Yvette van Boven's Baked Risotto with Cauliflower, Gruyere and Crisp Bread Crumbs

It's been almost a month since I've posted and lots of things have happened during my little hiatus: one pope resigned and a new pope was appointed (black smoke, white smoke...), Hugo Chavez departed planet Earth, we continue to live in the fastest warming period since the dawn of civilization, and then there's that pesky sequestration. On a personal note, I met Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame who spoke at the Tattered Cover bookstore here in Denver. And in celebration news, Omar, our beloved Rottweiler, turned 15 years old (which is about 105 in human years, though I've been reassured by Dr. Feldman our veterinarian, that Omar's got the inner workings of a 10 year old canine, so that's good news). Otis began to write words other than his name and little Theo greatly improved his vocabulary, which is now somewhere around (an impressive) 100 words. 
Then there was that horrendous stomach virus that came just in time for our closing and subsequent move. But we made it and we're settling in to our first (and likely only) home. My OCD has returned with a vengeance (my new label maker- for all those clear storage bins- is en route) and I'm trying to be hyper-organized in our new space. Oh, and we also entertained our very first house guests. Whew, I'm exhausted just typing this up.   
A few days after moving into our new home we got a little snow storm. But in typical Colorado fashion, about 48 hours later, the temperatures climbed above 70 degrees. I quickly realized that spring is fast approaching and winter is almost a distant memory, so I decided to publish this recipe post-haste. It comes from Home Made Winter, a fantastic cookbook that I wish I'd discovered a wee bit earlier in the season. The cookbook is written by Yvette van Boven, the author behind the wildly popular Home Made. In addition to fantastic recipes, Yvette also has awesome illustrations and collages. It's a very appealing cookbook. 
I've been cooking my way through Yvette's vegetarian recipes and kicked things off with this baked risotto. I had a few already-open bags of Arborio rice -- which I now feel perfectly comfortable cooking with after a long string of mushy mishaps. I wanted to use some pantry items (i.e. rice) and I'm always in the mood for cauliflower, especially when it's combined with cheese and wine...so the decision was an easy one.   
I loved the simplicity of the dish and the stick-to-your-bones feeling from the risotto. And I got to use my cast iron skillet which has been sitting in a cupboard collecting dust (until now). 
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Just be sure to add a few hefty pinches of salt and pepper. 
This is the perfect way to say goodbye to winter!

Baked Risotto with Cauliflower, Gruyere & Crisp Bread Crumbs
(Printed with Yvette's permission, from Home Made Winter)
Hardly any work and done in a snap. 
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
7 ounces Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
7 ounces Gruyere, grated
2 or 3 slices dry white bread (I left mine in a paper bag for two days to dry it out.)
I added a few hefty pinches of salt and pepper. Then I tasted it to see if I thought it was enough.
Boil cauliflower in water for 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain.
Heat the oven to 350F. 
Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the rice. Sauté all of this for another 2 minutes or so. Add the wine and then pour in the broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in the cauliflower and cheese. Put a lid on the skillet.
Put the skillet in the oven and bake the risotto for 25 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
Grind the dry bread in a food processor or mince with a knife.
Uncover the skillet about 5 minutes before the risotto is done (Watch out, hot!) and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.
Bake, uncovered, until browned, then serve.

Ina's White Pizza with Arugula, Denver's Chalk Art Festival and Strawberry Salad with Feta and Almonds

The other day I found myself thinking about Ina Garten. I love her as much as you can love a 64-year old, former nuclear policy wonk/budget writer, author, gourmand, home entertaining super-star that you don't really know. And I totally credit Ina with inspiring me to cook-- I mean really cook, for the first time, which happened about 3 years ago. She got me to value high-quality ingredients, delve into seasonal cooking and, okay, decadent desserts too. Time is flying because it's more than a year and a half since I met her at this book signing...and it feels like yesterday. 
I have all of Ina'a cookbooks and decided to revisit Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. That's when this recipe for White Pizza with Arugula caught my eye. Now ever since I made homemade tart dough (pâte brisée), I've become a big fan of making things from scratch...time permitting. Sure, there are some really good quality store-bought pizza doughs out there, but I decided to make my dough the night before, after the boys went to bed.
The dough was perfect but next time I think I will have to let it get a little more pliable before I start kneading it. I don't think I kept it at room temperature long enough. As for the baking time of the pizza, the recipe calls for 10-15 minutes in the oven. My pie was done in about 9 minutes-- and had I kept it in the oven for one minute longer, it would have burnt to a crisp. Maybe it's my oven or maybe it's the altitude-- just keep an eye on it.

