Because the best things in life are simple

Tag: lemon

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite restaurants: La Zucca Magica, in Nice. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed a few years ago, but I have very fond memories. It was an Italian vegetarian restaurant that had gotten much acclaim from guide books and the New York Times.

We didn’t have this dish at the restaurant but I made it when we got home using a recipe that was posted on the New York Times site that has since disappeared. Still, you can watch the YouTube video of NYTimes writer Mark Bittman making the dish.  And I was able to save the written recipe (see below).

There are multiple flavors and textures that work well together in this tasty delicacy. The fresh healthy green of the soft swiss chard leaves; the savory taste of saffron; the bite of the lemon zest; and the sweetness of the Parmesan and fresh mozzarella cheese all make your taste buds dance.

I served this as the third course in a three course meal I created from recipes I got in Southern France. Although none of the courses contained meat, the three courses were very filling. The first course was a cantaloupe gazpacho with crispy prosciutto. The second course was a tomato stuffed with pasta salad. 

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

October 15, 2018
: 6
: 1 hr
: Medium


  • Vegetable broth (6 cups)
  • Arborio rice (1 cup)
  • Saffron (1 large pinch)
  • Lemon (1 small, zested)
  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup grated
  • I recommend using the best, Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Swiss chard leaves (6 large)
  • Mozzarella (1/2 pound cut into small cubes)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (enough to drizzle over the leaves)
  • Step 1 Make risotto by heating up 1 tbsp of butter and adding the rice. Stir and then add one up of the vegetable broth. Keep heat on low to medium. When the liquid is absorbed add another cup and stir until all three cups are used. Rice should be barely tender.
  • Step 2 Dissolve saffron in juice of one lemon. Add to rice, along with butter, Parmesan, zest of one lemon and pepper to taste. Allow rice to cool a bit. Rice can be made in advance at this point (up to 1 day), but do not refrigerate it.
  • Step 3 Poach chard leaves in about 2 cups remaining broth for about 45 seconds. Take out, drain on a dishcloth, and cut out the hardest part of central stem. Reserve cooking broth.
  • Step 4 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With wet hands, form 6 balls of rice 2 to 3 inches across. Dig a hole in each ball and insert mozzarella. Wrap each ball in a chard leaf.
  • Step 5 Put balls in a close-fitting oven pan, with enough reserved broth to come about a half-inch up the sides of the balls. Bake 20 minutes.
  • Step 6 Serve balls topped with a little more broth, more lemon zest, Parmesan and olive oil.
Simplicity at its Lemon-Roasted Best

Simplicity at its Lemon-Roasted Best

Roasted potatoes go well with this dish.
Roasted potatoes go well with this dish.

My friend Jeannie gave me the most beautiful cookbook for Christmas. It’s part of Williams-Sonoma’s “Authentic Recipes of the World” series. And this one focusses on the city of Florence.

Northern italians cook simply with the freshest and best ingredients at hand. And that’s what you should do here.

So splurge: buy a good chicken, not one of those thawed out ones for 99-cents a pound. And use the best lemons you can find. There aren’t too many more ingredients to this dish but here’s the list:


  • Chicken (1 whole bird, about 3 1/2 pounds, preferably free-range, neck and giblets removed).
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (2 tbsp.)
  • Lemons (2 small)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (I always use Kosher salt; and always, always, pepper from a grinder.)

What I did:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.

Rub outside of chicken with olive oil, then sprinkle skin and insides with salt and pepper.

Stuff the cavity with two whole lemons.

Put the chicken in a lightly oiled shallow roasting pan and cook for about 1 1/4 hours, until golden brown. Baste occasionally.

Transfer chicken to a carving board and remove the lemons. Then tent some aluminum foil over it.

When the lemons are cool to the touch, cut them in half and squeeze the juice into the roasting pan. Throw the lemons away.

Add 3 tbspoons of water to the pan and place over high heat.

Cook for about two minutes, until reduced by 1/3.

Carve the chicken and arrange on a platter. The pour the lemon pan juices over it.

Makes about 4 servings.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Salmon With Lemon Butter and Dill (Caesar Salad Option Too)

Salmon With Lemon Butter and Dill (Caesar Salad Option Too)

Shown here is about 1 pound of salmon, enough to feed two people.
Shown here is about 1 pound of salmon, enough to feed two people.

Microwaves aren’t usually associated with gourmet foods. However, one thing they excel at is cooking fish. Salmon haddock, swordfish steaks — most any firm fillets — come out flakey and moist when cooked for a few minutes in a microwave.

It’s the quickest and easiest way to cook fish and is easy to clean up. Unlike so many other things in life that sacrifice quality for convenience — microwave popcorn, TV dinners, instant coffee, sliced bread — I believe this method makes a better fish than more labor-intensive methods such as frying or baking.

The key is getting the freshest fish possible (there should be no fishy odor).

I made a salmon Caesar salad last week using this method (and because some members of my family won’t eat fish, I also made a chicken Caesar using leftover baked chicken.)

Salmon Fillet with Lemon Butter and Dill

Ingredients/Shopping List (for salmon fillet; salmon Caesar salad recipe follows this one):

  • Salmon fillet (About 1/2 pound per person. Ask to have the skin removed when you buy it.)
  • Lemon (1 large lemon, cut into thin slices.)
  • Butter (Thin slices of unsalted butter to cover each lemon slice.)
  • Fresh dill (A few sprigs)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Waxed paper (or plastic wrap)

What I did:

Put the salmon fillet on a dinner plate.

Cover with slices of lemon.

Add thin slices of butter on each lemon slice.

Sprinkle sprigs of fresh dill over the butter, lemon and fish.

Add a dash of salt and pepper.

Cover with waxed paper (or plastic wrap), tucking the paper beneath the plate to make a loose seal.

Cook in the microwave for about four minutes. Each microwave cooks differently, so you may want to cook for two minutes at a time, checking to see if it’s done.

When you place the salmon Caesar salad on the table, the cat is sure to come running.
When you place the salmon Caesar salad on the table, the cat is sure to come running.

And if you’d like to serve this over a Caesar salad, here’s what you need:

Ingredients/Shopping List (For Caesar Salad):

  • Lettuce (I like to use a variety of arugula, red-leaf and/or Boston lettuce)
  • Tomatoes (At this time of year, the best available in this part of the country are grape tomatoes. I cut them in half.)
  • Onions (A few slices of a sweet onion, split into rings. Then split the rings into smaller pieces.)
  • Garlic (1 clove, peeled)
  • Salt (1 1/2 tsp.)
  • Olive oil (1/2 cup)
  • Red wine vinegar (3 tbsp.)
  • Dry mustard (1/4 tsp. or 1/2 tsp. of dijon)
  • Anchovies or Anchovy Paste (About 5 fillets or 1 tsp. of the paste)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (About 3 tbsp. or more to taste)

What I did:

Wash and cut lettuce and put in a big bowl.

Add tomatoes and the onions.

Make the dressing by putting the garlic and salt in a bowl. Crush it good using a fork until garlic and salt are well blended. Add the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, anchovies and parmesan cheese. Whisk until blended and mixed thoroughly.

Add chunks of salmon (or chicken) to the salad in the bowl. Add the salad dressing, toss and serve.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)