Vegetable Risotto

Vegetable Risotto

In true Paula Peck fashion, this seemingly vegetarian recipe actually includes bacon. It definitely adds a smokey deep flavor to the dish. Possibly so rich it could be eaten as a meal by itself. However, the bacon can easily be omitted for a slightly lighter, more vegetarian friendly version. I use what I know as the traditional method for making a risotto: stock or liquid is added a little at a time, allowing to absorb after each addition. Her recipe from “The Art of Good Cooking” is a little more like rice pilaf, where most of the liquid is added all at once and put in the oven until the liquid is absorbed. I personally like to watch the rice and texture as it softens to ensure the rice doesn’t overcook. I’m more comfortable with this stove top method and prefer to save the oven for pilaf but I have included both instructions below.
This is also a great recipe for using all of that wonderful spring produce that should be available any day now. Feel free to swap out the vegetables for whatever you have on hand.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
3 small zucchini, halved and sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 – 10oz package frozen cut beans
2 cups arborio rice
3 1/2 – 4 cups stock or a mixture of stock and tomato juice
salt and pepper
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

Combine butter, bacon, and olive oil in a deep, heavy pot. When hot and bacon is sizzling, add onion, garlic, potatoes, and carrot. Saute over high heat for 4-5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and saute for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add dry rice and saute for a few minutes longer.

Stovetop Method
Meanwhile warm stock over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat.
Add stock to rice mixture, about a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy. About 20 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Original/Oven Method
Add 3 cups of liquid (stock, tomato juice, or any combination), along with a good amount of salt and pepper. Place in 350 degree oven, uncovered, and allow to simmer until liquid is almost absorbed. Add a little more liquid, and continue to cook, uncovered until rice and vegetables are tender. A bit more or less, liquid maybe needed. Check seasoning and stir in grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8



Deviled Clams

Deviled Clams

I must admit that these tasty little fruits of the sea came out a little crispier and a little darker than I intended. I blame it on a new oven fiasco. While the recipe says to broil on medium, today’s ovens usually offer just low and high broil settings. In the interest of time, I decided to use the high setting and promised myself I would watch them carefully. Unfortunately, I was using a brand new oven and the broil setting hadn’t yet been used. Not only did the oven omit a strong new oven/chemical smell on the high broil setting, the neighbors called security due to what they said smelled like “an electric fire. Somehow amongst the commotion of the multiple security guards and maintenance men entering our apartment to stare at inspect the new oven, one of whom felt the need to comment that he was looking at buying the same oven for his own apartment, I managed to broil these little guys without completely destroying them. I actually enjoyed the combination of the slightly crispier top with the soft filling. The small piece of bacon on top, while delicious (of course), almost overpowers the light fresh clam flavor and could be easily omitted. These little bursts of flavor are an excellent appetizer or light lunch (especially if your broiler works properly…).


2 dozen small (cherrystone) clams or 1 dozen large
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
2 teaspoons tomato paste
salt and pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped

Scrub clams well to get any sand off shells. Place them in a large pot and add wine. Cook, covered, over low heat, just until the clam shells open.

Remove clams from pot and reserve half of each shell. Remove clams from shells.

Grind clams in food processor.

Melt butter in skillet. Saute green pepper, onion, and garlic till soft and golden. Add chopped parsley and bread crumbs. Stir in tomato paste. Season well with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and add clams.

Fill reserved clam shells with this mixture. Sprinkle tops with chopped bacon (if using) and place on broiling pan.

Brown under low broil (or high broil if watched carefully) until bacon is crisp.

Serves 4

From “The Art of Good Cooking” by Paula Peck. Adapted by Megan Peck.


Cheesy Bean Burger Blasters

Cheesey Bean Burger Blasters

Since I was curious about making homemade refried beans and Paula Peck’s Mexican/Tex-Mex style recipes are almost always excellent and reliable (she spent time cooking in Mexico- more about that later), I decided to try this gem of a recipe for Refried Bean Cakes that is tucked away in the vegetable section of “The Art of Good Cooking.”

A friend mentioned that the name didn’t do these tasty little patties justice. Like myself, she couldn’t get over how flavorful the homemade refried beans were by themselves, especially with so few ingredients. I kept saying she had to try them and her response was something like “homemade refried beans? Um…ok…interesting.” After tasting them, this quickly turned to “wow, i could just sit and eat a whole bowl of that stuff by itself.” Maybe the name Cheesy Bean Burger Blasters isn’t that much better but it’s at least interesting and fun to try to say five times fast.