Now I prefer making recipes that don't require me to buy a ton of ingredients, and in this case I had some goat cheese in the fridge and some leftover fontina cheese from this recipe. I also had a big bag filled with arugula, so pizza with greens it would be. 
I loved this pizza. There's creamy, cheesy goodness, tangy-lemon dressing and peppery arugula. You can see how this one might be hard to beat...
For the garlic oil I used some of my new purple garlic which I picked up at my local farmers market.
Dressed arugula.
White Pizza with Arugula (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics)
Makes 6 Pizzas
For the Dough:
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
Good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
Kosher salt
For the Garlic Oil:
4 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the topping:
3 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (7 ounces)
11 ounces creamy goat cheese, such as montrachet, crumbled
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces baby arugula
1 lemon, sliced

Mix the dough

  • Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  • Knead by hand.
  • When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic.
  • Let it rise.
  • Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make garlic oil:  Place 1/2 cup of olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. 
Portion the dough.
Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Place the doughs on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Stretch the dough.
Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place 2 circles on each sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.)

Top the dough.
Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with fontina, mozzarella and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes,* until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.**

Make the vinaigrette.
Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup of olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Add the greens.

When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and a slice of lemon and serve immediately.

* Mine took 9 minutes.

** Note: I brushed some of the garlic oil on my pizza mesh (wire) and placed my pie on the mesh. I placed it on my pizza stone-- which I had preheated for 20 minutes at 500 degrees.

TIP Make sure the bowl is warm before you put the water and yeast in; the water must be warm for the yeast to develop.
TIP Salt inhibits the growth of yeast; add half the flour, then the salt, and then the rest of the flour.
TIP To make sure yeast is still "alive," or active, put it in water and allow it to sit for a few minutes. If it becomes creamy or foamy, it's active.

* * *
After lunch, I took the boys down to Larimer Square for the Denver Chalk Art Festival. Now here in the house we use sidewalk chalk all the time. This festival, however, took it to a whole new level. It was so cool. And so creative. Otis really wanted to add his own unique touch to some of the murals, but I told him maybe next year. He looked excited about the prospect and when we got home he started on his sketches. Theo watched him carefully...maybe he'll be the budding artist of the family!                    

Today I used some leftover greens to make this salad for lunch. It was delicious! 

Baby Lettuces, with Feta, Strawberries and Almonds (Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine)
Serves 8
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, preferably Banyuls
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
12 cups packed assorted baby lettuces (about 6 ounces)
1 quart strawberries, hulled—small berries halved, large ones quartered
4 ounces feta (preferably French), crumbled (1 cup)
1 cup smoked almonds, chopped

In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, honey, shallot and vinegar. Stir in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Put the lettuces in a large bowl. Add the strawberries, feta and almonds. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss well and serve.

Suggested Pairing:
Bright, berry-scented rosé echoes the strawberries in this summer salad. Pour a crisp, dry rosé from Provence.
Pizza bianca

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Basil Béchamel

A friend of mine affectionately called me and my now-husband "weekend warriors." That was before we had children. We were always up to something, like trying an out-of-the-way eatery, trekking to a remote exhibit, or gathering friends to do something a little quirky. 
Well a bunch of years later. and with two boys added to the mix, we are not quite as intrepid as we used to be, but we still try to get out and do things. Recently I took the kids to the Denver Botanic Gardens for the Orchid Show, we went to Breckenridge to see the International Snow Sculpture Championship and this week we drove to Silverthorne to check out the Ice Castle. There were also trips to the Denver Art Museum, the Clyfford Still Museum, the Butterfly Pavilion and we walked through 10 historic, architecturally significant neighborhoods in town. We are always out and about. 
By the time I get back from our morning outings I'm usually quite exhausted. So I decided that this week I would make some "bulk food." I would spend one afternoon cooking non-stop and that would be it for the week, or at the very least, a few days. Not that I mind cooking. I love food and I love preparing it. But I want to start relaxing a few days a week. I'm also going to try to read a bit more while the kids are napping. I know, sounds crazy! But getting through a book is not quite as easy as it used to be. So I'm going to start with some short stories because they don't require the same time commitment as a 300 page novel. I was thinking about Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, but I am open to suggestions.   
Back to my 'bulk food.' I'm going to make Moosewood's Spanakopita and a quiche, but I also wanted to make a pasta dish. I wasn't in the mood for anything 'red sauce.' I was feeling vegetables, but didn't want anything chunky. I did some digging through my many, many recipe printouts and found this one for Butternut Squash Lasagna with a Basil Béchamel. Perfect. I had all the ingredients on hand: basil, no-boil lasagna noodles (fresh pasta sheets would be really nice here-- but there really are only so many hours in the day), milk, cheese, and a 2 pound squash. 
This is a really nice, filling, seasonal pasta dish. It took me an afternoon to make all the food I wanted to make for the week and now I've got a whole bunch of meals that can easily be paired with a salad or simple side dish. For the next few days I can spend the kid's nap time under a blanket, curled up on the couch...reading some short stories.  
Butternut Squash Lasagna with Basil Béchamel (Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
Yield:8 to 10 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water (I added another 1/4 cup as the water evaporated)
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled (I used 3 Graham crackers instead)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Big pinch nutmeg
1 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles or fresh pasta sheets from a specialty store
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (I added another 1/4 cup of water about half way through.) Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti (or graham) cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.
Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.
*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Hipstamatic Wave Hill and My World's Famous Pesto Minestrone

