Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Less Is More

lolcat who hates pickles

Sometimes the less work and ingredients you put into something, the better it is.

For example, I like to make croutons out of stale bread because I hate throwing out bread. My dad loves them. All I do is cube the bread, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put them in a 325 degree oven until they're crunchy.

Then one day I decided to mix it up a bit and add cheese, thyme, and garlic. I followed this recipe from Rachael Ray:

Image courtesy of Gimme Some Oven


  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cups cubed sourdough bread
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 t. dried)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat garlic and oil over low heat and melt butter into the oil.
  3. Place the bread in a large bowl and toss with garlic oil and butter.
  4. Season with pepper, Parmesan and thyme.
  5. Spread croutons evenly on baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden. (15 - 25 minutes).
Double the ingredients, double the fun! How can anyone go wrong with cheese and garlic, right? Instead of tasting better, though, the croutons tasted really cheesy--and not in a good way, more in an American-Idol-is-making-me-hate-this-song kind of way.

Another instance where I've found this to be true is with risotto. Usually I make Alton Brown's asparagus and mushroom risotto, because the man's a genius. Here's the recipe:

mushroom and asparagus risotto
Image courtesy of AMISTA Vineyards


  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 ounces wild mushrooms, cooked and coarsely chopped, approximately 3/4 cup
  • 7 ounces asparagus, cooked and cut into 1-inch pieces, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan, approximately 1/2 cup
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  1. In an electric kettle or medium saucepan with a lid, combine chicken broth and white wine and heat just to simmering. Keep warm.
  2. In a large 3 to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not to allow the grains or the onions to brown.
  3. Reduce the heat to low. Add enough of the wine and chicken stock just to cover the top of the rice. Stir or move the pan often, until the liquid is completely absorbed into rice. Once absorbed, add another amount of liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring or moving as before. There should be just enough liquid left to repeat 1 more time. It should take approximately 35 to 40 minutes for all of the liquid to be absorbed. After the last addition of liquid has been mostly absorbed, add the mushrooms and asparagus and stir until risotto is creamy and asparagus is heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, lemon zest, and nutmeg. Taste and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
But last week I wasn't in the mood to mess with asparagus and all that, so I decided to just follow the directions on the back of the Arborio rice bag, which was basically this recipe halved and without the nutmeg, lemon zest, asparagus, and mushrooms.

Let me tell you, it was AMAZING! I've never made a dish of risotto so awesome. It tasted so light and fresh and bright. You don't need lemon zest when you don't add all those other ingredients to weigh down the taste.

This got me thinking, how many other recipes are out there that would taste great if only we added less ingredients to them? Have you ever come across a dish where less is more?

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up over the weekend.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...