Simplicity is key here and these are not to be confused with canned refried beans or the soupy mess that comes with your enchiladas at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant. When turned into a patty with melted ooey gooey cheese in the center, it’s just a rich amazing mess of deliciousness.


1 recipe Homemade Refried Beans
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
6 pieces Jack, Mozzarella, or melting cheese of your choice, each 1″ x 1″ x 1/2″
3/4 dry bread crumbs
oil or butter for sauteing

Add grated cheese and chopped onion to refried beans and refrigerate until cold. Divide mixture into six parts. Shape each part into a patty, pushing a piece of cheese into the center of each. Roll each bean cake in dry bread crumbs, then refrigerate one hour or more.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil or butter in a large skillet. Saute bean cakes, turning to brown on both sides and heat through.

Note: for firmer cakes that are less fragile, use a traditional breading method: dip cakes in flour, then beaten egg, and finally roll in breadcrumbs.

Serves 6


Fried Calamari with Two Dipping Sauces: Marinara and Aioli

I love all things seafood. Maybe it’s my upbringing in the landlocked Midwest and therefore lack of fresh seafood or that I was fed pureed sushi as a baby, or maybe its just my appreciation for it from a culinary standpoint. Whatever it is, you will see a few more Paula Peck seafood recipes on here soon. I had to modify this one quite a bit from the original in “The Art of Good Cooking.” The flour liquid proportions were pretty far off and had to be corrected. I also prefer to use a beer batter for both texture and flavor. This is not the breaded style fried calamari often served as bar food, but more of a tempura style. Though perfectly delicious on it’s own with a squeeze of lemon as noted in the original recipe, I like to take it a step further with a couple different dipping sauces: a simple marinara and a lemon aioli. The aioli is my favorite. I’ll eat it with just about anything fried, especially french fries. You can buy mayo and add lemon and garlic to make the aioli, but I really think it tastes much better homemade. This lemony garlicky sauce is the perfect complement to any seafood, especially this crunchy yet soft calamari. So enjoy this favorite bar food with an ice cold glass of beer at your next casual get together. Cheers!


1 pound small squid
vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups beer
1 lemon cut in wedges

Clean squid by washing under running water, rubbing off any outer speckled skin and pulling out all entrails. The fish will then be shaped liked tubes. Cut tubes into 1/4 inch slices.

Serves 6.

In a deep pan, heat 2-3 inches of oil to 375 degrees.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk in beer. With a fork, dip slices of squid into batter and drop in oil. Fry until golden brown. Serve at once with lemon wedges.

Marinara Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a small onion, chopped
pinch crushed red pepper
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
salt, pepper

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. When hot, add garlic and onion. Saute for 1 minute. Add crushed red pepper. Saute for 1 more minute. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Aioli Sauce

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil mixed with 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine egg yolk, mustard, salt, and vinegar in a bowl or blender. Whisk or blend for 10-20 seconds. Begin adding oil drop by drop while whisking or blending until emulsified. Add the rest of oil in a steady stream. Once the mayonnaise is formed, add garlic and lemon juice.


Basil Vegetable Soup

Basil Vegetable Soup

A quick and simple healthy soup that’s perfect for a weeknight meal. Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” any mix of vegetables could be used and the frozen green beans could be replaced by peas, broccoli, or any combination of mixed vegetables. I added tomato because I find it almost impossible to eat basil and Parmesan without tomato. I like to think of it as an Italian style ramen soup. Enjoy.


1 can (15.5oz) cannellini beans or white beans
3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 small zucchinis, halved and sliced
1 package (10 oz) frozen green beans
2 quarts vegetable broth or chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry vermicelli (rice noodles)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil
1 large tomato, diced
grated Parmesan cheese


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add a little of the liquid from the can of beans. Add sliced carrots and zucchini, saute for 1 minute. Add beans, garlic, frozen beans, tomato, salt, and pepper. Saute one minute more. Add broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender. Check seasoning and correct if necessary. Add vermicelli and simmer until just barely tender.

While soup is cooking, chop basil finely. When vermicelli is tender, remove soup from heat and add basil.

Serve with grated Parmesan and chopped basil.

Serves 8-10.


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