Tomato Mushroom Risotto

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Risotto is one of those dishes that I love to make because I never make it the same way. It’s what I love to do as a cook – improvise!

Typically I use butter, aromatics, wine, broth, and finish with cream and/or cheese.

But the add-in options are practically endless. I’ve used chopped tomatoes, grated zucchini, pesto, canned pumpkin, and carrot juice. It all works. I’ve even made risotto with Thai flavors. Who says risotto must only have Italian flavors? Well, some people might, but I’m 63% Italian, so I stand my ground.

There are two reasons that this risotto is unique. One reason is that I’m using tomato powder.

I posted a while back on a book called The Spice Companion, and in it I learned how to make a powder simply from oven-dried tomatoes.


The other special ingredient is mushroom powder, which is a seasoned mixture of ground dried mushrooms. I found the recipe on Tandy Sinclair’s blog called Lavender and Lime.

I didn’t follow her recipe exactly, shown below, only because Tandy included rosemary and thyme and I wanted the mushroom powder more generic in flavor.

My version had garlic pepper, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper plus salt in a variety of wild dried mushrooms that I ground using a dry blender jar.

So here’s how I made this risotto.

Tomato Mushroom Risotto

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1 1/4 cup Arborio rice
Big splash of Riesling or Pinot Gris or Graves
Chicken broth, mildly flavored, approx. 2 1/2 cups
1 heaping tablespoon tomato powder
1 tablespoon mushroom powder
Salt, to taste
Grated Parmesan, optional

Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots and sauté slowly; don’t allow much browning.

Add the rice and stir well for a minute. All of the grains should be coated with butter.

Add some wine and stir in well.

Then begin adding the broth, a little at a time and stir well after each addition. Stirring is an important part to the resulting creaminess of the risotto.

As you’re continuing to add broth and stir the rice, find that special position on the stove where the liquid isn’t cooking off too fast, but the fire isn’t so low that cooking stops.

When the rice has absorbed just about all of the liquid it can, add the tomato and mushroom powders and stir well.



Continue adding broth, water, or even some cream, until the rice is fully cooked. Taste for salt.

I personally love white pepper in risottos, but I didn’t want it to overpower the tomato and mushroom flavors.

To serve, I added a bit of grated Parmesan. Feta cheese would be good as well.

Plus I sprinkled on a few parsley leaves just for color.

The tomato and mushroom flavors in this risotto really sing. Grilled steak or chicken could be added, or maybe some braised short ribs. But I will always have tomato powder and mushroom powder in my seasoning arsenal.

A Savory Baked Brie

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To me, there’s nothing quite like a baked brie, especially as part of an hors d’oeuvres spread. Plus, wheels of brie come in different sizes, so you can choose one depending on your number of guests.

I’ve made baked brie a couple different ways on this blog, from an easy brie with a sweet maple-pecan topping, shown on the left, to a brie topped with a tomatillo sauce, on the right.

When I catered, I created fancier versions of baked brie, often topped with a cranberry chutney and wrapped up in puff pastry for Christmas parties. But you don’t need to go through all of that work.

So here’s another savory baked brie that would be good any time in the fall or winter, especially with a crisp hard cider, a Côtes du Rhone, or a half-dry Riesling.

It’s a brie topped with thyme-scented sautéed mushrooms. A variety of wild mushrooms plus dried mushrooms is ideal, but if you’re limited in your access, regular button mushrooms or Portabellas will do just fine!
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Baked Brie topped with Mushrooms

3/4 ounce dried mushrooms
8 ounces of mixed, fresh mushrooms
3 ounces unsalted butter
3 shallots, diced
Fresh or dried thyme
Salt, pepper
Brie, at room temperature, mine was 1.5 pounds

First, place the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and cover them with hot water. Place a smaller bowl inside along with a weight like a can, to keep them submerged, and let the mushrooms hydrate for at least 15 minutes.


Chop the fresh mushrooms into small pieces and set aside.

Then dice the shallots.

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Remove the softened mushrooms from the water, and dry them off on a paper towel. Then chop those as well, removing any hard bits. By the way, always save this mushroom jus! It can be used in sauces or soups for wonderful mushroomy flavor.


Meanwhile, heat a skillet with the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and mushrooms have completely softened.

By cooking over fairly high heat, the mushrooms don’t require as much butter, and no water is produced. Cook the mixture until there is slight browning.


Add the chopped dried mushrooms. Sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Now your mushrooms are ready for the brie. When I went to my local grocery store for a brie, I intended on purchasing a whole wheel, maybe 2-3 pounds. However, there were none, there was only this 1.5 pound slice. Since this was a fairly last-minute plan, I had to go with it.
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Normally, I would preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and bake the brie along with the mushroom topping for about 15-20 minutes.

However, because of my brie slice, I had to warm it in the microwave. You just have to be careful to adjust the power levels because you’re simply warming the brie – not cooking it.
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So that’s what I did. Just make sure the plate or platter is large enough to accomodate the oozing brie.
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Serve with fresh bread or crostini.

note: You could always use cognac or brandy to flame the mushrooms after they’re cooked, but that will give them a stronger flavor.

