thai Chicken

thai lime leaves

Thai Lime Leaves

Lime Leaves

The leaves are a glossy dark green color, and are used to flavor curries, soups, fish cakes and even teas for its fragrant herbal notes.

Thai Basil 

This variety of basil professes a subtle sweet anise flavor.

The leaves are dark green with purple stems.

If you are not able to find Thai basil at your favorite market, Holy basil will do.

Recipe: Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

Fish Sauce 

In Thailand, fish sauce is called nam pla, which is prepared from salted fish. Fish sauce can be used as a condiment, which can be savory and a reddish-brown in color. Fish sauce is ubiquitous in Thai cooking.

Recipe: Pad Thai Noodles with Chicken – (recipe uses fish sauce)

Green Papaya Fruit

Image credit: Photo Elsoar

Green Papaya

The green papaya is foot ball shaped. It is a fruit that makes the spicy, crunchy salad, “som tum” sought after to calm a hungry stomach.

An unripe green mango can be used in place of the green papaya when unable to find it at the market.

Tamarind Puree

Bowl of Sour Curry Prawns with Cha-Om Omelette

Image credit: Pranees Thai Kitchen – Sour Curry Prawns with Cha-Om (using tamarind puree)

This puree is made from the fruit pods of the tamarind tree, and it is referred to as “sour tamarind soup base” or “nuoc me chua.”

When purchasing the tamarind puree, you can find it in sticky 14 ounce blocks. The thai use the puree, by diluting 1 ounce pureed pulp with 1/3 cup warm water, and then strained.

You can also buy it ready made and jarred with no need of diluting it. There is also a concentrated tamarind that is thick and molasses like. It also needs to be diluted.

The concentrated tamarind is said to have a sour taste that can be overpowering in Pad Thai.

Link here to learn how to make your own homemade tamarind puree by: Pranees Thai Kitchen

Recipe: Thai Food Soup: Gang Som Cha Om Kai  – by Joy’s Thai Food

Thai Chili Peppers

These peppers are small in shape, green and red in color, and fiery in taste. Though as spicy as the chili maybe, it is said the chili gives a subtle fruity flavor when used in Thai cooking. If Thai chilis are too much for your palate, you can use Serrano peppers instead.

Dried Shrimp

Small little dried shrimp add salty flavor to noodle dishes and salads. Dried shrimp can keep indefinitely in a cool dark place within an airtight container.

Having these key ingredients used in authentic Thai cooking in your pantry or refrigerator, will always be at your reach in a moments notice. If unable to find them at your favorite grocers, try looking for them in an Asian market.

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Curried Chicken With Dried Cherries

Curried Chicken and Dried Cherries - over head viewHave you ever heard of the Curry Tree? It is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the rue family, which also includes the citrus. The tree is native to India and Sri Lanka.

Curry Leaf Tree

curry leaves in a skillet with olive oil

Curry Leaves In A Skillet With Olive Oil

The leaves of the curry tree are used in many Indian dishes. The “sweet neem leaves” are often used in curries, as they (the leaves) are highly valued as a seasoning in southern and west-coast Indian cooking, as well as Sri Lankan cooking .

The leaves when used in curry dishes are add with the chopped onion in the first stage of the preparation of the curry dish.

potted curry leaf tree

Image Credit: Garden Amateur

The tree can be home-raised as a potted plant as it is easily grown in warmer areas of the world, or in containers where the climate is not supportive outdoors. In this image is a potted Curry tree in the yard of an Australian gardener.

Our featured dish is  – Curried Chicken With Dried Cherries – and here is what you will need, and no you will not need to hunt down some curry leaves. Unless you have a tree and want to add some leaves to the dish we are featuring.

3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks 

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon avocado oil

1 small red or purple onion, thinly sliced

2 ribs celery, sliced

1/2 cup fresh water or chicken broth

1/3 cup chopped dried cherries

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 to 1 teaspoon Himalayan Salt (optional)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons flour

cooking chicken meatIn a large ceramic coated skillet or cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stir occasionally until meat is oblique colored and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside.

cooking onions and celeryTo the same pan add the 1 teaspoon of avocado oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sliced celery and cook, stirring for 3 minutes.

adding curry and dried cherriesNext add the cherries and 1/2 cup water and bring to a light boil. Next stir in the curry powder, salt and pepper.

