daring cook challenge, risotto, roasting, something new

Daring Cooks Challenge: Risotto

This month’s Daring Cooks Challenge, comes in the form of: Risotto. Like last month’s ‘Hummus’ challenge, the base left a lot of room to play with flavors.
Over the course of a couple of weeks I made two variations, jumping off the base recipe around step 6 and taking a few tips from Mario Batali’s “Molto Italiano”

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

The Basics:

Risotto Base

olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml
1 small onion, quatered
rice 14 oz 400g
Any type of risotto rice will do. I use Arborio but the recipe itself says Vialone Nano. Another to look for is Carnaroli.
white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml
chicken or vegetable stock , simmering 2 pints 1 L


1. Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion).
2. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
3. Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
4. Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don’t actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
5. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
6. Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step. .
7. Repeat, save 100ml for the final stage.
8. Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation.

The first attempt was done with a rich homemade roasted chicken stock, Carnaloni rice, Parmigiano-Reggiano and peas. It was served with a roasted Rouge Poulet and a Coq Au Vin pan sauce.

After all of this time cooking, I’m actually kicking myself for never having made risotto before now. The recipe was extremely user friendly and the rich roasted chicken stock that I made gave the rice such depth that would severely be lacking in the second incarnatoin:

Dungeness Crab and Asparagus Risotto

The stock, quickly made with some of the shells of the crab, was extremely bland, even with the addition of Parm, Cappuccetto and minced, blanched asparagus. A very expensive ‘Meh.’ on my part…

daring cook challenge, mezze

Daring Cooks Challenge–Pita Bread and Hummus

I first learned to make Hummus at an Internet Cafe that I worked at back in 1996. I had no idea what Tahini was or what a chickpea tasted like, but I needed a job and I think the owner took pity on me. So, over the past 14 years I can say that I’ve found my preferred recipe through experimenting with add-ins and herbs. It’s no surprise really, when I saw the challenge for this month’s Daring Kitchen’s Challenge was Hummus, that I thought, “Well, that’s not really daring at all, now is it?” It was, however the pita bread that caught my interest and made me slightly panicked.

Like many of us who live in multi-unit aptartment complexes I have very little counter top to speak of. In fact, it’s been a bit of a problem that seems to have followed me from apartment to apartment all of my adult life. Currently my counter space consists of an area just slightly larger than a cafeteria lunch tray. It’s not pretty, nor conducive to making bread and is the sole reason I’ve used a bread maker for the past few years. But, I had no choice–I couldn’t flake on another challenge again–so I made peace with my small counters and trudged into it.

Pita Bread
Dry Yeast 2 teaspoons–Not quick yeast
Water 2.5 cups–Lukewarm
All Purpose Flour 5-6 cups
Salt 1 Tablespoon
Olive Oil 2 Tablespoon
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F.
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Overall, the recipe wasn’t complex though I can definitely say that the pita’s struggled to puff up. These were the best:

The Hummus…well, it was hummus. The only fancy part was using the “Garlic Confit” recipe from ‘How to Roast a Lamb‘ from author/chef Michael Psilakis.

Chickpeas 1.5 cups Can use dry chickpeas soaked in cold water overnight (or feel free to use well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking
Lemon juice 2-2.5 whole lemons
Garlic cloves 2 – 3 cloves Peeled & crushed
Tahini (sesame) paste 4 Tablespoon
Flavorings ½ cup or to taste

It wasn’t until the “Optional” part of the challenge came up that it got interesting to me. To completely counter the simplicity of the recipes I decided to face a nemesis of mine–Phyllo Dough. I’d like to say that I have a recipe to give for the Spanakopita that I made from it, but it was more of a mashed up hybrid bastard of many that I came across that ended up giving me this awesomeness:

Spanakopita, Pita, Hummus, Dolmas, Feta Stuffed Greek Peppers and Castraveltrano Olives

daring cook challenge, satay, thai


Showing up a week late to the Daring Kitchen’s monthly ‘Daring Cooks Challenge’ I decided to follow through on this months challenge: Satay.
This is a dish I order as often as I can when we go out to eat. Sure, it’s fun to eat things that come on sticks, but it’s really the peanut sauce, served on the side for dipping, that tends to draw me in.
Because I fell outside the time frame, therefore not contributing, I made modifications to the recipe that was given, which follows:

Satay Marinade (longer version)


1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T ginger root, chopped (optional) (2 cm cubed)
2 T lemon juice (1 oz or 30 mls)
1 T soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp ground coriander (5 mls)
1 tsp ground cumin (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric (2-2.5 mls)
2 T vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil) (30 mls)
1 lb Chicken (16 oz or 450g)

1. Mix well.
2. Cut pork into 1 inch thick strips (2-2.5 cm thick), any length.
3. Cover pork with marinade. You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.

Cooking Directions (continued):

1. If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak your skewers in warm water for at least 20 minutes before preparing skewers.
2. Gently and slowly slide meat strips onto skewers. Discard leftover marinade.*

3. Broil or grill at 290°C/550° F (or pan fry on medium-high) for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to char. Flip and cook another 8-10 minutes.

**I added 1cp greek yogurt and doubled the amounts above. I also, to make it more Thai, added 2TBS Fish Sauce.

I marinated the chicken for 8 hours

and now for my favorite:

Peanut Sauce


3/4 cup coconut milk (6 oz or 180 mls)
4 Tbsp peanut butter (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp brown sugar (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground cumin (2.5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (2.5 mls)
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)


1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well.
2. Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and your soy-lemon-seasoning mix. Mix well, stir often.
3. All you’re doing is melting the peanut butter, so make your peanut sauce after you’ve made everything else in your meal, or make ahead of time and reheat.

The recipe came out as well as any I’ve ordered in restaurants. After making many peanut sauces, I realize now that they were missing the acid of the lemon juice to cut through the weight of the peanut butter. The chicken was phenomenal, slightly tart and spicy with a good bit of char. Definitely a recipe to be made again.