Dried Mushroom Risotto

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I think my husband could live on risotto alone. Well, steak and risotto. So I make risotto often, creating different varieties to keep life interesting. It’s the kind of cooking I like to do, in any case, like when I made a Thai-inspired risotto a while back. My Italian ancestors are probably rolling in their graves, but one doesn’t always have to make only “authentic” dishes authentically!

Most people have sautéed mushrooms for pasta, or to top steaks. But have you ever used dried mushrooms? They used to be harder to find, but nowadays you can get just about any variety of mushroom in a dried form at most grocery stores. Italian, French, and so forth.

If you haven’t used them, I urge you strongly to try them once. It’s simply a matter of soaking them in hot water to hydrate them, then toss them into soups, pastas, gratins, you name it. They have a unique flavor, one that’s much different from the fresh counterpart.

Quite often I mix Italian and Chinese mushrooms together; the provenance of the mushroom doesn’t matter. Chinese mushrooms aren’t just for Chinese food, unless you get into the fungus, like cloud ears. Those would be more specific to Chinese dishes. My opinion.

Sometimes I mix different mushrooms together in a dish and have no idea what kind they are, because I was too dumb to save the packaging, like these. Chanterelles, maybe?
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Other times, with Chinese packaging, there’s no English translation. But in this case, I know these are Shitakes.
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So today I’m making a risotto with a mixture of the two above dried mushrooms. It’s still cold outside where I live, so I was inspired to make this risotto. It’s not something I would make during the spring and summer months. I’m seasonally responsible when I cook!

To prepare the dried mushrooms, place them in a larger bowl and add hot water to cover. To keep the mushrooms submerged, I place a smaller bowl on top and weigh it down with a can or an apple. Let them soak for at least 15 minutes; they can’t overhydrate.

Here’s the risotto I made today with the dried mushrooms. It’s just a general recipe. If you want more of a tutorial, check out some of my other risottos, like zucchini risotto.
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Dried Mushroom Risotto

1 ounce of your choice of dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil if you prefer)
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
1/4 cup white wine
Juice from mushrooms (see below)
Broth
3 ounces Parmesan, optional
Salt
Black or white pepper, to taste

To begin, heat the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for a few minutes. Then stir in the rice. Stir it for about a minute, so that all of the rice grains are coated with the butter.

Begin adding liquid to the rice, about 1/4 – 1/3 cup at a time, and stir until it disappears. I like to start with the wine for some reason.

Meanwhile, remove the mushrooms from the liquid and place them on a cutting board. Chop the mushrooms, feeling for any hard pieces and discarding them.

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Using a fine sieve, strain the mushroom “liquor” to remove any grit. You will be using this liquid in the risotto.

Continue adding liquid to the risotto, using the mushroom liquor, followed by broth.
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Keep stirring, and you will see the rice continue to absorb liquid. When you can tell that you’re close to the end of cooking time, add the chopped mushrooms and grated Parmesan, if you’re using it. Stir gently to combine. Taste and season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.

Some people like to add more butter and sometimes heavy cream to risotto, but the rice itself gets so creamy that to me it’s not necessary.
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As far as toppings, you can use fresh parsley or chives. I chose a bit of fresh thyme.

This risotto is fabulous as is, but would also be lovely with poultry or beef.
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Crêpes Fourées

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Crêpes Fourées are savory crêpes filled with sautéed mushrooms in a white sauce. And to make things even more luscious, gruyère is included. They can be served as is, paired simply with a salad of greens, or served as a fabulous side dish to your favorite protein.

I’m not going to write out an exact recipe for these crêpes. There simply are a few components – the crêpe recipe can be found here, the white sauce can be found here, and below I’ll focus more on the mushrooms.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dried mushrooms
Butter
Fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt
White pepper
Dried thyme
Butter and Oil
Shallots, diced
Cream, milk, and/or the mushroom liquor
Flour
Crêpes
White Sauce
Gruyere

Firstly, submerge your dried mushrooms in a large bowl, and cover them with hot water.
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Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. It’s okay to brown the butter if you prefer. Add the mushrooms and sauté them for 5-6 minutes. Season them with salt, a little white pepper to taste, and some thyme.
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Place the mushrooms in a colander over a large bowl in order to collect the mushroom liquor. I wrote about this technique here. The “liquor” is a lovely addition to a white sauce, or to flavor a broth.

Remove the soaked dried mushrooms and place them on some paper towels. Don’t discard the soaking liquid.

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Pat them dry, and then slice or chop them up, removing the tougher stems first.
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Then add them to the sautéed mushrooms.

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Strain the liquid remaining after soaking the dry mushrooms and strain it to remove any debris.
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Place this liquid and the mushroom liquor together in a small pot and reduce the volume by about half. This will provide a deeper flavor when using it in the white sauce, if you choose to use it. Keep in mind, however, that if you use this liquid, your white sauce will not be as “white” as compared to only using cream or milk as your liquid when making it.