Next, pour in the cream and mix in. You can also use coconut milk, which is used in traditional Indian dishes. When making this dish, we didn’t have any coconut milk, but we did have some heavy cream.

adding in chicken meat to curry mixNext add the cooked chicken along with any juices and mix in.

Curried Chicken and Dried CherriesServe over rice, couscous or eat as is.

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Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas

Orecchiette with Chorizo and ChickpeasThe first time we used pasta Orecchiette was around 2009. We had seen a recipe in a food magazine using the pasta, so to the store we went. We had a hard time finding it, but our local co-op (sell’s all natural – organic foods) had the pasta. When we described the pasta (as we had forgotten the name) the sales lady new right away what we wanted. She referred to the pasta as little pope hats. Ever since Orechiette has become a staple in our pantry.

About.com talks on Italian food and describes Orechiette as a distinctive Puglian type of pasta shaped roughly like small ears, as orecchio in Italian means eat, and Orecchiette means little ears. The pasta is roughly 3/4 of an inch across, slightly domed, and the centers are thinner than the rim of the pasta. The pastas texture is soft in the middle and more chewy along the rim or outside of the pasta.

Barilla (store brand that sells Italian products) says that Orecchiette is the signature pasta of Puglia, describing Puglia as a humble farming land situated along the southeastern coast of Italy.

Here is a video posted to You-Tube of Italian women in Italy making fresh Orechiette pasta.
Now for our featured recipe: Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas, and here is what you will need.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small shallots, chopped

3/4 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups chicken broth

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed

12 ounces Orecchiette

Garnishes:

Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley

Finely grated Parmesan and lemon zest

cooking Mexican chorizoHeat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute, stirring often, until beginning to brown and smell fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add chorizo to pan and break up with a spoon, and cook meat until browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.

adding chickpeas to meat sauceNext add tomato paste and red pepper flakes to meat mixture and mix in. Next add the broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened a bit, about 15-20 minutes. Next add the can of chickpeas, and mix in, cooking 2 minutes more to heat the chickpeas through.

adding orechiette to meat sauceMeanwhile, cook pasta according to packaged instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Next add the pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to meat sauce. Continue to cook until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Add the pasta liquid as needed. You might use the whole cup, and possibly less.

Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas in the panServe pasta topped with cilantro or parsley (your choice), Parmesan, and lemon zest.

Orecchiette with Chorizo and ChickpeasWe have had this for left overs a few times, and each time we add cilantro, cheese, and lemon zest. The zest adds great flavor to this dish. Be sure to use it.

For the side salad using candy cane beets, see our recipe here: Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with Pecans.

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Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables

Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables

Chicken Teriyaki  is a very popular Japanese food in the US.  Teriyaki in Japanese means “grilled with shine.”  Sugar in teriyaki sauce gives a shine to the food, making it not only delicious, but also looks more appetizing.

It is very simple to make teriyaki sauce, as it is a mixture of only three ingredients, soy sauce, sugar, and sake. You can also use mirin for a sweeter teriyaki.  One of the advantages of making the sauce yourself is you can adjust the flavor the way you prefer.  Also making your own, avoids the unnecessary chemicals in store bought teriyaki sauce.

 common-japanese-cooking-ingredientsAccording to Japanese Cooking 101, this is a list of common ingredients used in Japanese cuisine:

Aburaage
Aonori
Dashi
Dried Bonito Flakes (Katsuobushi)
Dried Shiitake Mushroom
Mirin
Miso Paste
Nagaimo (Dioscorea opposita, Chinese yam)
Panko (Bread Crumbs)
Pickled Red Ginger (Benishouga)
Rice
Rice Vinegar
Roasted Seaweed (Sushi Nori)
Sake
Soy Sauce
Tonkatsu Sauce

It is not common in traditional Japanese cuisine to use garlic, though it is in Korean cooking.

