Life is about change. That old adage “change is constant” is so true. Annoying, but true nonetheless. I tend to like change. It keeps things from getting dull. Some have said that I’m predictable. I suppose I am in some circumstances. For example, when I go to lunch at nearly any Juneau restaurant, they all know my beverage of choice is iced tea with lots of ice and no lemon. One time a new server at a place I dine at quite frequently brought me tea with lots of lemons and no ice. She was sweet, the tea was not.
This year I will be making lots of changes as well. At the end of January I will be leaving my full-time, steady employment to venture out on my own and start a new business, Juneau Food Tours. To say I’m excited is an understatement. To say that I’m scared to death is equally not sufficient. I am terrified. Yet, I feel like the food world in Juneau has been very kind to me and that it’s time for me to take more than baby steps and to jump into it with both feet. Stay tuned, I’m sure there will be updates.
My husband marvels at how much I enjoy food. I love to eat it, cook it, read about and write about it. I read cookbooks like they were novels. It’s truly my passion. Being able to follow my passion is a gift that I don’t want to take for granted. Given all that I will be doing, I am excited to say that I will still be blogging and writing my column each week. I am truly thankful for my editors both past and present who have taken me under their wings and offered me guidance on how to improve my writing and especially my photos. Most of all I am so very grateful for the many readers who write me, stop me in stores or out and about and tell me how much they love my column. That’s just too surreal to put into words. Of course, I absolutely should thank my husband, Captain Grant, who gives me lots of material to work with. He’s very handy that way.
Having said all that, there’s a reason I wanted to focus on change in this column. Does anyone besides me get just a tiny bit frustrated when you’re looking for that ONE ingredient to make a recipe and can’t find it in the grocery store at which you happen to be shopping? I recently experienced such a moment. I was in a local grocery store looking for Arborio rice so that I could teach a friend how to make risotto. I couldn’t find it anywhere in that store. I found all the other ingredients easily. It was rainy and cold and I just didn’t feel like going to another store, so what to do? Make a substitution. Orzo is a great substitution for Arborio rice. It’s a small pasta, almost the size of a rice grain and it can be prepared similar to risotto quite easily. Once I decided to use orzo, my night got better.
On Sunday, I watched one of my favorite cooking shows, “Barefoot Contessa.” Ina Garten makes complicated recipes look so easy. She made risotto with asparagus and lots of other goodies including mascarpone cheese. It looked incredible. Mascarpone cheese is an Italian cream cheese. I recommend giving it a shot. It has a lighter consistency and great flavor for cooking.
I felt that I could make something similar to the Contessa’s risotto, but with a few switches. I decided not to blanch the asparagus, but rather roast it with shrimp. I love roasting, I feel like it takes food to a different level of flavor. I did use mascarpone cheese, as well as lots of parmesan cheese.
With a few substitutions, I think the dish turned out pretty well. This is assuming nearly no leftovers is an indicator.
This week I present a dish that is very easy to make and allows the flexibility of using what you like: Roasted Shrimp Risotto. I would add the mascarpone cheese, you won’t be disappointed.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
Substituting orzo for Arborio rice is a great switch for making this delicious, savory meal.
- ½ pound medium - large shrimp, peeled and deveined -
- 1 bundle fresh asparagus, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces -
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided -
- 2 tablespoons butter -
- 1¾ cups orzo or Arborio rice -
- 1 cup white wine (chardonnay is great) -
- 4 cups chicken broth -
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced -
- ½ cup mushrooms, sliced -
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese -
- Juice of ½ lemon -
- ¾ - 1 cup grated parmesan cheese -
- ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped -
- Salt and pepper -
Preheat oven to 375o. Place shrimp and asparagus on baking sheet and drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil. Salt and pepper liberally. Toss to ensure everything is well coated. Roast in oven for about 7 minutes until shrimp is cooked. Remove and cover with foil to keep warm.
In very large skillet melt 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter together over medium heat. Once it is a bit bubbly, gently add the orzo or Arborio rice. Make sure your skillet is large enough to allow rice to be in a single layer. Stir frequently to toast the rice. It will turn a golden brown, and begin to smell a bit nutty. Carefully add the wine and stir frequently ensuring the rice is well coated and absorbing the liquid. Continue to do this with half of the broth, a cup at a time. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Continue adding broth, one cup at a time until it is all absorbed. Add mushrooms. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, ensuring the rice isn't getting too dry.
Turn heat to low and add shrimp and asparagus. Mix well and then add mascarpone cheese, mix well again and add parmesan cheese. Continue stirring until everything is well blended. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired. Add fresh parsley and squeeze lemon juice on top just before serving.