Baking always serves as a great excuse to call friends and say, “can I come over?”. Never fails. I love to package little treats when I visit friends and it is this time of year when I find myself baking non-stop.
It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving when C. took the kids for the day so I could finish some work. I spent the morning editing, writing and enjoying the silence after what had been a couple of busy days. Then I was overcome by this terrible urge to eat a piece of moist chocolate cake.
Do you know this urge? Yes, the urge that doesn’t let you focus on anything else but taking a bite of a rich and moist chocolate cake. I quickly converted this old chocolate and buttermilk cupcake recipe into a gluten-free one by using my gluten-free flour mix and adding some chocolate chips. It hit the spot.
As soon as I took the cupcakes out of the oven, I got an email from my friend Lena. “Would you like some fresh arugula from our garden?”. It was perfect timing. Some chocolate cupcakes in exchange for some beautiful arugula.
Lena had briefly mentioned their garden the last time we had lunch together, but my jaw dropped when I actually walked into their backyard and saw it. What a beautiful space that her boys and husband built from scratch. All heirloom cucumbers, purple beans, tomatoes, squash, arugula… I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this took my breath away.
So I brought them my cupcakes and I took away some of their fresh arugula.
We ate it in a salad with pears and fennel that night. I also saved some for this risotto that M. and I had for lunch a couple of days later. Fennel, leek and arugula risotto. She loved it, just as I did.
Fennel, Leek and Arugula Risotto
makes enough for 2 servings
3 Tbs olive oil
1 fennel bulb, medium diced
1/2 leek, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1 qt chicken stock, hot
1/2 cup arugula, finely chopped
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
In a pot, heat the olive oil and saute the fennel, garlic and leek until soft but not brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and cook for about a minute. Add the white wine and stir. Add a ladle full of hot chicken stock and stir constantly until the liquid has evaporated. Continue adding one ladle at a time of stock and continue stirring and cooking at medium heat. Cook until the rice is al dente. The entire process will take about 15-18 minutes.
When rice is al dente, turn the heat off. Add a little bit of stock, lemon zest, arugula and parmesan. Stir. It should be creamy. Adjust seasoning. Serve.