Our featured recipe is a Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables, though not an authentic recipe, but an American rendition.

homemade Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce

4 tablespoons tamari sauce  (works the same as soy sauce)

4 tablespoons mirin (can use sake for a less sweeter teriyaki sauce)

2 tablespoons coconut sugar (not used in Japanese cooking, can use white sugar if you wish)

2 teaspoons arrowroot (can also use cornstarch or potato starch)

2 tablespoons water

Mix together in a small sauce pan over medium heat, the first three ingredients. In a small cup mix together the water and arrowroot. Bring the pot to a slow boil and add the arrowroot-water mixture to the boiling pot. Stir in and continue to stir until the liquid thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Tamari is specifically a Japanese form of soy sauce, traditionally made as a by-product of miso paste. Tamari is a gluten-free product, were as soy sauce is not.

Now let’s prepare the meat and vegetables to mix with our homemade teriyaki sauce.

vegetables cut Julienne style4  tablespoons coconut oil (or sesame oil), divided

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

3 green onions, chopped

2 carrots, cut julienne style

2 celery ribs, cut julienne style

8 asparagus spires, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces

4 chicken breasts, skinless and bones, cut into 1 inch chunks

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds

A traditional Japanese chicken teriyaki uses chicken thighs, and asparagus is not a vegetable normally used in Japanese cooking.

sauteing ginger and green onionsSaute the prepared ginger and green onions in the heated coconut oil (2 tablespoons) over medium heat in a large frying pan, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Next add the carrots, celery, and asparagus, and continue to stir-fry until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

cooking chicken thigh chunks in teriyaki sauceHeat a large frying pan over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and add chopped meat and cook until meat is oblique. Next add the teriyaki sauce and mix in.

mixing in sesame seedsNext mix in the sesame seeds, and add the vegetables and mix in as well.

Teriyaki Chicken with VegetablesPlate and serve over white rice.

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Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

Thai Chicken Stir fry with Holy Basil

Illness and conditions Holy Basil helps withHoly basil or Tulsi has medicinal properties. The leaves are used in Thailand for sharpen memory.

The leaves of holy basil are used during the rainy season, when malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent.

The tender leaves are boiled with black tea, to use as a preventive against theses diseases.

A tea is also made from the leaves, and raw honey is added with fresh ginger as an effective remedy for bronchitis, asthma, influenza, cough and cold.

These little green leaves can also reduce blood cholesterol. Holy basil is also used as an anti-stress remedy.

Recent studies have shown that chewing 12 leaves of holy basil basil, twice a day, can help to fight stress.

Now for our featured recipe: Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Holy Basil

avocado oil for Asian cooking - Thai Chicken with Holy Basil

Healthy Cooking to 500 Degrees

Cook 1 cup of your favorite rice according to package instructions (use chicken broth in place of water, provides more flavor for the dish).

2 tbsp. avocado oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

8 ounces chicken breast, boneless and shredded into medium pieces

1 tbsp. red chili flakes

Red chili is a great source of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin-A to sponge cell damaging free radicals. The chili also helps reduce Red Chili Flakesinflammation and reduces blood clotting.

2 handfuls of holy basil

2 tbsp. fish sauce

1 tbsp. raw sugar

2 tbsp. chicken stock

Heat a wok (or similar pan) over medium heat. Add oil and garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds or until you smell the aroma of the garlic.

Turn up the heat to medium-high. Next add the chicken, chilli flakes, half of the basil, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Now add the fish sauce, raw sugar, and stock. Mix in well. Stir-fry until chicken is oblique.

Turn the heat to low, and add the rest of the basil. Stir-fry the contents of the wok or pan 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Plate some rice and spoon on top some Stir-Fried Chicken with Holy Basil and enjoy.

 

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Thai Chicken with Linguini

Thai Chicken with Linguini

Another Asian dish from the kitchen of Splendid Recipes and More. I actually came up with this recipe when I was out to lunch one day at the Cheesecake Factory. If I recall on their menu it said”Thai Chicken and Liguini.” They were selling a plate for about $10 or $12. In your own kitchen you can make this recipe to serve 4 to 6 plates for under $3.00 each.

Here is what you will need.

16 oz. linguini cooked

4 lbs. chicken breast

2 cups carrots, cut Julianne style

2 cups celery, cut Julianne style

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 tbsp. avocado oil

1 cup hot peanut sauce (see end of article for home-made peanut sauce)

1 cup peanuts, unsalted

 

Most Asian recipes call for vegetables cut Julianne style or on the diagonal. Vegetables cut this way take less time to cook as more surface area is exposed to the heat source. Vegetables cook faster, leaving them crunchy and most of the nutrition is not cooked out.

