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French Onion Soup - 39
I’ve been to France, and have to say I enjoyed much of the country & cuisine there. To be honest, I fell hardest for the most stereotypical dish one could think of—a savory bowl of French onion soup. Maybe the soup was my favorite because this was my first time ordering it (better late than never). I have no good reason, other than something always seemed unappealing about plain onions in broth. Well, until I finally had some—It’s DELICIOUS!

Since my soup epiphany, I’ve sampled a myriad of versions state-side, with mixed reviews. I don’t order this often when it’s hot out, though recently I’ve been buying a surplus of sweet summer onions. As luck would have it, Vidalia onions are making their coveted appearance on the West Coast, hooray! Being that I’m a Georgia girl by birth (and heart), I love a good Vidalia. In fact, when my family moved to CA, the parentals would have these precious veggies shipped-in! Vidalias are solely grown in Georgia and unparalleled in flavor—sweet & mild. They’re the original ‘sweet onion’ variety, and if you’ve yet to sample one . . . you’ll be hooked. Only during late spring & summer is this seasonal crop available, so I’ve been cooking with them constantly.

If the onions weren’t inspiration enough, I was recently gifted a cooking torch (jackpot)! Looking to test it out on something other than my candles, this soup came to mind.

Now we have an obscene amount of onions & a can of butane—let’s get this Parisian party started!

Vidalia French Onion Soup

51

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: pot of soup (4+ dinner size servings)

~2 cups (dinner portion)

Vidalia French Onion Soup

Savory French onion soup, with summer-sweet Vidalia onions!

What to get...

  • 5 Vidalia onions, peeled (or sweet white onions, medium size)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 quart beef stock (one 32 oz carton)
  • 1 cup white wine (dry, I used a Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 3T flour
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sea salt & coarse black pepper to taste
  • 1 French baguette, sliced into thin rounds (for making croute to top)
  • 8 oz shredded Gruyère cheese (~2 oz per serving, on croute to top)
  • *small cooking torch to broil cheese on top, optional.

What to do...

  1. Slice onions into thin slices, separating out segments (slicing onions in half vertically, then slicing into thin shreds is easiest, or using a mandolin).
  2. In a large dutch oven or soup pot, melt 1 stick butter, add chopped garlic & onions, 1/2 cup of the white wine, & pinch of sea salt, tossing & spreading out into a layer.
  3. Allow onions to cook over medium-low to caramelize, for about 30-40 mins, stirring every 10 mins or so (onions are done when they are a rich golden color & very soft).
  4. To onions on low, sprinkle with the 3T of flour, stir & slowly add other 1/2 cup white wine, stirring constantly to incorporate, and then add bay leaf and sprigs of fresh thyme (these will be discarded later).
  5. Return the heat to medium, add pinch ground black pepper & salt to taste. and gradually stir-in beef stock 1//2 cup at a time (add ~1/2 carton).
  6. Let pot come to a low boil then simmer uncovered on stove for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.
  7. As soup simmers, slice baguette into thin rounds (depending on baguette size, 3-4 rounds/bowl of soup to top & make broiled crouton).
  8. If soup is desired thickness, no need to add remainder of beef stock, though if you’d like yours thinner or with more liquid vs onion ratio (the bread topping will absorb additionally), then add more stock.
  9. In oven briefly toast baguette slices for a few minutes to crisp/harden.
  10. Dish-out individual ramekins or bowls with soup, top with crisped baguette slices, enough to cover top in a single layer, and sprinkle with ~2+ ounces shredded Gruyère cheese on top of baguette slices.
  11. Using a torch, melt (broil) cheese over top of bread/soup so it’s bubbly & slightly browning (without torch, place oven safe bowls under broiler for a couple of mins, or in a high-heat oven for several until cheese is bubbly).
  12. Garnish with a few fresh thyme leaves & serve immediately, hot.

Notes

The time listed to make this is mainly for the time it takes to caramelize the onions (up to 40 mins depending). Prep is mainly slicing onions & chopping garlic. I opted for a pre-shredded Gruyere/Swiss cheese mix that saved some time! Add as much or less liquid as you prefer, but the soup will thicken with addition of cheese & bread crouton. I prefer mine thick/loaded with onions, but you can use more liquid for a less dense soup. A cooking torch makes topping super easy, but an oven can be used to broil the cheese crouton instead!

