Leek and Asparagus Risotto

My husband will tell you I am the most anxious when faced with an empty fridge.  Let me go grocery shopping, fill it up, and make a meal plan, and I suddenly feel like I can do life.  So the week before classes started, I changed my meal plan from a weekly meal plan based off the groceries I bought to a running categorical list based off the ingredients I already had on hand: 1. Meals I could throw together in about 10 minutes; 2. Meals I could make within 10-20 minutes; 3. Ready to go frozen meals; 4. Meals I could cook if I had some extra time and fresh ingredients.  I filled up a whole white board with my color-coded meal list, and suddenly felt like I could take on grad school.

Risotto is one of those meals that is homey and filling and warm and doesn’t take too long to pull together on one of those “extra time” days.  Add some fresh veggies, and your meal is set.


LEEK AND ASPARAGUS RISOTTO

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced, or grated with a medium ribbon grater
  • 1 asparagus bundle, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted, salted sesame seeds, as garnish
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese (or nutritional yeast flakes)
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil, and saute the leeks with salt and pepper to taste on medium heat.  When the leeks are translucent, add the garlic and rice and saute 5-10 more minutes and lower the heat to low.
  2. Add 2-3 cups of vegetable stock, until the rice is just covered, and 1/4 cup of the parsley.  Allow to come to a boil, and let cook and reduce until nearly all the stock has reduced.  Add another 1-2 cups of stock and let cook and reduce.  Continue adding stock, one cup at a time, and reducing, until the rice has transformed into a creamy soft mixture, about 30-40 minutes.  When you add the final cup of stock, add the asparagus to gently cook.  Let the stock reduce just enough to be a thin, pudding-like mixture.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese or nutritional yeast flakes.  To serve, garnish with the rest of the parsley and the sesame seeds.

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Melty Leeks

One of my favorite spring and summer finds is the leek.  This is an onion, but when cooked down is all melty sweet goodness and none of the usual onion sharpness.  Leeks work as a great topping, accompaniment, flavor addition, etc. etc.–they do it all!  In this recipe, they are going to add flavor to my favorite quick dinner:  a frittata.  I love frittatas because in a pinch you can still have a filling and veggie-laden dinner on the table within 20 minutes.  Serve with fruit and maybe some whole grain bread, and you’re set!

Leeks are pretty easy to clean.  First, slice in half lengthwise, second, rinse all the fronds individually and let dry, third slice thinly, and fourth, cook down with olive oil, salt and pepper.  It looks like a lot of onions in the pan, but they cook down quite a bit.

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This frittata has leeks, potatoes, red pepper, and mixed greens.

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Once you cook down the leeks, add the red pepper and cook just a few minutes more.  Add the leeks and red pepper in a bowl with the greens and set aside.

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Sauté the potato rounds, add the greens back to the pan, pour on the eggs.

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Let it cook for 7-10 minutes on the burner, then slide the oven-safe pan into the oven to finish cooking through.

Frittatas also work great as a sandwich on the go!

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VEGGIE FRITTATA

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 6-10 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 2 leek stalks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 3 small potatoes (red or gold preferable), thinly sliced
  • 2 loosely-packed cups of mixed greens

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Beat the eggs and milk or half-and half, salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.  Set the mixed greens in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Coat a large (oven-proof) sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium-low.  Add the leeks and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are golden and melty looking.  Add the red pepper and sauté for a few minutes more until the pepper is crisp tender.  Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the mixed greens.
  4. Put the sauté pan back on the heat and coat with olive oil.  Raise heat to medium-high and add the sliced potatoes in one single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown.  Flip and cook again until golden brown on the other side.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the mixed green mixture on top of the potatoes.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over top of all the veggies.  Cook until the egg is just set on the bottom, about 7-10 minutes.  Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 15-20 more minutes, until the eggs are slightly jiggly in the center but not wet.

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4-Star Date Hot Spot

Just a reminder that we eat mostly meatless…meaning I do cook dinners with meat a few times a month.  Fish is nearly always my go-to meat because it cooks up super quick and it’s so versatile.  And of all the fish I normally grab salmon because of its potassium, vitamin B12, and Omega-3 essential fatty acids.  And it just tastes really, really yummy.

This is an easy oven-roasted salmon with buttered leeks and a bright and sassy lemon quinoa on the side–oh man, such a rich and decadent meal that will make you feel like you are eating at a 4-star restaurant.  The salmon is rich and bright from the lemon, the leeks just melt into this buttery, warm and rich topping, and the quinoa adds more lemony brightness.  And, just because, I’m also throwing a breadcrumb gremolata on top of the leeks.  A typical gremolata is an herby citrusy Italian topping for pasta or meat.  In addition to parsley and lemon zest, I’m also adding breadcrumbs to my gremolata, for a bit of crisp crunch on top of the buttered leeks.

Forget the restaurant–make your kitchen the 4-star date hot spot, and give yourself the tip!

salmon from oven salmon with buttered leeks and lemon quinoa


OVEN ROASTED SALMON WITH BUTTERED LEEKS AND LEMON QUINOA

  • Difficulty: easy
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I’ll be honest, I don’t know the weight of the filet; I purchased a full salmon filet and cut it in thirds.  I used one third for this meal, and it was about 6 inches in length.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6-inch salmon filet (the filet I purchased had the skin on, but you can also use fish without the skin)
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced thinly
  • 1 slice whole grain bread, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested, sliced, and seeded (reserve the zest for the breadcrumb topping, and use the slices for the salmon)
  • 1/2 cup red or rainbow quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 carrot chopped
  • 1/2 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare the fish filet by patting dry with a paper towel, and lay on baking sheet with parchment paper (makes for easy clean up).  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange the lemon slices on top.  Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  The fish will flake in the middle when done–keep an eye on it so it won’t be overcooked and get dry.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Saute the carrot, celery, and onion with a little salt and pepper until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the rinsed quinoa and saute until the quinoa is slightly toasted, then add the vegetable broth.  Let come to a boil, then immediately cover and turn the heat to low.  Let simmer until the quinoa is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.  If the quinoa sticks to the bottom of the pot from cooking a little too long, turn off the heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover, and let sit for a few minutes, it’ll fluff right up.
  3. While the quinoa is simmering, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the cleaned and sliced leeks with salt and pepper to taste and saute until the leeks are translucent and sort of melty, about 10-15 minutes.  Set melted leeks aside in a bowl and in the same pan, back on medium heat, add another tablespoon of olive oil, and toast breadcrumbs to make the gremolata.  When toasted, put in a bowl and add the chopped parsley and lemon zest and stir together.
  4. When salmon is done, pull out of the oven and let rest.  Pull the lemon slices off the salmon and throw in the pot with the cooked quinoa.  Smash the lemon slices with the quinoa to release the roasted lemon juice.  Also add one quarter of the buttered leeks.  Stir together, then pull out and discard the lemon rinds.
  5. To serve, slice the salmon into 4 portions (or two very large portions if you are starving), top with the buttered leeks and the toasted breadcrumb gremolata, and serve with lemon quinoa on the side.

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