Here is an illustration of a very easy way to cut carrots Julianne style.

First wash your carrot. From left to right (image), cut the carrot into 1.5 to 2 inch sections. Square the carrot, by thinly slicing outer skin of carrot. Next cut squared carrot into 4 slices. Then cut each slice into match sticks (about 4 slices).

cutting carrot Julianne style

To cut your celery Julianne style is about the same. But there is no need to square the celery or remove the outer skin.

cutting celery Julianne style

Wash celery and then cut into 1.5 to 2 inch sections. Next face rounded side of celery up and slice down the middle. With each section, cut into about 4 match sticks.

Most people though do not like to contend with the stringy part of the celery. Even though the celery is cut Julianne style, you can still have strings, though much smaller. This is how I like to cut my celery, at an angle. There is no strings to contend with, using this cut.

cutting celery at an angle

Cutting the celery in this way, also exposes more surface to the heat source and cooking the celery fast, and leaving it crunchy.

Now on to preparing Thai Chicken with Linguini.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Cut each chicken breast into ¼ inch chunks. In a large frying pan; heat oil. Add minced garlic and sauté. Add vegetables and sauté until tender and then add chicken and cook until pink is gone.

Pour about ½ cup of peanut sauce into pan over chicken and vegetable mixture and mix in well.  Add peanuts mix some more and add the final ½ cup peanut sauce and mix. Remove from pan and put onto a large serving dish.

close-up of Thai Chicken with Linguini

Plate and serve.

Home -made Peanut Sauce

1 13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk, full fat

¼ cup red curry paste

¾ cup natural creamy peanut butter, no sugar added

½ tbsp. salt

¾ cup sugar

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

½ cup water

Mix everything into a medium sauce pan and bring to a soft boil over medium heat. Wisk while the ingredients are coming to a boil. Do this for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and use in the recipe. Let the rest cool down, place in a jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate, should last about 4 months. The sauce will thicken, to loosen or make saucy again, place jar into a small pot of boiling water.

Buy your peanut butter fresh ground at your local market. This way there is no peanut or other seed oil used. These types of oils (omega-6) cause inflammation within your body.

 

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Amazing Ways Food is used in Thai Recipes

Amazing Ways Food is used in Thai Recipes

 

Thailand or officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia.

Thailand is the world’s 51st-largest country in terms of total area, approximately 198,000 square miles, and is the 20th-most-populous country, with around 64 million people. Bangkok is the capital and largest city, and also is center of Thailand’s politics, commercialism, industrialism and culture.

It is also interesting enough to mention Thailand has been called the Golf Capital of Asia. It is a popular destination for golf. The country attracts large numbers of golfers from Japan, Korea, Singapore, South Africa and Western countries who go to play golf in Thailand every year.

Thai cuisine also uses ingredients that are commonly known to us in the Western world or more industrialized countries. Knowing how Thai recipes prepare these food items might give us more of an appreciation for such food.

Bamboo Shoots are used in many Thai recipes. To use bamboo shoots in cooking requires them to be peeled to get to the white inner stalks and then boil them for 30 canned bamboo shootsminutes in water. If using canned bamboo shoots they only need to be boiled for 10 minutes. There is no need for boiling them if they are part or if they are part of a soup or curry dish.

There are three (3) types of basil used in Thai recipes. They are Sweet, Holy, and Lemon Basil. If you use basil in your cooking, it is most likely sweet basil as that is the most commonly sold in the local markets.

Basil typesHoly basil has a spicier flavor and has slightly purple leaves. Lemon basil for its name gives away what it tastes like. It has a lemony flavor and also has a distinct lemony scent.

If you can’t find Lemon basil at your local market, you can use sweet basil by adding finely chopped chili peppers or a bit of lemon rind.

Bergamot is a small tree with long, oval green leaves with white flowers. The small tree originates in Asia but can found in Italy, Morocco and the Ivory Coast. The tree bears small round fruit that is yellow when ripe. The preparation of some Thai dishes use the rind or zest of the fruit.

