Posts Tagged ‘italian’

Shroomin’ Risotto

The VV has taken some time off since his last post and, to be honest, you’re lucky you’re getting one at all. The hardware on my computer is freaking out and typing is a Huge Pain in the Ass, below is a labor of love. But it may be a good thing that my keyboard’s messed up because today is all about the risotto, and salivating on my computer probably won’t do any more damage.

Oh, and the first thing you need to know: risotto is NOT difficult. It just sounds highfalutin and looks fancy. It does require a lot of attention, though, so break out a bottle of wine and kick it by the stovetop. (Veg Virgin confession: I got a solid buzz on the last time I made this. I am the furthest thing from a sommelier—in fact, I consulted a tall wino on what do drink who was subsequently rewarded with this meal—but I recommend Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris; basically, a hearty red.)


2 cups Arborio rice (one of my few concessions away from whole grains, but a necessary one)

6+ tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

8 cups vegetable stock (9 if you like the risotto a bit softer and creamier), heated

or 4 cups mushroom stock, the rest vegetable stock, mixed & heated

10oz. mix of cremini, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms, sliced (baby portobellos would probably be excellent but, again, I’m allergic)

Makes 4-5 huge, meal-size servings

*This recipe makes a lot; so if you want to do it as a side dish, just halve the ingredients.

First, if you have dried mushrooms, rehydrate them according to the directions on the package. The leftover liquid, which should be about 4 cups, is your mushroom stock. Mix this with the 4-5 cups of vegetable stock. Otherwise, just use the vegetable stock. (I think I prefer this latter version, for what it’s worth.) Also, they’re kind of pricey, but if you can afford it, definitely exchange the cremini for porcini, which offer a much deeper, fuller, darker flavor of superness.  Regardless, make sure the stock is heated; if you use cold stock with risotto, the dish won’t come out right. Just keep it over a low to medium-low heat; and do not let it come to a boil: you don’t want it to reduce.

Next, take half the oil and coat the bottom of a pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until translucent—about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice, which you pretty much must use, and mushrooms. If you’re using fresh, not rehydrated, shrooms, then add them in now; otherwise, wait until the end. Add the rest of the oil and stir the whole mess around, making sure to get the rice covered in the oil. Now add half of the heated stock and wait for it to almost completely absorb, stirring regularly. As it continues to absorb, pour in one or two ladlefuls (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup at a time) and STIR. The mix will probably come to a slow, rolling boil, which is fine; if it goes much higher, drop the heat a bit.

You’re just going to keep ladling and stirring. Once you see that there are about 2 cups of stock left-to-be-ladled, start tasting your rice. It’ll still be crunchy at this point, but it’s good to get an idea of how quickly it absorbs the liquid from here and you’ll be able to pull the rice off the burner when you have it at the consistency you like.

In the end, you’ll have a gooey, supple, mushroomy plate of boom. I recommend serving with Veggie Grated Topping for full on Italian effect.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4. You have everything you could want in a risotto: creaminess; heartiness; warmth; gustatory satisfaction. Remember the aforementioned tall wino? She said the risotto was “awesome.” All that aside, this dish may take some omnivores by surprise since risottos, at least in my experience, use chicken stock, and may have seafood in them (any pescatorians here?). If you end up making this risotto and someone complains, just guilt trip the hell out of them by fluffing ‘how much work went into this meal, which you slaved over, and you’re just trying to be healthy and you wanted to mix up the weekly menu and, besides, you hear the Veg Virgin is really hot’—you know, that card.


Silken Sun-dried Tomato Alfredo

Whoa, what a bad-ass title for my first post.

So I am discovering that I a firm (no pun intended) proponent of silken tofu because of its versatility. I’ll doubtlessly experiment with it in things like liquid-meal replacements and pies (yes, pies), but for now I’ll stick with the alfredo sauce. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 box Pasta Barilla Plus, like farfalle or penne (I can’t find linguine in this brand.)

1 spaghetti squash

1 lb Silken Tofu

1/2-cup  skim milk

2-3 oz fat free mozzarella cheese

2-3 tbs gouda

6 sun-dried tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp. hot sauce

4 dashes hot pepper flakes

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano

1-2 tsp basil

salt & pepper to taste (probably a fair amount of the latter)

Makes 4-5 servings

First, prepare the spaghetti squash. My preferred (and only) method is to cut it in half long ways and place it in a microwave-safe dish deep enough to hold the halved squash in one-inch of water. Cover and steam it in the microwave for 20-25mins, or until tender. I recommend stabbing it with a fork to check its doneness, like you do with steamed broccoli. While the squash is going, boil the pasta. I think you have this taken care of; if not, just follow the directions in the box or, better yet, get out of the kitchen before you hurt someone.

Now it’s time for the sauce. Add the milk, tofu, cheeses, seasonings, hot sauce, and sun-dried tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Next, toast the garlic in the oil over medium-high heat, about 3-4mins. Remove as soon as it browns and pour the mix, oil and garlic, into the blender or food processor along with the other ingredients. Mix then liquefy until everything combines and thickens. It should be very viscous but still able to flow (you know, like alfredo).

By this time the squash should be more-or-less done steaming. Take it out and CAREFULLY—it’s hotter than hell—remove it from the dish. Scoop out all of the seeds and, with a fork, scrape the insides out; you should see it begin to detach from the shell in strings. You can go all the way down to the shell. (I recommend checking out Google Images for pictures of this since, while simple, it makes a lot more sense visually. I promise to have more pictures in the future.)

After straining the pasta (duh), add the spaghetti squash scrapings and pour the sauce over the whole mix. Don’t worry about whether or not the sauce is cold—the spaghetti and squash will heat it up perfectly. Now stir the mother and serve.

The magic of the silken tofu is that it eliminates the need for overly fatty cream while still lending protein and nutrients. Indeed, with the cheeses involved this meal provides a pretty good nutritional profile in terms of carbs, fats, and proteins. Anyway, nutritional nerd stuff aside, I would (and will) definitely make this again. I love the mix of spice and earthy flavors in a creamy sauce. I wish I had more–I’d love to use it as a spread over a tomato sandwich.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4.5. This is basically an everyday alfredo sauce; it loses 1/2-point because of the squash, which was added to get in more veg. Also, the reason there are so many spices is to mask the, albeit subtle, taste of the tofu, which they do wonderfully.

This recipe originally called for parmeean cheese, which apparently is made with rennet, gotten from extracted animal stomachs. Shit. So I changed the recipe a bit from the original version, substituting gouda for parmesan and changing out the part-skin mozzarella for fat free mozzarella to compensate for the jump in fat with the gouda. If you check out the link, you’ll find out why I’m REALLY heartbroken; I’ll miss you, Guinness.

UPDATE: Check out the above retraction’s retraction at Mushroom’s Cream Soup. Consider ‘Parmesan’ back on the menu!