This past week I took Otis up to see my parents, his grandparents. Since they live in Riverdale that meant I had to make a little pilgrimage to my favorite NYC destination -- Wave Hill(featured in this previous post). It was windy and a bit chilly, but the leaves were still magnificent-- tons of golden and red hues. Though some of the trees were already bare, there were enough that still had turning leaves. And the views across the Hudson River were breathtaking. I picked up an absolutely delicious salad at the cafe-- a spinach, pumpkin and blue cheese salad-- but I wished that I had packed up some of my pesto minestrone soup and made a picnic with some French bread. But alas, my soup was all sealed up in a Ball jar and sitting in Brooklyn...
This pesto minestrone is my "go-to" winter soup.  If I hear that a Nor-easter is heading my way and expected to dump many inches of snow, I get this going on the burner.  It's perfect sit-on-the-couch-wrapped-in-a-great-big-blanket (snuggie!) soup.  Okay, I know there are still 4 weeks till it's officially winter and it's another month-and-a-half before the big storms hit, but when the temperatures go below the freezing point it's time to make this amazingly flavorful, hearty soup.   
This adaptation is based on a recipe I found in "Vegetarian Cooking" -- a tome/bible I picked up about 12 years ago when I moved to New Orleans.  I've tweaked this recipe a smidge by adding my own pesto and adjusting a few proportions.  I think this is the gold standard of minestrones!  I like to use fresh pesto if I have it, but you can easily use store bought pesto.  I like to make this in the early evening so that the whole house smells incredible.  You can eat it immediately, but I like to let the finished product cool in a dutch oven and then put it in the fridge for one day before serving--  all the herbs, vegetables, legumes and broth meld together after 24 hours. Delish!  
If the soup becomes too thick, you can use some stock or water to thin it out a bit.  Then remember to season accordingly.  Enjoy this soup-- it will instantly become one of your classic "go to" mains.  I hope you like this minestrone as much as we do...
Carrots from our penultimate CSA pick-up. They got thrown right into the minestrone!
My World's Famous Pesto Minestrone 
(Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking by Linda Fraser)
Serves 6-8
Minestrone is a thick mixed vegetable soup that usually has short cut pasta or rice added to it.  This one includes a home-made pesto sauce.  
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced 
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into small uniform dice, about 1/4 of an inch
6 cups of vegetable sock (you can use water, but stock gives the soup more flavor)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
3/4 - 1 cup of tubetini, small shells or elbow noodles
3/4 of a cup of frozen peas
2 zucchini, finely chopped
15 ounce can of white beans, such as Cannellini or Great Northern Beans (For this recipe I use BPA-free canned beans. You can also use dry beans-- soaked overnight and cooked.)
1/2 tablespoon of salt (more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons of pesto (I like to use fresh, but you can use store bought as well.) Recipe follows.
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Stir in the onions and leeks and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic,and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes more.  
Pour in the stock and stir well. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper.  Add small pasta. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10-12 minutes.
Stir in the peas, if fresh, and the zucchini. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the frozen peas, if using. Cover the pot and simmer for 1o minutes.
Stir in beans (without liquid if using canned) and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the pesto sauce. Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Enjoy!  
This minestrone tastes even better the next day so you can make it in advance. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan. 

Basic Pesto Sauce  (An amalgamation from a bunch of different sources)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic-- more if you like it garlicky. 
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Clean basil in water and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner.
Place the walnuts, pignoli, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Caring for Pesto: Air is the enemy of pesto. Pack it with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.
Yield: 4 cups

Ina's Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

I tend to gravitate towards lighter fare and clear, brothy soups in the spring and summer months. But by the time late autumn and early winter roll around, a hibernating instinct hits me like a brick. I start craving rich, high fat foods. Kind of like grizzly bear who eats around twice its body-mass before going into a den till spring. I feel like I need to prepare for the impeding winter and the Canadian (Alberta) Clippers that are bound to hit New York at some point in the next month or so. 
This lasagna uses butter and whole milk and is definitely not for those on a health kick. But sometimes you've just gotta do it.  Look at the French. They eat high fat, rich foods, and they drink tons of wine, but all in moderation.  
The portobello mushroom gives the lasagna a great meaty texture. You can also get a nice dose of Vitamin D, and according to several medical studies, mushrooms might inhibit aromatase, which may reduce breast cancer susceptibility.  So feel good about eating this delicious lasagna and toast to your health...sort of.

Ina's Portobello Mushroom Lasagna 

(Courtesy of Ina Garten)


  • Kosher salt
  • Good olive oil
  • 3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms
  • 1 cup freshly ground Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a largesaucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off the heat.
Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the caps 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.
To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.