My Favorite Risotto

Risotto is a traditional rice dish from Northern Italy, specifically Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto. It was introduced by Arabian people who dominated Sicily and parts of the Southern mainland in the late Middle Ages.  

A mainstay of Milanese cuisine, Risotto Milanese is prepared using beef stock and saffron which is served with Osso Bucco. When using rice to make a risotto, choose short-grained round or semi-round rice; among the best rices for making risotto are Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli.

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I have enjoyed many excellent prepared risotto dishes. One of the most memorable was made my cousin Mauro’s wife Anna, while in Rome. Anna’s risotto is made with pesto and is meant for basil lovers like myself. Her combination is culinary kismet; the perfume-rich tasty herb coats every grain of rice. The other master of risotto is Chef Antonio Cereda, with his Porcini Risotto. Antonio, my friend from Northern Italy is the Executive Chef on Princess Cruises. His Porcini Risotto marries the mellow earthiness of fungi with creamy velvety rice.

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Shrimp Risotto with Asparagus

Makes 4 servings 

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1 lb. uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

2 teaspoons dried basil 

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil 

Fresh ground black pepper 

1 small onion, chopped 

4 slices Pancetta, roughly chopped 

1 cup Arborio rice 

2- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, hot 

3 Tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped 

1 Tablespoon lemon juice 

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel 

1 cup half & half 

1 cup fresh asparagus tips or fresh baby spinach 

Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Pre heat a large sauce pan to medium heat. 

Season shrimp with basil, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add shrimp to pan, sear on each side for one minute and set aside. Do not fully cook. 

In the same sauce pan add 1 tablespoon Olive Oil, onion and pancetta. Cook onion and pancetta 4-5 minutes but do not brown. Add Arborio rice and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Slowly add 1/2 cup broth, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Lower temperature to a low, gentle simmer. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently every 4-5 minutes or as rice absorbs all of the broth until rice becomes tender. 

Return seared shrimp back into pan with risotto and cook for two to three minutes, until shrimp is fully cooked or until shrimp turn pink. 

Cooking time will vary from 25-35 minutes, as will the amount of broth, depending on exact temperature of pan. 

Add half and half and fresh Parmesan cheese, to taste. Optional: Serve topped with steamed asparagus tips or fresh baby spinach. 

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Vision of Spring

With spring now upon us it's the perfect time to plan the early spring herb garden.

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PLANNING YOUR OUTDOOR HERB GARDEN

Nothing compares to the flavor of fresh herbs in cooking. Now is the time to plan your fresh herb garden for an abundance of flavorful herbs at your fingertips. But before you start digging, there's a little bit of planning to take into consideration.  

First consider the amount of time you have to spend and tend to your garden. If you're a weekend gardener, then a little patch of kitchen herbs is a great start, you can always increase the size of your garden next year. But if you're an avid gardener, go crazy! Add more exotic herbs and fragrant ones such as lemon verbena, lemon grass, pineapple sage and Thai basil. 

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Find a good location for your garden. Most herbs need five or six hours of sunlight and a soil slightly on the dryer side. Plant close enough to your back door for when you're running from the kitchen to the garden.

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Lay out your garden on paper. Think about style. Do you like a formal orderly appearance to your garden, or a more natural style? Keep in mind when planning to include walking paths so you can reach to weed and harvest your herbs and keep your feet dry when the ground is wet.  

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What to plant?  If you intend to cook with the herbs make a list of the ones you use most common.  If you like fragrant herbs or colorful herbs, ask your local garden shop what grows well in your area. And, herbs like a fairly neutral or slightly alkaline soil. If you know your soil is acid, add some lime when preparing your soil. 

When planting, try to keep the annuals and perennials separate so when the end of the season comes you won't disturb the roots of the perennials when you pull out annuals. Try to keep taller plants to the back of the border or in the center of your bed and smaller ones near the edges to form borders.  

Enjoy my Green Goddess aka. Sauce Au Vert Recipe with fresh spring chive and parsley.

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Colcannon

Potato dishes are comforting and crowd pleasing. Potatoes are a great side and can be easily be turned into a main. This month it is timely to celebrate the tradition of Ireland with another favorite. 

This comforting traditional Irish dish of potatoes and cabbage was more or less created from the plentiful supply of potatoes and cabbage, originating in 18th century Cork, Ireland. Colcannon is similar to the English's bubble and squeak, only the potatoes are mashed. The other key ingredients were fresh milk, freshly churned butter and onion. This is a good side dish that can be made easily with leftover potatoes and cabbage. Serve with smoked ham or corned beef.

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Colcannon (potatoes with cabbage)

serves six-eight

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2 pounds red skin potatoes, cut into small pieces

1 cup milk, hot 

6 Tablespoons butter

1 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup leeks, white and pale green only, chopped fine

6 cups green cabbage, finely shredded and braised in corn beef (or chicken) broth

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Boil potatoes for about 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash potatoes with skins on, adding the milk.

While potatoes are cooking, melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan add onion and leeks; cook until translucent. Add the cabbage and cover; cook for at least 5 minutes or until desired tenderness. *Combine cabbage and onion mixture into hot mashed potatoes. Season with fresh ground black pepper. Top each serving with a teaspoon of butter.

* OPTIONAL: add 1 cup cooked chopped corn beef or ham.

Another popular requested recipe from George Hirsch Lifestyle TV Series is my Mousseline Potatoes. Enjoy!

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People, Pubs and Pints

Even as a stranger you'll be made to feel like a regular local. Where's that? Any pub in Ireland. The local pub in Ireland is the heart of any village. It's the place to catch up on local chit-chat or good craic, listen to live music and enjoy really good hearty food. See for yourself how Ireland's warm hearted culture brings me back time and time again.  

 Watch The TV Segment

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Mannings Ballylickey

Postscript: I thank you for watching my TV shows for almost twenty-five years and following my blog posts; felt this story was timely this week given St. Patricks Day next Saturday. As I shared Val Manning's life-long story of local and stainable back then I know this is the true meaning of celebrating the people of Ireland on St. Pats! Sláinte

I've been taping in Ireland for my TV series. A few days ago I had the pleasure to share a glass of Rose and taste local cheeses with the honorable Val Mannings of Ballylickey at his food Emporium, Mannings located along the River Ovane.

I was dropped in the heart of County Cork, Ireland and talked local food and sustainability with Val. Sustainability is nothing new to Val, after all, he's been doing it for decades, in fact for generations in the Mannings Family. Just ask anyone in Ireland and they will know of Val Manning. His cheeses, sausage and breads were out of this world; and I was lucky enough to have some time and listen to his fabulous stories. The food, wine and food conversation in Ireland is all part of the experience. I know my life has been made extra special from my visit - so thank you Val for sharing your knowledge with me so I can share it with my friends back home.

So if you venture off the beaten path, to experience original authentic artisanal foods; I recommend a drop by to Mannings while in Cork on N71. I'll be back.

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For more info on traveling to Ireland: Tourism Ireland

Images: Hirsch Media