Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

In Dubai they sell eggs in containers of 6, 15 or 30. It’s weird to remove “a dozen eggs” from your grocery shopping vocabulary, but it’s really just as arbitrary. I had 15 of these brown freckled beauties and now that Easter has passed, I know you’re looking for ways to use up all those hard boiled eggs.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
I like the idea of sweet & spicy, and most any use of figs, so I updated this deviled egg recipe using fig preserves and curry powder. My curry powder happens to be Pakistani, but I think any type would do! I underestimated how long it takes to peel 15 hard boiled eggs, but after a while the repetition was almost therapeutic. I add salt to the boiling water and then transfer the eggs to ice water,  both things that are supposed to help make the eggs easier to peel. Does it actually do anything? I don’t know. I still ended up with a few tricky/ugly ones (aka tasters), but most of them were pretty smooth.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
When the man got home, he asked me two rapid fire questions: “Why did you make these?” *eats one whole* “Why are they so good?” I made them because I felt like it, and they’re so good because I had plenty of tasters and kept adding more flavor to them. They ended up savory, spicy, and a little bit sweet.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

12-15 Hard boiled eggs
1/2 c Mayo
2 Tbs Fig preserves
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp Curry powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
Ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Stalks green onion, sliced into rounds
Handful Cilantro leaves for garnish
Sprinkle paprika for garnish

To boil the eggs, place them in the bottom of a large pot and cover with 1-2 inches of salted water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn off heat but leave the pot covered on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water ready and transfer eggs from the hot to cold water and chill for a few minutes.

Carefully peel the eggs and halve each one with a sharp knife. Gently remove the yolks and add them to a mixing bowl. Smush the yolks and then add remaining ingredients. Use the less-than-perfect whites to taste the mixture and add more spice, salt, or sweet as desired. Spoon the yolk mixture into the whites (you can also transfer the mixture into a large ziplock bag and cut a corner off as your method for refilling the eggs). Garnish with cilantro and paprika. Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Risotto for Beginners

Broccoli Parmesan Risotto | Cook it Pretty
It is possible to make risotto without crying or getting eliminated from Top Chef. Take it from me, someone who has made risotto all of three times in my life. Two of the three were successful, so I feel like those odds are pretty good. I’m pretty sure that other time was the recipe’s fault for not including cheese.

Which brings me to my first tip: choose a risotto recipe with cheese involved. After all the work you put in, you’ll be happier if you’re rewarded with creamy cheesy goodness.

Next tip: Look to the experts for a solid base recipe, and add whatever ingredients you like. I chose one from Biba Caggiano, an Italian chef whose food our family happily consumes as often as possible in her Sacramento restaurant. Her book, Italy al Dente, contains more risotto recipes than I could make in a lifetime. The recipe she says she used to teach her daughter the basics of risotto, Risotto alla Parmigiana, seemed like a good place to start. (Watch Biba be charming and make risotto in 3:30 in this cute video).

Broccoli Parmesan Risotto | Cook it Pretty

I got my next tip from the author of A Cozy Kitchen: Prep everything in the recipe before you even fire the stove. Having everything measured and ready to go will ensure you don’t overcook something while you’re chopping something else, and you’ll feel like you have your own cooking show once you get going.

Finally, making risotto is all about stirring and patience. So take my friend Seriously Yum’s advice and have a glass of wine for yourself handy so you feel better about being chained to the stove. (Chair optional). Maybe this is why everyone messes up their risotto on Top Chef! They need wine. Ready? Give this one a go:

Broccoli Parmesan Risotto

6 c low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
4 Tbs butter
1/2 c yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c white wine + a glass for the cook
2 c broccoli, chopped to bite size
1/2 c Parmesan, grated
Salt & Pepper to taste
Red chili pepper flakes optional

Measure and prep all your ingredients. Steam the chopped broccoli until very tender and set aside. Add 3 Tbs of the butter to a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion once melted. Stir about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir 2 minutes until it is coated in the butter and appears translucent. Next add the wine and stir until it’s mostly absorbed. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, each time stirring until the broth is almost fully absorbed. This process may take about 20 minutes, this is the part where you’ll want that wine to sip on. Once you’re through the stock, add the reserved 1 Tbs butter and most of the Parmesan, stirring to combine and melt the cheese. Stir in the steamed broccoli. Taste and add salt, pepper, and chili flakes if desired. Top with the remaining grated Parmesan. Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2015

Call them Capsicums

Santa Fe Stuffed Peppers

Pinterest vs. Reality: Santa Fe Stuffed Peppers

Oh the joys of little differences living abroad. In Dubai, most produce is called by its British name. Therefore, bell pepper is capsicum, zucchini is courgette, and eggplant is aubergine. I can never remember to call cilantro coriander. My spellcheck doesn’t even understand courgette or aubergine.

So I suppose I’ve made Santa Fe Stuffed Capsicums, recipe from Skinnytaste. Skinnytaste is a fantastic source of inspiring recipes! This is a good one when you’re craving Mexican flavors but want to keep it lighter. It also yields a lot, and makes great leftovers.

Santa Fe Stuffed Capsicums

Capsicums and Coriander

I used to complain about how hard it is to cook for one, because I always had so much left over and felt like I was often wasting ingredients when they went bad before I could consume them all. I was missing the upside, which was that after I invested all the time in making a big meal, I was set with leftovers for a bit. Not so much now that I live with a hungry man. Now I hardly ever have leftovers and I feel like the food just goes so quickly!

