Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tomato Salad with Bariani Olive Oil and Maine Sea Salt

A satisfying Sunday afternoon refresher. Perfectly red vine-ripened tomato. Unctuous, peppery olive oil. Crunchy salt. Bright and strong basil.

As delightful as a tomato at the pinnacle of ripeness is, especially with the addition of grown-by-Matt-in-the-windowsill basil, what makes this salad/snack shine is the proper selection of the olive oil and the salt. Options abound. I want to share with you my choices:

Bariani Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Maine Sea Salt. The Bariani, I get at the Walpole Grocery at Burdick's in Walpole, NH. The Maine Sea Salt I picked up in a random shop in Bar Harbor, ME. But both can be ordered online.

If you're looking for a special olive oil, the Bariani is great for any raw olive oil application, from drizzling on vegetables or blending with a vinegar or lemon juice for salad dressings. I would never use this olive oil in cooked applications, because it is too expensive to allow heat to kill its nuances.

Until I started using the Maine Sea Salt, I thought that a good kosher salt would suit my needs anytime. The Maine Sea Salt has a delightful crunchiness, and the flavor has a clean saltiness, like breathing in the salt air on a clear day on the Maine coast. I use the Maine Sea Salt on vegetables and fruit, and raw salads of all sorts. I wouldn't put into pasta water or bake with it, for it is too crunchy and too distinctive to work in dishes like that.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shrimp and Pea Risotto

Another freezer/pantry dinner satisfying beyond the expectations of its humble origins. The peas and shrimp give this dish a freshness and a sweetness, that it feels impossible that the only item requiring recent purchase is the parsley. And if I didn't have the parsley already in the fridge and wasn't going to the store, I'd leave out the parsley in a second.

For two people~
From the freezer: 4 cups lobster stock (from the shells of our lobster rolls last week), 18 raw medium shrimp, 1/2 cup peas
From the pantry: 3/4 cup carnaroli rice, half a medium onion, 1 TBS olive oil
From the fridge: 1/4 cup white wine, 3 TBS butter, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano, 2 TBS chopped parsley

If you don't have lobster stock (and really, if you didn't have lobster shells leftover from a lobster dinner....who does?), use a very light chicken or vegetable stock cut with water 1:1. You don't want a strong chicken flavor in this, you want the stock/broth to be very light. Any seafood stock would work too, if you had made some from shrimp shells and/or fish bones.

Also, I use carnaroli rice for my risotti, which can be found in most specialty Italian groceries, but of course arborio, available at the supermarket, is good too.

Bring the lobster stock to a simmer. Shell the shrimp (put shells in the freezer for stock-making in the future). Cook shrimp for about 2 minutes (until pink, curled and tender). Remove shrimp from stock with a slotted spoon. When shrimp are cool, cut into bite-sized pieces. Put lid on lobster stock and turn off heat.

Finely chop the onion. Melt 1 1/2 TBS of butter and the TBS of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add rice and stir around for a few minutes to toast the rice. Add wine, stir and cook until evaporated.

Add a couple ladles of the warm stock. Stirring regularly, when the stock has mostly evaporated, add more, stirring frequently, if not constantly at times. Continue this until the rice is al dente (if running low on stock, add water, bring back to a simmer, then turn off heat again). The process of adding stock and stirring should take about 30 minutes, maybe less, maybe more. When the rice is to your liking, stir in peas, stir for about 30 seconds, until peas have thawed. Turn off heat. Add shrimp, remaining 1 1/2 TBS butter, parmigiano and parsley. Stir until butter is melted into rice and other ingredients well-distributed. Serve immediately.