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This recipe takes more time to prep than actually cook. Though slicing onions is the least desirable task, with Vidalias so sweet you won’t shed a tear (unless you get crazy with the butane). Traditional French onion soup is served gratinéed (topped with a big, hot, cheesy crouton) and that’s where our torch came in handy to melt the Gruyère. You can also broil the cheese & bread directly on the soup’s top, in your oven. I love how the carmalaized onions pair with the salty beef base. Our toasted baguette soaks-up all of this flavor, and the bubbly cheese lends just enough richness. I knew this would happen! Even though it’s almost 90 degrees over here, now I want a hot bowl of soup!

Whether you’re new or not to Vidalias, French onion, or torches—I think you too will find this a favorite.

Bon appétit mes amis! 

French Onion Soup - 50

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Baking dessert seems better-suited for cooler months, but what to do amidst hot days of summer?

Unless you stick to popsicles & salt water taffy, you’ll probably need to fire-up the oven, and this was the house-heating dilemma I faced recently. I desired something delicious, non-frozen, and the idea of classic blubbery pie came to mind. I haven’t had a slice in years! I love all of this season’s fruits, but when fresh blueberries are ripe & sweet, I’m inclined to chose them (enter addicting blueberry muffins & patriotic Champagne cocktails). Though my delicious daydream sounded doable, pie means rolling dough, weaving crusts, and well . . . baking. Due to a time crunch—and a house now more likened to a Native American sweat lodge—I wanted this recipe to be simple, swift, and sub-500 degrees.

I decided to make miniature pies, and let them be topless!  That’s right, we’re only pre-baking a bottom crust, and burying it with tons of berries we prep on the stove—no more oven needed. Store bought pie dough makes this even easier (and it still turns out golden & flakey). Miniature-sized pies bake & set more quickly, not to mention they’re already portioned for serving (not that I needed another excuse to eat pie)! Shall we?

Miniature Blueberry Pies

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 3, 5-inch miniature pies (12 ounces each)

1/2 - 1 mini pie

Miniature Blueberry Pies

A sweet summertime classic, blueberry pie, open-face style in miniature dishes. Easy and a new favorite dinnervine dessert.

What to get...

  • 1 package of prepared pie crust dough (store bought, 2 dough rounds/box)
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries (divided, rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 cup white baker’s sugar (finer granule)
  • 2T cornstarch
  • 2T warm water (to be combined with corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup water (for heating with berries)
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 dash ground cinnamon
  • Whipped cream for topping, optional

What to do...

  1. Prepare miniature pie dishes with shortening or butter (to grease).
  2. Remove store bought, prepared pie crust dough from fridge and allow to warm enough to be unrolled (10 mins or so).
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Spread one pie dough (pre rolled into thin dough round) over prepared miniature pie dish, carefully pressing to fit dish, a large portion of dough will hang over the dish rim.
  5. With kitchen scissors, trim dough around dish rim, but careful tp leave about an extra inch over rim (as dough will recede and shrink in oven).
  6. With hands pleat/finish the edges of crust by lightly pinching, and then use a fork to poke several holes over dough (as it will bubble in oven).
  7. Bake miniature crusts for ~15 mins on 400, until they are golden brown (check to make sure they don’t over-brown and bubble while baking), then remove and cool on racks.
  8. While crusts bake, in a pot on stove, add 1 cup of the blueberries & the 1/2 cup water, heat on medium until a boil begins.
  9. In a small bowl combine cornstarch & 2 T warm water, whisking well to avoid clumps, set aside.
  10. Once pot begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer & add pinch of salt, cornstarch mix and stir until well combined (mix will begin to thicken).
  11. Add sugar, dash cinnamon, juice of 1/2 lemon and zest, mixing thoroughly, let the mix simmer for about 5-8 more mins on low (while berries begin to burst and mix thickens-up, stir every few mins).
  12. Remove blueberry mix from heat & allow to cool for ~10 mins.
  13. Once crust and mix are cooled, spoon generous amount of blueberry filling into each par-baked crust, and allow to firm and gel for at least a couple of hours at room temperature.
  14. Top with whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream and serve!

Notes

I used pre-prepared, store-bought pie crust dough (the package contained two measured & rolled-out dough rounds -essentially for top and bottom crusts). In this case, each prepared round makes one bottom pie crust. Using the trimmings from remainder of the two, there is enough dough to make a third mini pie crust. Or purchase another box of dough, and double blueberry recipe for 4+ pies. These save fine at room temp, covered, or if adding whipped cream refrigerate.

