So here we are, five days after Christmas, and you’re probably wondering what to do with the leftover holiday ham in your fridge. After all, there are only so many ham soups you can make before they get tiring (and I’m a big fan of ham soups). As I was thinking about everyone’s ham problem yesterday, I put together this ham and kale risotto for lunch. I thought you folks would enjoy it as well.
Risotto is the most popular way to prepare rice in Italy, and has been around since the 1500s. The rice varieties used in risotto (typically Carnaroli, Arborio, or Vialone Nano) are high in starch and impart a creamy texture to the dish. There’s a certain technique to making risotto: you create a soffrito using fat and onion, toast the rice and coat it in the fat, pour in and evaporate wine, ladle in hot broth until cooked through, then finish with butter and/or cheese.
The risotto-cooking process requires almost constant stirring in order to loosen up the starch and to keep the rice from sticking to the pan, so expect to spend a lot of time in front of your stove when making this dish (I usually grab a book or watch some Netflix on my phone). As an added bonus, your arm will get a bit of a workout along the way.
Tilapia has been an important food source in North Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years, but has only recently been gaining ground in the United States. Over the past 50 years, worldwide consumption of this fish has skyrocketed, and for good reason: tilapia is fast-growing, lean, low in mercury, and can thrive on an algae or vegetarian diet.
While wild-caught fish is always preferred, farmed tilapia has an extremely low toxin profile and minimal environmental impact when raised in the right conditions. Tilapia is one of the most sustainable and inexpensive farmed fish; by comparison, it takes over 3 pounds of wild fish to produce only 1 pound of farmed salmon. In a world of decreasing wild fish options, I think it’s prudent to find the next best thing. Seek out tilapia farmed in the United States, as they are better observed than in many other countries, especially fish farms in China and Southeast Asia.
Farmed tilapia does not have the same Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio as other, wild-caught fish, but it is still an excellent protein source – it just shouldn’t be treated like an Omega-3 rich meal. Instead, we like to think of it as the nutritional equivalent of chicken breast; not a robust source of vitamins and nutrients, but still great to have from time to time.
Last month I had the pleasure of contributing to Melissa Joulwan’s awesome meatball recipe collection, “March Meatball Madness.” My dish, Bakso, is one of my favorite ways to eat ground meat. Be sure to check out the rest of March Meatball Madness on her blog, The Clothes Make the Girl!
Bakso is an Indonesian beef ball similar to Chinese or Vietnamese beef balls. Like all Asian beef balls, they are dense yet spongy, with a texture similar to fishcake. The key component of this texture is pulverizing the meat into a paste, often described as surimi, wherein its proteins are broken down. I like this spongy texture, and it’s a great alternative to your typical uses for ground beef.
It’s commonly believed that Bakso was first brought to Indonesia by Chinese immigrants. Bakso vendors can be found on most busy Indonesian city streets. Recently, there has been a health stigma against Bakso vendors, since additives such as Borax and MSG are commonly found in the beef balls or broth they’re served in. But in their natural form – as found in this recipe – Bakso is both delicious and healthy. The only modification I made from typical Bakso recipes is that I omitted the bit of sugar that is usually added to the balls to enhance their flavor.
Bacalhau à Brás is a Portuguese dish using salted cod (bacalhau), eggs, and potatoes. The Portuguese were one of the first European cultures to fish for cod, making huge harvests and preserving the fish off the coast of Newfoundland shortly after Columbus discovered the New World. Since then, this salted cod has been an integral part of Portuguese culture, and it’s often said that you can cook a new recipe using bacalhau every day of the year (some say there are over 1,000 recipes that include this fish). Advances in fishing technology in the mid 20th century had collapsed the Northwest Atlantic cod market by the 1990s – cod takes a long time to mature, and overfishing had run rampant. Today, bacalhau is most often made using cod harvested from Arctic waters under more strict quotas.
Bacalhau is made by salting and drying the fish in the sun; while it was originally a method of preservation (salted cod keeps a long time even without refrigeration), its unique, strong flavor is unmistakable and delicious, and its popularity endures today. The only downside to eating bacalhau is that it requires a bit of foresight, since it needs to be soaked overnight to reconstitute the fish.
Bacalhau à Brás is one of the most famous Portuguese dishes, and is considered the ultimate comfort meal in Portugal. The dish uses many of the quintessential ingredients found in Portuguese cooking – bacalhau, eggs, potatoes, and black olives.
My buddies at US Wellness Meats recently sent me a box of goodies to cook with, so for the next few weeks you’ll see some of their products popping up in my recipes. I couldn’t be happier – everything I’ve tried from this place is downright awesome.
When eyeing their Alaskan scallops, I knew some sort of pork needed to be paired with it, but I couldn’t decide. Bacon-wrapped scallops? Done to death. Sausage? Maybe. Both? Now we’re talking. So I whipped up one of my rare “thin-air” recipes – which are actually pretty hard for me to do, since I love recreating traditional recipes more than anything.
This dish only uses a few ingredients and seasonings on purpose – to hone in on the natural taste of the scallops, sausage, bacon, and kale. I also kept the portions a little small, so this dish is perfect for a light, tasty, and slightly messy lunch.