Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This post reminds me of Iron Chef Michael Symon's mantra, "Teach someone a recipe and they can cook a dish, but if you teach them a technique, they can cook a hundred dishes." This definitely holds true for risotto. The possibilities are endless for this quite humble yet elegant dish. If you stick to the basics (check my post on risotto and polenta), you can create your customized risotto depending on the season and what is available that appeals to your palate. With spring just around the corner, it is almost time to go mushroom hunting again. With this in mind, I'm presenting Sophia Loren's recipe of risotto with mushrooms.

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My first experience with mushroom hunting was last year at Hyalite Canyon with Oleg, my Russian friend and his godson, Kyle. We trekked the rather dry terrain late in the morning when mushrooms were sprouting from the ground triggered by the rising sun. For a couple of hours, we gathered and had quite the haul. Most notable were a couple of Boletes mushrooms, the biggest mushrooms I've ever laid my eyes on and the yellow Chanterelles that I managed to ignore not knowing they were acutally one of the more expensive varieties when you buy them retail. An added excitement was the fact that we may have picked up some poisonous variety. Thank goodness we didn't. A desperate attempt on my part to find wild mushrooms during the winter months led to the discovery of a frozen pack of mixed wild mushrooms sold by the pound. It sure beats the bland white button mushrooms when making Risotto ai Funghi.  

*Risotto Ai Funghi - Adapted

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen Blogs
1 lb wild mushroom mix
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
3 or 4 rosemary leaves
1 tbsp fresh oregano 
4 to 5 tbsp olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cup Italian rice    (Arborio)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped basil or    Italian parsley

If using fresh mushrooms, dice them in small pieces and instead of adding them prior to adding in the cooking liquid (chicken broth for this recipe), I prefer to add them at the end when the rice is almost done. This way, the mushrooms are still firm and a bit more intense in flavor. For the frozen variety, add them frozen and allow the cooking liquid to thaw them in the pan with the rice. Add the cream and the basil or parsley, just before serving. Cheese was not a required garnish to finish this risotto but I do love the added dimension it brings to the flavor so go for something sharp like Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano. Follow directions on how to make this risotto based from my previous post. Also, add the aromatic herbs, rosemary and oregano, when you saute the garlic and the onions.

Another favorite of mine is risotto with tomatoes. It is very simple but the flavor is reminiscent of summer. This risotto is cooked a bit differently so I'll have to write it down step by step. This again is a recipe from Sophia Loren, aptly named by her as well not because of the main ingredient but from where she learned the recipe, Geneva.    

*Risotto di Ginevra - Adapted

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen Blogs
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
6 medium tomatoes,    stem ends trimmed, cut    in half
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups Italian rice    (Arborio)
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp heavy cream
Grated Parmigiano

1. Pour the oil into a deep saute pan and add the onion. Cook over  
    medium heat stirring until the onions are slightly browned. 

2. Add the tomatoes and the wine. When the skins of the tomatoes start 
    to crinkle, pull on them to remove the skin while in the pan or you  
    can remove them and skin them off the pan.

3. Add the rice and stir in for one minutes. Add water to cover. If the  
    water is absorbed before the rice is cooked, add more water. 

4. When the rice is tender, check for flavor and add salt and pepper as     needed. 

5. Stir in the cream and pass the cheese at the table. 

For this recipe, you can also use vegetable broth instead of water. An alternative is also to use 15oz of diced canned tomatoes. This saves you the time from having to skin them. 

*Loren, Sophia. Sophia Loren's Recipes and Memories. GT Publishing Corp. New York:1998

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