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I didn’t want these overly-sweet, so I refrained from copiously sugaring the mix. If your sweet tooth is bigger than mine, more sugar can be easily added to the warm berries (just test & adjust to your liking). I really love how these turned out—simply fresh & FULL of blueberry flavor! The pies set easily, and saved well at room temp (though I moved to the fridge after a day). These little beauts would go perfectly with vanilla bean ice cream, or in my case, with fresh whipped cream & a blueberry on top! (Sorry cherries, not this time.) Enjoy summertime while it lasts, and a simple seasonal dessert!

blueberry pie - 16

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Sometimes you just have to go BIG, and recently at a family party this proved true with the menu. When ordering the food (over-ordering the food), it was somehow miscalculated that everyone in attendance might need a metric ton of shrimp cocktail. Luckily for all involved, there was an abundance of fresh shrimp remaining, and I inherited a good amount to take home. Normally, my go-to leftover would be tacos, but being that I was out of tortillas these little guys were headed for a new destiny. On this Sunday morning, I envisioned something light & easy (insert, Commodores song HERE  . . . I really can’t explain why a 1970’s archive of soul music resides in my subconscious, but please enjoy this jam nonetheless). 

shrimp salad - 03

Since these were already cooked & peeled, a cold seafood-style salad was my next choice. I’m a fan of both crab & mixed seafood versions, but shrimp happens to be one of my favorite ocean proteins.

This light mix is perfect for lunch or an appetizer before a dinner. I decided to serve this as part of a brunch with friends. To make it easier to eat—and frankly more attractive—a few lemons were sacrificed as single-serving cups to hold our crustacean creation. What’s even better, is that this only takes a few minutes to prepare, chill and serve (and that means more time having a mimosa welcoming your guests). I wanted to highlight fresh, summer flavors such as lemon, dill, and chives. Many cold & creamy seafood salads boast a heavy addition of mayo, but keepying this a little cleaner, I used light sour cream, and a little bit of light mayonnaise. Not that I don’t love some good ol’ mayo (this excludes demonic Miracle Whip however), but the flavors here are subtle, so I want to taste the shrimp & fresh seasonings.

This is too simple, and even if you don’t have a surplus of leftover shrimp cocktails, boiling some for this is pretty quick too.

Summertime Shrimp Salad

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4-5 servings

1 bowl/cup

Summertime Shrimp Salad

This chilled shrimp salad is easy, light and perfect for a summer lunch, or appetizer!

What to get...

  • ~1.5 cups cooked shrimp, chopped (~20 cocktail shrimp, boiled)
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 T fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh dill leaves
  • 1.5 T Light Mayonnaise, (Best Foods preferably)
  • 1.5 T Light sour cream (I prefer Daisy brand)
  • 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
  • kosher salt to taste
  • finely ground black pepper to taste
  • *Lemon rind (1/2) as cup (for serving), optional
  • *red lettuce leaves as serving garnish, optional

What to do...

  1. Chop, pre-cooked cocktail shrimps, into ~ 3rds per shrimp.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine chopped shrimp, celery, chives, lemon juice & zest, dill leaves. mayo, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. combine well and chill salad for about 1 hour or more preferable.
  4. Serve in small bowls or festive, hollowed lemon cup halves, with a lettuce leaf, or eat with crackers.
  5. Saves well in an airtight container, in fridge for ~2 days.

Notes

Easily doubled. Add more seasoning to your desired taste. Chilling ahead is beneficial, but not required (though it improves flavor). These work great in lemon ‘cups’ though also great all on its own, and with crackers. Enjoy!

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Wasn’t that refreshing? Well, it will be. I recommend this one for a hot day, when boiling your face over the stove is not as appealing. I plan to enjoy my next helping with some good sourdough bread and white wine—cheers to the end of another great weekend!

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There is just something fantastic about good banana cake. So much so, I’m reposting this classic recipe from two years ago just because I love it! You may be wondering why I refer to mine as cake and not bread? That’s because boring, brown bread would do this suh-weet bake no justice! We’re talking super moist with a slightly-crisped outer crust, and we won’t even need butter or jam to top this off. It is divine all by its lonesome.

I have been making this since I was a in middle school, and my recipe is pretty classic. I never add nuts—just simply bananas . . . and lots of them! I could eat a piece for dessert, breakfast—heck I’m not too proud—even lunch (well, it does have a serving of fruit). I’ve baked this goodness many times as a bundt, in muffin tins, and as a layer cake with a whipped, cream cheese frosting—the options are endless! Today, I’m going with a traditional loaf pan. The following recipe is for a single batch, but I’m doubling-up since I have a boat-load of ripe bananas to use.

 

Dinnervine Banana Cake

51

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 1 sweet banana loaf

Dinnervine Banana Cake

Simple & moist! This banana cake is a classic. Use the ripest bananas you can!

