Porcini Wild Rice

Wild Rice

Porcini Wild Rice

One of my favorite things are grain-type salads that can be eaten hot or cold. While I’m absolutely a hot-food person (have you ever seen a sandwich on this blog? uh, no), once in a while it’s nice to have something filling and healthy in the fridge that I can easily munch on. This porcini and wild rice dish fits the bill: it’s fantastic heated and served with beef, chicken or fish, and just as good chilled with a few greens.

The key to this recipe is that it’s all about texture. The silky smooth umami-esque reconstituted porcini mushrooms, the rough wild rice, chewy dried cranberries, and crunchy pecans all make for an incredible mouthful. Plus, it has that whole sweet-savory thing going on that I love so much.

I first ate the porcini wild rice salad for dinner with steelhead trout that had been marinated in a garlic and balsamic vinegar reduction, then had leftovers for lunch the next day with a piece of leftover steak. Both times it was fabulous and incredibly nutritious with a small side salad or wilted baby spinach.

Porcini Wild Rice

Porcini Wild Rice

Here’s the recipe:

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Mushroom Risotto: 7-step method plus recipev

Mushroom Risotto l

Creamy. Rustic. Classic.

Oh, how I love a good risotto. Especially mushroom risotto with the glorious earthiness of the mushrooms showcased so cleanly against a perfect canvas of starchy arborio rice.

I use mushrooms two ways in risotto to take full advantage of both flavor and texture. First, grind most of the mushrooms in a food processor so the fantastic flavor can be deeply infused within the rice. The remaining mushrooms are sliced and sauteed in butter and used as a garnish to provide even more mushroom flavor and a contrast in texture.

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Risotto has a reputation for being difficult, I think because people are intimidated by recipes that call for “constant stirring for 45 minutes.” In a word, that instruction is crap.

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Fresh Spring Peas = Risi e Bisi

Risi e Bisi

Risi e Bisi

It seems as though I’ve been in a bit of an Italian-food mood recently with the garlic scape pesto, fresh tagliatelle, bison rag├╣ and finally the risi e bisi I made Saturday.

Fresh Spring Peas

Fresh Spring Peas

The idea for risi e bisi, an Italian dish from Venice, came after I bought a container of fresh shelled peas from the farmer’s market. I love fresh peas and the ones I bought today were wonderfully sweet and a little peppery, and nothing like frozen peas. But I remembered from last year how quickly the peas went bad so I wanted to be sure to use at least some of them right away. Originally I had planned on making risotto with peas and mushrooms but somehow forgot to buy the mushrooms.

Risi e Bisi: stir rice into sauteed onions and garlic Risi e Bisi: simmer rice and broth Risi e Bisi: Add peas to simmering rice

It was then that I remembered risi e bisi meaning “rice and peas.” The rice is arborio, the same short grain, starchy rice used in risotto. But the differences between risotto and risi are that the later has a thinner consistency (think really thick stew) that is just thick enough to be eaten with a fork, and also that the rice is cooked by simmering in water rather than the slow-stirring risotto method (see: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Risotto).

Making Risi e Bisi

Making Risi e Bisi

This truly was a simple, filling, tasty dish that seemed just right for the tail-end of spring.

And it turns out it goes really well with BBQ, go figure. I served the leftover risi e bisi at my family’s request with our BBQ dinner (thanks, Twin Anchors) on father’s day and it was a huge hit!

Here’s the recipe:

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Celebrate Mardi Gras with Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Mardi Gras is tomorrow and since I couldn’t be there to join the festivities, I thought I’d bring some of the strong New Orleans flavors into my own kitchen. I chose my favorite dish that didn’t include crayfish (I just love those little mudbugs, but it’s near impossible to get them fresh here): gumbo with shrimp and andouille sausage.

A great one-pot dish, gumbo is easy to make yet fairly labor intensive. And be forewarned: because of the long-cooking dark roux, you and your home will smell like the fry station at McDonald’s for at least 24 hours. Here are the various stages of roux (the thickener made from flour and oil):

White roux Blond roux

Brown roux Dark roux

This gumbo has a bit of a kick which will intensify if you reheat it the next day. Serve it with rice and you’ve got a great balanced meal.

I had the great opportunity of visiting New Orleans last April for the IACP convention (see: Eating my way through New Orleans). As I was with a couple hundred foodies, the city really rolled out the red carpet with samples of many classic hometown dishes, everything from jambalaya to calas to po’boys. I was truly smitten with the warmth and soul of the food as well as the people who were truly inspiring.

Holy trinity vegetables

Eating my gumbo with the popcorn long grain rice I picked up during that trip brought back those wonderful memories, and will have to be enough until I can visit New Orleans again.

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Breaking in my Rice Cooker

Brown rice with chicken and vegetables

As a professional foodie, I’m sure you can imagine the amounts of cooking gear I have. In case you can’t, let me just tell you it’s a LOT. And trying to fit it all in my small apartment and teeny tiny kitchen isn’t an easy task, so I have to be choosy about what new gadgets and even ingredients I buy. With that being said, I couldn’t resist the urge to buy a rice cooker.

Steam coming from rice cooker

I know, I know, it’s SO easy to make rice on the stove top. I’ve done it hundreds, if not thousands, of times. But buzz on this gadget has been fierce, so when I saw a model on clearance at Target I just had to get it. The “positive” side is that I went the cheap route, forgoing the “fuzzy logic” technology that is said to produce the most delicious rice at a high price tag (those models start around $200). The negative: the Aroma brand rice cooker I bought is fairly large and I have no idea where I’m going to store it.

Cubed chickenVegetables

Despite my internal conflict surrounding the purchase, I decided to try it out this afternoon during the Bears game (they won, by the way) with an Asian-inspired recipe for brown rice with chicken, mushrooms and peas. The instructions pretty much went as follows: chop up ingredients, dump everything in the rice cooker, close top, plug in, press one button and walk away for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Yup – if you paused on the cooking time, you’re right. That was my only complaint, the long cooking time for brown rice (according to the manual, the cooking time for white rice is much less).

Ingredients in rice cookerFluffing rice

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