Santa Fe Stuffed Capsicum

As long as there’s avocado…I shall be happy.

So I appreciate that this large batch recipe holds up well for leftovers and it’s super satisfying and healthy. I’ve already whined about the lack of black beans here, so I subbed another type of bean and added more corn. The other modification I made this round was that I used chicken instead of turkey. I haven’t found ground turkey here yet, but I did find “minced chicken”. Worked just as well!

This recipe is easy to modify, so try it with different proteins or go all-veg! It will always look cute when served in the pepper. Er, capsicum.

It’s Pumpkin Soup Season. Even here.

It started with this picture.

LAT Pumpkin Soup

Image from LA Times

This was 2009, aka pre-Pinterest, so it was the cutest pumpkin recipe presentation I had ever seen. I suggested it as a new addition to our family’s Thanksgiving feast that year, and went for it with the help of my Mom and sister. I photo-documented the whole thing, clearly always a blogger at heart, even if my photos weren’t the greatest. The recipe claims 2 hours prep/cook time, I’d say it took us more like 5. That’s because the original recipe from LA Times calls for starting with an entire actual pumpkin rather than the just-as-good canned pumpkin puree that people in the real world are more likely to use.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup - start with a pumpkin

Entire actual pumpkin used.

Being a family that places value on things from scratch, we went for it anyway. It involved a lot of secondary containers and extra sets of hands as we worked the huge batch through the food processor to break down the pumpkin chunks.

Cooking down the pumpkin chunks.

Cooking down the pumpkin chunks.

Don’t forget that you also have to carve out the minis for those cute pumpkin bowls!

Spiced Pumpkin Soup in mini pumpkin bowls

Making mini pumpkin bowls

The recipe makes a big batch that serves 12 – could you imagine making a dozen pumpkin bowls? Four was plenty. Here’s the finished product, in our imperfect yet pretty darn cute white pumpkin serving vessels.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup in Mini Pumpkin Bowls

Spiced Pumpkin Soup in Mini Pumpkin Bowls

We may have slaved for hours, but no one was complaining by the time we were eating it. Working that hard for something can make it taste even better. What sets this pumpkin soup apart from others I’ve seen and tasted, other than the impressive presentation, is the bisque-like texture (thanks to heavy cream) and the sweet spicy flavors (thanks to roasted chiles and maple syrup). And don’t forget the bacon!

In short, it was worth it. For a special occasion, I’d probably do those pumpkin bowls again. But what if I want to eat pumpkin soup every damn day?? And I kind of do. Thankfully, I have smart, resourceful, and talented friends.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup - Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 version – garnished with extra nutmeg

My fabulous friend Pam over at Seriously Yum has taught me many kitchen lessons over the years, and has been doing this cooking and writing about it thing way longer than I have. She took on the “full fat, full afternoon” version and successfully cut down on time and calories – down to 100 calories per serving, in fact. Color me impressed. That was a fun collabo – Pam, we need to do it again! Find her lighter, faster version here.

I still seem to tweak the recipe slightly every time I make it, and I now make it at least once a year due to popular demand. Sometimes from myself.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Thanksgiving 2013 version

I’ve arrived at this recipe (below), which is a combination of the original and Pam’s. I think the extra creamy texture of the heavy cream is worth the fat content, as is a little extra bacon. However, I’ll likely always use canned pumpkin versus the more time-consuming, straight from the pumpkin patch method. Over time I’ve ditched the Tabasco called for in the original, and stopped concerning myself over some of the details, such as whether my paprika is Hungarian. I also added nutmeg to balance the flavors, and forgot that the original didn’t include it.

I encourage you to taste test along the way and add more heat or mellow it with more sweetness as you go. Therefore, measurements may not be exact and I mean it when I say “to taste”!

I have yet to find canned pumpkin in Dubai…insert sad face here. Thankfully, my family is visiting soon and I’ve asked them to bring me some! We’ve done this before…because we are a totally normal family that travels internationally with canned goods in our suitcases. Until then, enjoy some soup for me!

Laura’s Spiced Pumpkin Soup

3 tbsp butter
3-4 slices bacon
1/4 cup chardonnay
1 large onion, chopped
1 or 2 serrano chiles (or similar) broiled til skin is charred. Seeds removed, roughly chopped.
2 large cans (or 4 small) pumpkin puree
4 cans chicken broth (about 6.5 cups)
1/4 cup maple syrup (more to taste)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
2 cups half & half or heavy cream, depending on your diet!
1 tsp nutmeg (more to taste)
Green onion garnish (optional)

Roast the chiles over high heat on a rack or skewer on your stove-top burner, s’mores style. When the skin is charred all over, place the peppers in a paper bag (this helps make it easier to remove the skin). Leave them for about 10 minutes, then remove and peel the skin. Discard the stem and seeds, and chop the peppers coarsely.

In large stockpot, heat butter and bacon over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until bacon starts to get crispy. Add chopped onion and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes, until they start caramelizing. Add chile, mix well.

Add wine, pumpkin and 3 cans broth. Stir well to combine. Add syrup, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir again. When it starts bubbling, reduce to low and cover. Stir once in a while for about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Return to heat. Stir in cream. Add some or all of the 4th can of broth, checking the texture. Add more syrup, salt or spice to taste. Garnish with green onion or additional nutmeg if desired.