What to get...

  • 1.5 cups mashed bananas (very ripe, about 4 small bananas)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup baker's sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.75 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp grd. cinnamon
  • 5 T buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

What to do...

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Soften butter ahead of time
  3. Mix flour, soda, salt & cinnamon in a separate bowl
  4. In bowl of electric mixer, cream butter & sugar, adding eggs one at a time
  5. Add mashed bananas
  6. Add buttermilk & vanilla, mix 1 minute
  7. Pour batter into loaf pan
  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes, untill toothpick comes out clean & middle is firm (will be dark brown)
  9. Cool 10 min in pan, then remove & cool 1 hour on rack (don't prematurely handle, needs to set!)
  10. Slice and enjoy!
  11. Store leftovers in air-tight container.

Notes

The cooking time may vary according to pan choice. A dark metal loaf pan will cook more quickly than a glass one. If you vary and go with muffins, this will cook in only around 25 min. If toothpick comes out clean and middle is firm, it's done! Give it a good while to cool, so it can set...

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banana cake

banana cake

I wish I could relay the sweet smell of this cake baking in my oven—it is heavenly! The riper the bananas the better (want them to have blackened peels), so hold onto an extra bunch of Chiquitas this week and by Sunday, you’ll be having your cake and eating it too (but not for long because this one goes fast).  I hope you enjoy this favorite cake as much as I do.While it’s baking I shall leave you with some random banana bits of info to chew on:

  • Musa sapientum is the scientific name for bananas, ‘fruit of the wise men.’
  • Bananas have been traced all of the way back to the 6th century B.C.
  • Miss Chiquita Banana began appearing on labels in 1963.
  • Bananas (in addition to apples & watermelons) float when in water
  • The average American eats 27 pounds of bananas each year
  • A man in India once ate 81 bananas in ½ hour (I don’t recommend this).
  • Bananas do not actually grow on trees; they’re technically a giant herb plant.
  • Bananas uniquely contain the 6 major vitamin groups, and rich in vitamin B6
  • By peeling a banana bottom-up, you won’t have to deal with the pesky ‘strings’
  • Those sticky strings under peels are actually called phloem (pronounced FLOM).
  • An individual banana is referred to as a finger, and a bunch is hand.

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  • Liz

    Any suggestions on how to make this dairy free? Use shortening instead of butter? Or “I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter”? And a replacement for the buttermilk? Looks good but dairy is a no go for me!ReplyCancel

    • lbs

      Hi Liz! Good question! I’ve been planning to do a post specifically on the Science and substitutions of baking, but haven’t yet! I have on occasionally done dairy free cookies and cakes, but the results are never exactly the same. For this cake because it is a bit denser then a say a white cake, a substitution is easier. I would never recommend using margarine as a substitute; there is not enough of a solid fat to work with. You need butter because it is a solid fat that you cream the sugars with. That is crucial because it gives the texture and ‘fluff’ to the cake or bread. You could use shortening (I like the canola version), but typically that is a better sub for cookies, because they don’t rise as much. One thing you can do to mimic the creaming of the butter is separate your egg yolks from the whites. First, “cream” the yolks since they have fat with the sugar, then adding the whites with the other ingreds. I still think you should replace equal amounts of shortening for the butter still. For the buttermilk, skip it! I would sub with ~4 Tablespoons of applesauce instead. I have used applesauce for oil and some liquid fats several times before, not as rich, but worked! Curious to see how this turns out. Hope you are doing well!ReplyCancel

  • [...] with our pure vanilla, and luckily we ended-up with one sweet combination! I adapted my classic banana bread recipe (which is ore of a moist banana cake really), and opted to use a sweet koroneiki variety of [...]ReplyCancel

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That’s how our dinner and spring go together, and tonight quite literally! With Easter celebrations just behind us, do you now have 4+ pounds of leftover ham in your possession? How about a savory starch that will go perfectly alongside? If you’re not stuck with a mountain of baked ham, not to worry, this recipe can still be savored on its awesome own. We’re talking creamy risotto made with white wine and parmesan cheese. Oh, but we’re not stopping there my friends! We’re going to dial-up this dish with fresh peas, transforming them into a simple pesto. If that wasn’t enough, we’ll pair these lovely legumes with none other than sweet, petite roasted carrots. Peas & carrots? You might be thinking it’s a match made in vegetable, umm . . . hell. I can just picture it, the dreaded side of peas and carrot chunks, floating in a mysterious watery pool−every school kid’s nightmare (mine included)! Dinner doesn’t have to be a canned veggie disaster, and tonight it will be delicious, atop a beautify bed of risotto.