It is hard to find this small fruit, so granted lime zest can be used in its place, though it can be a poor substitute.

Lots of Thai recipes use Chili paste, which is used for adding spice and flavor to the dish. A particularly popular version by Thai cooks is burnt mild chili paste. You can buy the chili paste in bottles or tubes at almost any market in the Asian food section.

Chinese mushrooms are also an addition to Thai cooking as well as coconut milk. Coconut milk can be bought in cans almost anywhere. If the recipe calls for coconut cream scoop, that would be the harder white substance that has formed at the top of the can. If it is coconut milk that the recipe calls for, than just stir the can thoroughly before using.

Curry Paste: While some people prefer to prepare their own curry pastes, many bottled curries are available at the supermarket. Most recipes use red, green or yellow curry.

Fish sauce: Made from collecting the liquid off of fermenting salted fish, this pale, watery brown sauce is sometimes used to replace all the salt in recipes. It is very flavorful and compliments all Thai food. It is called for in many recipes but you can also use your imagination with it, as it is very versatile.

Galangal is also used in many curries and soups. It is similar to ginger. Galangal is hard to find fresh, but can be purchased dried. It will need to be soaked in water for 1 hour before using.

Thai garlic is a must when preparing a dish. Thai garlic should be available in Asian markets, but if not then the common garlic we see can also be used.

When using the Thai garlic the smaller, tighter cloves are the best to use because they are more flavorful and will not be over powered by the other herbs and spices used in the dish.

Ginger used quite often in modern cooking is easy to find, and ginger is extremely healthy and flavorful.

Lemon grass is one of the most commonly used ingredients in Thai cooking. It looks much like a small leek. The hard outer portion is removed, and the lower bulbous part is used.

The lemon grass is sliced into pieces and added to the food while cooking, and then removed before serving the dish, or it can be blended in a food processor before adding to the cooking process and then consumed with the dish giving it more flavor.

Palm sugar is used in some Thai recipes, but if it is not unavailable you can substitute with dark brown sugar or real maple syrup.

Rice is a main staple for the Thai people and they prefer long-grain white Jasmine rice which is flavorful and aromatic rice that cools and compliments spicy Thai dishes.

Rice paper is used to make fresh Thai spring rolls, which are prepared with vegetables and meat if desired.

Sesame oil is the preferred oil to use in Thai cuisine. It’s a very flavorful oil and works well with Thai cooking.

Preparation and cooking techniques:

The vegetables used in Thai cooking should be cut as finely as possible. The idea behind the thin cut vegetable is that the smaller they are chopped, the less time they will need to be cooked, which retains most of the nutrients as possible.

Most of us have cooked a stir fry before. This method requires a wok and oil. The vegetables are when the oil and wok are hot and then stirred constantly. The vegetables should only be stir fried for a couple of seconds so they remain crisp and brightly colored.

stone mortar usewd in Thai cookingMortar and Pestles are used in making sauces, and curry pastes. Anyone who loves Thai food and is animate about cooking it needs a mortar and pestle in their kitchen. It should be preferably made out of clay or wood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Risotto: Northern Italy’s Classic Comfort Food

Risotto: Northern Italy’s Classic Comfort Food

When it comes to Italian comfort food, you might immediately think of pasta. Although pasta is a big part of Italian cuisine… in northern Italy another dish reigns supreme.

Many centuries ago in the fertile Po Valley, a little round rice was making its way onto the tables of hungry Italian families. Named for a small town in the region, Arborio rice soon became a staple ingredient for a delicious “comfort food” among the local people. Over time, this dish became known as Risotto.

It All Starts With the Rice

First of all, risotto is not a type of rice. It is a dish made with a particular kind of rice. Arborio is probably the best-known variety, especially in the United States since it is readily available. Arborio is short, plump starchy rice that, when cooked properly, has a very creamy finish.

Arborio is not the only rice that can be used to make risotto. Vialone Nano and Carnaroli are two lesser known, but popular varieties. Vialone Nano has a slightly firmer finish and is considered gourmet by risotto aficionados. Carnaroli has an even firmer texture than Vialone Nano and offers a very delicate taste. Both are available in specialty shops and online.

