Sunday, October 15, 2017

Risotto with Dried Porcini Mushrooms

Risotto with Funghi Procini

Eating a great risotto is one of my favorite dining experiences.  For some masochistic reason, I will often order risotto at a restaurant to determine if the chef has enough trained staff in the kitchen willing to carefully add broth at the right time to the arborio rice.  Cooking a credible risotto takes about 20 minutes of concentration and attention to detail.  I am generally underwhelmed by the outcome, but still persist in my hope that a divine risotto will appear at one of my favorite restaurants.

Frankly, it is far easier to prepare risotto at home.  The recipe we use comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essential Classic Italian Cookbook for Risotto with Porcini mushrooms.

Marcella argues that dehydrated porcini mushrooms pack more flavor punch than fresh porcini mushrooms.  I agree!  While there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh porcini mushrooms in Italy, the season is short and why confine yourself to one month out of the year to eat porcini?

The secret to Marcella’s risotto is that we use the liquid that we hydrated the mushrooms to add flavor to the broth that we use to cook the Arborio rice.  Enjoy this great recipe from Marcella and do use Gourmet Living’s premium grade porcini mushrooms when doing so.  The flavor and texture of premium porcini mushrooms makes a huge difference in both the taste and presentation.

Marcella Hazan’s Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients (for 6 persons)

  • 1 ounce imported dried porcini mushrooms (preferably from Gourmet Living)
  • 1 quart of homemade meat broth or 1 cup of canned chicken broth mixed with 3 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons fine chopped shallots or yellow onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups raw Italian Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt, if necessary
  • Freshly grated pepper, about 4 twists of the mill


  1. Soak the mushrooms in 2 cups of lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes before cooking.  After the liquid turns very dark, stain it through a sieve lined with paper towels and set aside.  Continue soaking and rinsing the mushrooms in frequent changes of water until the mushrooms are soft and thoroughly free of soil.
  2. Bring the broth or the canned broth and water to a slow, steady simmer.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed casserole, over medium-high heat, sauté the chopped shallots or onion in half the butter and all the oil until translucent but not brown.  Add the rice and stir until is is well coated.  Sauté lightly for a few moments and then add a ladleful, 1/2 cup, of the simmering broth.  Continue adding a ladleful of the simmering broth after the liquid is fully absorbed into the rice.   Stir frequently to avoid having the risotto stick.  When the rice has cooked for 10 to 12 minutes add the mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the strained mushroom liquid, 1/2 cup at a time.  After you’ve used up the mushroom liquid finish cooking the rice with hot broth.  (If you run out of broth, add water).
  4. When the rice is done, turn off the heat and mix in the grated Parmesan and the rest of the butter.  Taste and correct for salt.  Add a few twists of pepper and mix.  Spoon the rice into a hot serving platter and serve immediately with a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

Gourmet Living porcini mushrooms

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Improv Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Yesterday we invited our granddaughter over to help make pumpkin cake for her school class. It is never too early to encourage kids to cook and we are fortunate that our granddaughter approaches cooking with much enthusiasm and interest. It could well be that we have another Simone Beck or Nigella Lawson in the making.

pumpkin soup recipe

This is a delicious improv recipe that – while slightly spicy – would be delicious for most any meal leading up to Thanksgiving.

Improv Pumpkin Soup Recipe


  • Medium-size pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Small onion (diced)
  • One garlic clove (sliced)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth for die-hard vegetarians)
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 small can of diced chiles (not drained)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 cup of creme fraiche


  1. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Brush well with oil and roast open half down in an oven for an hour to an hour-and-a-half at 350° F.
  2. Saute the diced onion and slice garlic clove in oil until soft (about 10 minutes)
  3. Scoop out the pumpkin pulp and add to sautéed onion and garlic.
  4. Pour two cups of chicken broth into the mixture and add paprika, ancho chile powder and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Heat and continue to stir lightly to mix ingredients and then add diced chiles (no need to drain).
  6. Once the pumpkin pulp is mixed well with the other ingredients add the mixture to a blender together with a 1/2 cup of creme fraiche.
  7. Blend well and serve the soup hot.

This is a keeper, particularly for those who like a bit of a kick in their pumpkin soup.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

West African Chicken Stew: A Paleo Recipe from Melissa Joulwan

For the most part, my husband and I are wedded to the Mediterranean diet or lifestyle, but will occasionally venture out and test some new diets.

At the suggestion of my sister-in-law, my husband and I decided to see what the Paleo diet had to offer.  I checked out a few books at the library, but eventually decided on a few cookbooks that I thought provided some interesting recipes.West African Chicken Stew

Before sharing an excellent recipe for West African Chicken Stew from Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan, I would like to make a few observations about the Paleo diet.

The paleo diet is loosely based “on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.”  In effect, it is the food that hunters and gatherers would consume rather than the food farmers who produce from domesticated animals and farmed vegetable gardens, particularly legumes.

As such, it differs considerably from the Mediterranean diet in the sense that you are eliminating one more level of “food processing” from your diet.   Clearly, a reduction in factory-processed and potentially chemically-treated foods is a way to eat more naturally and help restore body health.  In fact, many people have told us that they “feel better” after being weaned from artificially processed foods, sugar and dairy.  Who am I to argue?

The following recipe for West African Chicken Stew is reprinted from the Healthy Foodie Blog, which has some gorgeous photos on how this dish is assembled.  While the author of the blog substituted chicken breasts, I strongly recommend using chicken thighs because they have far more flavor.  We served this lovely stew with coconut cauliflower rice (also available in Well Fed 2).


Ingredients (Serves 2 to 4)

  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil  
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and ground black pepper  
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)  
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)  
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)  
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander  
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper  
  • 1 bay leaf  
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes  
  • 1/4 cup water  
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (no sugar added)  
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  
  • garnish: minced fresh parsley leaves, sunflower seeds


  1. Sprinkle the chicken enthusiastically with salt and pepper. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan; cook in batches if you need to.) Remove the chicken to a bowl to catch the juices.  
  2. In the same pot, cook the onions and ginger until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cayenne, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water, stirring to combine. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, along with any juices it released. Increase the heat to bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.  
  3. Remove the chicken from the pot; it will be very tender. Break the chicken into large pieces with the side of a wooden spoon. Add the sunflower seed butter and vanilla to the pot and mix to combine. Return the chicken to the pot and cover. Heat through, about 5 minutes, then serve, sprinkled with parsley and sunflower seeds.

Enjoy.  This recipe is a little spicy but delicious.  It can easily be made ahead of time and reheated.  Thank you Melissa. We love your cookbook!


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