The original recipe I have for Crêpes Fourées can be seen here in my adolescent hand.
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In this recipe, the mushrooms were finely chopped. I wasn’t going to bother with doing that, but at the last minute before putting the dish together, I did decide to chop the mushrooms instead of leaving them in the larger pieces. I just felt the crêpes would roll better that way.

I did, however, omit the parsley and chives in this recipe. I did that just because of what my menu was for a dinner I served to friends. Already plenty of green!

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Then I placed the chopped mushrooms in a large bowl. I had the crêpes I’d made that morning on stand-by,
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as well as some Gruyere, which I grated. At least, I think this is Gruyere…
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To make the white sauce, place a combination of olive oil and butter in a pot and heat it over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Add flour to make a roux, then stir in your liquid of choice. After a bit, while whisking the whole time, you end up with a thickened white sauce like this.

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Pour the white sauce into the bowl with the mushrooms. You don’t want the mushrooms too saucey, just enough sauce to bind them.
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Stir the mushrooms and sauce together. The filling should look like this.
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If you’re going to cook the crêpes right away, turn on the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking pan.

Have your crêpes, filling, grated Gruyere and the pan handy.

Begin by placing some filling on a crêpes, and top it with a little Gruyere.
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The little bit of cheese will help hold everything together. Then roll up the crêpes and place them in the pan as you make them. Top them all with some more Gruyere.
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I didn’t use too much cheese because I really want the mushroom filling to shine, but it’s up to you. But if you want these super cheesey, I’d use a milder cheese.

If you’re not baking these on the same day, cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bring the crêpes to room temperature, or close to it, and bake until the tops of the crêpes are bubbly and golden, at 375 degrees. Serve hot or warm. Who am I kidding. They’re fabulous at room temperature as well.

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Trust me, if you love mushrooms, you will love these crêpes.

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They are the best kind of comfort food.
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They are full of flavor.
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They are culinary perfection.

Stuffed Pumpkin

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As you can tell from the above photo, that is not a pumpkin. I set out to stuff a pumpkin, but they were nowhere to be found. It turns out that my local grocery store only sells pumpkins until Halloween. I was truly shocked. So, I bought a pretty acorn squash instead.

As I only feed two people in my household, with my daughters grown and gone, I decided it wasn’t such a terrible idea to just stuff an acorn squash. That way, we each got a nice serving of baked acorn squash stuffed with brilliant saffron rice studded with pistachios and cranberries for a more festive feel.

I baked the acorn squash separately, and made the rice separately, but warmed everything in the oven before serving. If you enjoy this kind of flavor profile, complete with the sweetness from the dried cranberries, I encourage you to follow this recipe, or create one similar. There are many different variations possible. Use what you have on hand and what you like.

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Saffron Rice-Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, or larger squash
1 – 0.5 ounce package dried chanterelles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups saffron rice*
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
Broth, see recipe
Pistachios
Dried Cranberries

Slice off the top of the acorn squash, making a “lid.” Scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Wrap the squash completely in foil, including the lid, and bake the squash in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Set aside.
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Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, and cover them with a generous amount of hot water. Set aside.
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Place the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
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Add the onion and sauté them for about 5 minutes.
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Stir in the rice and thyme, if using, and stir it around for about 1 minute.
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Meanwhile, drain the mushrooms in a sieve over a bowl. Pour the liquid into a measuring cup. Add chicken broth to make the total amount of broth/mushroom liquid equal 3 cups.
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Add the liquid to the rice. Bring the rice to a boil, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and let the rice cook for 30 minutes. All of the liquid should be absorbed.
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If necessary, remove the woodier stems from the chanterelles, then chop them up.
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Add the mushrooms to the rice and fold them in gently.
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When the acorn squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out a little bit of the squash to create a little more space for the rice stuffing.
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Spoon the rice into the acorn squash. Sprinkle with the cranberries and pistachios.
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Alternatively, add the cranberries and pistachios to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. I happen to feed someone who isn’t enamored by the combination of sweet and savory, and so I went the sprinkling route. It just depends how much of the accessory ingredients you wish to taste.
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* I used saffron rice from Marx Foods. It was part of a nine jar rice sampler that I purchased over a year ago, and I’m still playing with. I wouldn’t have purposely chosen saffron rice, since I own saffron, but I must admit this does come in handy, and holds the beautiful yellow color well. It also tastes good!
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Think about all the variations you can create mixing up the ingredients. You can use many different rices, even including wild rice if you love it. And include some lentils as well. And then there’s celery, leeks, and carrots, if you like. Pine nuts or pecans would be just as delicious, and if you don’t like the fruit addition, you can omit them. Curried rice stuffing would be fabulous as well – you just want the stuffed squash to go with the protein you’re serving it with. So many possibilities!

note: This recipe makes about 6 cups of stuffing, so if you did happen to have a good sized pumpkin it would be perfect. I am going to use the excess rice as a side dish, because it’s delicious on its own.