Primavera Veg Risotto With Lemon

Primavera Veg Risotto With Lemon

Although risotto is made from rice, that doesn’t mean you can make it out of any old rice you happen to have in your pantry. That lovely long grain rice you enjoy with your homemade stir-fry doesn’t have the right starch content to create the creamy texture of a true risotto. You must start your dish with one of the three rice varieties from northern Italy to have a true risotto.

The Quest for the “Perfect” Risotto

Once you start looking around for some great risotto recipes, you may soon find yourself ready to call it quits. Most everyone has the same reaction when they read their first risotto recipe…  “I have to stand and stir this stuff for how long?!”

Risotto “purists” will tell you that “stand and stir” is the ONLY way to make real risotto. In a sense, they are right. Slowly adding liquid and continually stirring the mixture produces perfect creamy risotto. The reason why purists prefer this method is simple: the slower the rice absorbs the liquid, the creamier the risotto will be. As the rice absorbs the liquid, it releases its starch. The slower the starch is released, the creamier the end result.

Does that mean you are chained to the stove if you want a creamy risotto? Do you have to spend an eternity adding small amounts of liquid and stirring over and over and over again forever?

Not really. Let’s take a look at some alternate methods for cooking risotto.

Acceptable Risotto Shortcuts

There are techniques for cooking creamy risotto that don’t depend on the “stand-and-stir” method. In fact, you can actually get a creamy risotto by letting your oven do most of the work.

To make “baked” risotto, you start by sautéing some onions and garlic in olive oil on your cook-top in an oven-proof pot. Then, add some dry white wine, rice and some chicken stock to the pan. Cover and pop into a pre-heated oven until the excess moisture is absorbed. To finish, stir in a little more broth, butter, and grated Parmesan cheese.

Risotto with Pancetta and Peas

Risotto with Pancetta and Peas

Another shortcut some cooks are enjoying is using an electric slow cooker made especially for risotto. These are combination ‘stir free’ risotto cookers, rice cookers, and slow cookers. You will still need to sauté the onion and rice in oil, and then add wine and broth, but you will then cover the pot and only stir once about halfway through the process. This is truly easy risotto.

Would a risotto “purist” approve of these shortcuts? Probably not – but sometimes you just want to get a good meal on the table without too much fuss.

Are you ready to dig into some classic northern Italian comfort food? Then skip the pasta and try your hand at making an authentic creamy risotto that would make any cook in the Po Valley proud!

 

 

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Thank the Greeks for Cheesecake

Greece and we’re talking Ancient Greece where the world’s greatest, most amazing, unsurpassed dessert was first created. What is it you say with despair? It’s Cheesecake of course. The story starts on the isle of Samos about the seventh or eighth centuries B.C.E. It was there that the great inventors of dessert…OK I don’t really know if they are the inventors, but I get excited when it comes to dessert. So on the isle of Samos is were they  began pounding cheese into a thick paste, using honey as a sweetener and setting it into a crust of wheat. The age old question is though, is it truly a cake?

Will let me tell you about the first time I made a cheesecake. The recipe called for three tablespoons of flour. I thought only three tablespoons? And why not, most cakes call for 1 1/2 cups or more of flour. But the three tablespoons were added. My first cheesecakeWhen I make my second cheesecake, I opted to leave out the flour to see what happens. To my surprise, nothing. It bake up just fine like the first one. So off to Google to see why only a small amount of flour is added. I learned the never ending battle, that is if cheesecake is truly a cake. Flour was not in the original cake and if you have no flour, it cannot be called a cake.

So if it is not a cake than what is it? Some say a Tort. Which many torts are just made with cheese. Then there is custard, much like your French Crème Burlee or your Spanish Flan. The two which are made just like a cheesecake. How so? The principle ingredients being: milk and eggs. Of course sugar is added for sweetness. They also use a water bath, necessary to bake them. I have decided I’m not going to get involved in the dispute. Many things including food have a name that has nothing to do with what they are or look like.