Risotto with Spring Pea Pesto & Roasted Carrots

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: ~5 dinner servings

Risotto with Spring Pea Pesto & Roasted Carrots

Here is a delicious risotto of white wine and parmesan, perfect or spring with the addition of a quick & easy fresh pea pesto, and roasted petite carrots. A vibrant & satisfying dinner idea!

What to get...

    For Risotto:
  • 1.5 cups Arborio rice
  • 6 cups Chicken stock (low-sodium)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup sweet white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup butter (unsalted)
  • 2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese blend
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • For the Spring Pea Pesto:
  • 1 cup fresh English peas, shelled from pods
  • 1.5 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp lemon zest
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), for drizzing in pesto, ~3T
  • 1T water
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • finely ground black pepper, to taste
  • For Carrots:
  • 6 oz bag of trimmed & peeled petite carrots (~
  • 2T butter, unsalted
  • 1/4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt to taste
  • pinch of white sugar

What to do...

    Make Spring Pea Pesto & Skillet Roast Carrots:
  1. Shell & steam one cup fresh English peas (steam until just tender, immediately cooling the peas in a bowl of ice water, drain and set aside).
  2. In a food processor or blender, place 2/3 cup of the steamed peas, water, garlic clove, lemon zest, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, spinach and purée, slowly drizzling in EVOO until a smooth pesto forms (taste test for salt level), set aside.
  3. For carrots, in s small skillet with fitting lid, melt the 2T butter and add the white wine vinegar, few Tablespoons of the white wine, pinch salt, pepper & sugar.
  4. Arrange peeled carrots in a single layer in sauce, cover and cook on low for ~8 mins.
  5. Remove lid and move carrots around in sauce, continuing to cook until tender on medium-low, adding the rest of the white wine as needed to deglaze pan & keep from being completely dry.
  6. When carrots tested with a fork are tender, they are done, remove from het & wrap in foil to keep warm.
  7. Begin Risotto:
  8. In a medium sauce pan, heat the 6 cups of chicken stock to keep warm, will use for risotto.
  9. In a large, brimmed skillet, melt 1/4 cup of butter, and sauté onion and garlic, adding a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring occasionally for several minutes.
  10. To pan, stir in the dry rice, stirring frequently, toast rice for about 1-2 minutes on medium.
  11. Add the 2/3 cup white wine, 1 tsp lemon juice and zest, continue to cook rice until most of this liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently.
  12. Add in 1 cup of the warm stock and let incorporate, stirring frequently, until liquid continues to absorb.
  13. Repeat with 1 cup of broth about every 10 minutes, continuing to stir (after each cup of broth is absorbed, check tenderness level, you may not need all 6 cups of liquid).
  14. Once the rice has absorbed enough liquid & is tender to taste, reduce skillet to low and stir-in the shredded parmesan cheese, adding salt & pepper to desired taste.
  15. Warm pea pesto in small sauce pan on stove, and warm carrots (as necessary).
  16. Serve warm risotto over a spooned layer of the pea pesto, drizzling a little more on top, then adding a spoonful of the leftover steamed peas (1/3 cup we didn’t use for pesto) and finally a few of the roasted carrots.

Notes

This is easy to make, though it is very hands-on by the stove, as the risotto needs continuous stirring and additions of stock. The pea pesto is quick & easy, and can be made ahead. The carrots cook alongside on the stove and the cook time may very depending on size. (I use a lid to make them go faster, but it isn’t required, though they might take longer to become tender). Peas and carrots go perfectly on this risotto, no meat needed, but you can add a protein alongside.

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Sorry childhood, watery vegetable medley, you’ve been deservedly replaced!

risotto & spring pea pesto - 58

I envisioned making a bright dish capturing this classic veggie combo, and decided risotto would be the perfect platform. I had originally planned to add whole peas from the pod, but then on a whim I combined them with a surplus of spinach in my fridge, and from that a savory pesto was born. This made for the a vibrant sauce to plate the creamy rice on, giving the meal that little extra something. Considering the weekend’s chocolate egg/jelly bean binge, it’s time to get some greens back in the routine. The carrots were tender, adding a healthy contrast. I think a little crisped pancetta would work well here too, if you’re feeling like adding meat. This can also become vegetarian if we skip the chicken stock (instead using water and more salt in the risotto); though, the stock added the perfect flavor for my taste!

Just like Forrest Gump felt about his Jenny, spring is the perfect time to put these two sweet ingredients, together. 

risotto & spring pea pesto - 12

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