Sunday, March 11, 2012

Porcini Mascarpone Risotto

Hi everyone! This is Sara writing a guest post about my house specialty, risotto. I know there's a certain fear factor that people have when attempting risotto- yes, it takes a while and yes, there's lots of stirring, but if I can make it well, anyone can! For me, making risotto is a zen-like experience- an hour in front of the stove by myself, chopping, stirring, tasting and watching the arborio plump up. It also helps to drink a glass of whatever wine you are putting into the dish!

I like making it now, but my first attempt at risotto was an unqualified disaster. It was back when Megan and I lived in Somerville and I was not exactly a practiced cook. Ok, I was a terrible cook. I wanted to make a nice dinner as a surprise, and followed a pumpkin risotto recipe exactly as it was written. I didn't taste the risotto until it was already out of the pot and in bowls, so I didn't realize that I hadn't put in nearly enough liquid until it was too late. The arborio was hard as a rock! We had to throw out the whole thing, and I was so disappointed. That was the beginning of my mission to become an excellent risotto maker.

This recipe is a family favorite, and came from Cooking Light magazine. I have tweaked things a little over time, based on some cooking chemistry that I've learned (mostly from TV!) Sometimes when making this dish, I noticed that the shallots took on a harsh, almost bitter taste. I switched to using a bit of butter to saute them in, instead of olive oil or cooking spray, and that made a huge difference. I'm sure it's less healthy, but much tastier! Also, I never understood why risotto recipes had you toast the rice before adding the liquid. This question was answered by Lidia Bastianich on one of her shows- apparently initially toasting the arborio allows it to absorb more liquid and get that creamy consistency. And one last risotto tip- you are always going to need more liquid than the recipe calls for, so plan ahead!

Original Inspiration: Cooking Light
Serving Size: 4
WW: ?


1 1/2 cups boiling water 
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce) 
1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth (didn't have any tonight, so I used mushroom broth- worked well!)
1 tbs butter1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3/4 cup chopped shallots 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
1/4 cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 10 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve soaking liquid; chop mushrooms.
  2. Bring reserved soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.
  3. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter. Add rice, shallots, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheeses, thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently just until cheeses melt. Serve warm.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

I finally made a dinner worthy of the blog. As much as I normally love my quality kitchen time,  I've been a bit lazy about trying new recipes lately. This one is exceptionally delicious. I always say that, I know, but really, it is awesome. I actually went back for a second serving, because I couldn't resist the spicy, warm taste. I can't wait for lunch tomorrow! 

I served the soup with a piece of toasted garlic naan. The original author recommended pan frying a few paneer cubes in the leftover brown butter and topping the lentil soup with them. I must try that!

Original Inspiration: Super Natural Every Day
Serving Size: 5 big servings
WW: 8 pointsplus per serving


2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil or unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 1/2 cups of vegetable broth 
1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz) green lentils, picked over and rinsed (you could also use green split peas)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 3 or 4 pats
1 tablespoon Indian curry powder
1/2 cup light coconut milk
sea salt
fresh chives, minced 


Melt the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or butter in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions soften. 

Add the vegetable broth and lentils, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender. This will likely take between 25-45 minutes, depending on the lentils. It took about 30-35 minutes for me using sprouted green lentils. 

When the lentils are almost done, it is brown butter time. Listen carefully, my friends, as I had to do this twice since I burned my first batch.  This whole process will take about 3-4 minutes. Pull out a small, thick-bottom saucepan or skillet and set the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk the butter frequently as it cooks. Once the butter melts, it will start to foam up - keep whisking. When the foam subsides, watch the butter carefully and remove from the heat as soon as the butter starts to smell nutty and light brown specks start to form on the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the curry powder and stir until the spices are fragrant, which should take less than a minute. 

When the lentils are tender, remove them from the heat and stir in the coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Then, puree with an immersion blender to your desired texture. You can leave it a bit chunky, as I did, or puree it until it is smooth. Stir in half of the curried brown butter and taste. You may need to add more salt at this point, depending on the saltiness of your stock. Serve drizzled with the remaining spiced butter and a healthy sprinkling of minced chives. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Happy New Year to my beloved readers! The holidays were great, but I am happy to be back in my routine and on track food-wise. Today was my first day totally on plan in a long, long time. 
I received a plethora of cookbooks for Christmas, so I am starting to crack them open to find some tasty new recipes.  I was most excited about getting Heidi Swanson's first cookbook - Super Natural Cooking. When I saw this spoon bread recipe, I knew that I couldn't live without trying it. I had never tried spoon bread before, but the idea of a casserole-like dish with sweet potatoes and goat cheese was exciting to me. I was surprised by the texture (like a cross between stuffing and mashed potatoes - in a good way), but the taste was as fantastic as I envisioned. It could be served as an entree with a green salad or as a side dish.

I'm posting the recipe now, because I want you all to see its sweet orange-y beauty, but I do think that I can get the points down a bit lower. Maybe a little less butter? I'll play around with it next time I make it and edit the recipe if I can drop a few points.

Original inspiration:  Super Natural Cooking
Servings:  6 generous portions
WW: 9 points plus per serving


3 cooked medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled (I baked up some sweet potatoes last night and then just scooped out the flesh when I started cooking tonight)
1/3 cup unsalted butter
4 large shallots
6 ounces goat cheese
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or white whole-wheat flour)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cup boiling water
3 large eggs


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat and then add the shallots. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, until they are golden and the butter has browned, which should take 8-10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the goat cheese with a fork until it is fluffy and light. I needed to add a tablespoon of water, since my goat cheese was a bit dry.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Begin to add the boiling water slowly, first making a paste and then just working to make sure it is all incorporated. It is OK if the batter is a bit lumpy. Add 3 cups of the sweet potatoes to the bowl and blend. Stir in the shallots and browned butter. Then, stir in one egg at a time and mix until well combined.

Pour the sweet potato mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with the whipped goat cheese. Using a spatula, press the goat cheese into the mixture and even out the top of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the goat cheese begins to color and the sweet potatoes have set.

Heidi Swanson recommends serving the spoon bread topped with a little Parmesan cheese, but I found it unnecessary. The sweetness from the potatoes and tang of the goat cheese didn't need anything extra. Enjoy!