Here is a modern day improved upon cheesecake, since the Greek’s first made one. Here is what you will need for the crust and the filling.

ingredients for crust

Also you will need 1/3 cup of flax seed. Place the seed in a food processor and pules on crush until you have a fine flour texture. Next add the almonds and process more and than add the oats. Make sure the grains and almonds are a flour texture. Once you have done this, in a medium bowl, spoon in 1 1/3 cup of the almond flour and add the melted butter and incorporate well. Line four 4 1/2 inch spring form pans with parchment paper.

cheesecake crust

Next place 1/4 cup of almond paste mix into each spring form pan and press out paste to reach the sides of the pan.

parchment line pans with crust

Place the pans in a heated 350 degree oven and bake for 7 minutes. When done remove and let cool. Meanwhile start to prepare the filling. Here is what you will need:

cheesecake ingredients

You will also need 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt. Here is how you incorporate the ingredients by step. Make sure your eggs and cream cheese are room temperature. Be careful not to over process the ingredients so no air is left in the cheesecake, with too much air incorporated into the filling, cracks are likely to develop while the cake is baking.

cheesecake order of ingredients

Note: after step four refer to recipe at the end of this post under STIR-IN IDEAS if you wish to stir in other ingredients. Now pour 1 cup of filling into each spring form pan. Now we need to make a cheesecake water bath.  A cheesecake bath is a fail-safe way to stop your dessert from cracking, it also keeps the oven moisture very high and allows the heat to be gentle on the cake, allowing it to cook more slowly and evenly. The water evaporates before it gets as hot as the oven, cooling the edges of the cake so it bakes at the same rate as the center. Using a roasting pan fill it half way with hot water and place it on the bottom rack of you’re your heated oven. Place spring form pans filled with cheesecake on top rack just over the bath water. Bake for 45 minutes or 60 minutes if you are baking a 7 inch or larger cheesecake.

pouring filling into pans

But today we are using our Nuwave oven. The hot water is poured into the pan. The racked is place over the water and the cheesecakes are placed onto the rack.

pouring hot water for cheesecake bath   placing prepared cheesecake on rack

In the Nu-Wave oven we only have to bake the cheesecake for 20 minutes. Half the time and thank thinking minds for modern inventions.

When the cakes are done allow 15 minuets to cool. Than place in the refrigerator for no less than 3 hours. Then with a knife loosen edges and remove from spring form pans. Top cheesecake with fruit or eat plain. Here blueberry jam was used to to finish the cake.

mini cheeseckes with blueberry on top

You can also make it a Almond Brickle-butter Cheesecake. Before baking add 1 cup crushed heath bars to mix. After cooling add some fresh whipped cream to top and sprinkle with crushed heath bar.

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At first it can be a choir to make cheesecake. But with practice it will become second nature. Things to remember: cheesecake relies on the proteins in the eggs to give it structure. The proteins coagulate as the temperature approaches 170 degrees. If it over bakes, the cheesecake becomes dry. Never bake cheesecake over 350 degrees. It is recommended using light colored pans to cook and bake with. Cheesecake is one of the exceptions, a dark pan uniformly absorbs heat.

Thanks for reading Splendid Recipes and More. Before you go I would like to recommend a website for your viewing, the name of the site is: Is it Really a Cake? . You won’t waist your time going there.

Mix N Match Mini Cheesecakes

Crust

1 cup almonds, slices, processed ¼ cup sugar

¾ cup walnut pieces, processed 8 tbsp. butter, melted

1/3 cup flax seed, processed

Heat oven to 350°F

In a small bowl mix crumbs, sugar and butter; press 1/4 cup crumb mixture onto bottom of each of 4 mini (4 ½ inch) spring form pans. Bake for 7 minutes.

Cake

2 8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup sugar 1 tsp. lemon zest

3 eggs

1 cup Greek yogurt

With a food processor; cream the sugar and cream cheese. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each addition just until blended. Next add vanilla, lemon zest and yogurt and mix again. Pour 1 cup of the batter into each spring form pans. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until centers are just set. Run knife around rims of pans to loosen cakes; cool before removing rims of pans. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

 

STIR-IN IDEAS: Divide batter amongst 4 small bowls first; than mix 1 cup portion your chose of the following into each bowl.

1. Apple Pie Cheesecake; Stir in 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon; pour over crust. Bake as directed. Top cheesecake with combined ½ cup warmed apple pie filling and ½ tsp. brown sugar.

2. S’Mores Cheesecake: Stir in 3 Tbsp. chopped Milk Chocolate; pour over crust. Top with ¼ cup Mini Marshmallows and 1 Tbsp. broken Graham Crackers.

3. Chocolate Chunk Mini Cheesecake: Stir in ¼ cup Milk Chocolate chips.

4. New York Mini Cheesecake: Stir in ¼ cup Sour Cream and 1 Tbsp. flour.

5. Cookies and Cream Cheesecake: Stir in ¼ cup chopped Sandwich.

6. Chocolate Royale Mini Cheesecake: Stir in 2 oz. Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted.

7. Peanut Butter Mini Cheesecake: Stir in 2 Tbsp. peanut butter and 1 Tbsp. milk.

8. Mocha Mini Cheesecake: Mix 1 tsp. Instant Coffee granules with 2 tsp. hot water. Stir into batter along with 2 oz. Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted.

9. Fruit Mini Cheesecake: Bake basic mini cheesecake as directed. Just before serving, top with 1/3 cup favorite pie filling or fruit Jam.

What Others are Saying About Cheesecake:

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Delightful Differences between Northern and Southern Italian Cuisine

The Astronomical clock in the Medieval City of Mantua in Lombardy Northern Italy

The Astronomical clock in the Medieval City of Mantua in Lombardy Northern Italy

red checkered table cloth“Let’s go find a good Italian restaurant tonight.” If you immediately envision pasta with lots of red sauce, you are not alone. Italian cuisine is very often lumped into one red-check-tablecloth-covered category.

Yes, this image is part of the Italian culinary experience, but it is only a small part of the whole picture.

If you were to travel the length of Italy, you would find a vast difference in Italian cuisine. This may be a bit surprising considering Italy is only about 800 miles long and 200 miles wide.

How could the cuisine vary so much in such a small area?

The answer lies in the topography. From snowy mountains in the north to sandy beaches in the south, Italy covers every climate known to man. How does this account for the variations in cuisine? Let’s take a look at a few culinary differences and the reasons behind them.

Meat and Seafood

Northern Italy borders Switzerland, Austria, France, and Slovenia and shares their mountainous topography. Although snowy and frigid in some regions, the seas play a part in keeping other areas rather temperate. These warmer temperatures and an abundance of inland lakes and rivers make the northern region ideal for pasturing several types of livestock.  In addition, the region’s inland waters provide refuge for wild game. These rich northern resources result in meals that feature plenty of meat, cream, cheese, and game.

On the other hand, southern Italy has a drier, hotter climate overall and doesn’t have the rich, green pastures and deep woods needed to support livestock and wildlife. It does, however, have a vast coastline with access to large bodies of water. This makes deep sea fishing possible. Since southern Italy is very narrow and surrounded by large bodies of water, you can see why seafood is a staple in every household and why many meals are designed around fresh seafood.

Butter and Olive Oil

As mentioned, the northern climate in Italy with its rich pastures is perfect for raising livestock. Dairy cows are a natural fit for the region, making butter a mainstay in every household.

Olive trees need a sunny, moderate climate to grow and the balmy southern region is a perfect match. As a matter of fact, southern Italy is one of the world’s leading producers of olive oil. You can see why olive oil is a staple in every kitchen in southern Italy.

Root and Vine

Northern Italy’s summers are short. Whatever can be grown in the ground or in the shade will find its way onto the table. You won’t find a lot of ‘red sauce’ in the northern region because tomatoes are not abundant. What you will find is cheesy, cream based dishes, soups, and stews using root vegetables and oftentimes cured meats.

The southern region in Italy is where you’ll find an abundance of world-famous tomato sauce. Thanks to a long growing season, fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs are easy to find in the south. Therefore, fresh is the name of the game in southern Italian cuisine. Lemon, eggplant, tomato, and herbs all play a part in these fresh dishes and are often just tossed lightly with pasta and a drizzle of olive oil.

Although Italy is a relatively small country, the mountainous regions combined with almost 5000 miles of coastline form countless pockets of unique climates, resulting in extreme diversity in the country’s natural and agricultural resources. From north to south, you can see why Italy offers so many culinary differences… and delights!

What Others are Saying About Italian Cuisine:

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