Wild Mushroom & Sage Risotto

I love risotto. Even though it is a time-consuming dish, I find the process so therapeutic, as it requires patience and presence throughout. I also enjoy how versatile it is. I've had it with spring peas and asparagus, or like I am presenting it here, with wild mushrooms and fresh sage from my garden.

From making risotto more than a few times in my life thus far, my biggest piece of advice is to have everything prepped ahead of time and your liquids pre-measured and next to you at the stove. Keep your broth hot in a small saucepan next to your risotto pot, since you will need to have easy access to the broth and because keeping it hot allows for faster absorption. This also true for your wine glass; if you're cooking with with you might as well be drinking some :)

Patience and presence are most important to a great risotto, so grab your glass of wine, put on some good music (or have some good company present), and get ready to be there - stirring - for a while. I promise it is worth it.

This version is a combination of risotto recipes I've read and past experience making risotto, mixed with wild mushrooms sauteed with sage, sweet onions, and raw milk Parmesan (real stuff only - stay away from the green shaker). I folded in some cooked wild rice for a little twist, but you can leave this out if you don't have access to wild rice. I also found this incredible addition of homemade porcini mushroom "paste," which adds incredible earthiness and flavor to this dish. Pair with a dusty red wine or a smooth chardonnay, plus a garnish of fresh sage and shaved Parm, and you've got a hearty dish able to stand on its own.


Wild Mushroom & Sage Risotto
Makes one really big pot

7 c water, divided
1/2 c wild rice
1 c dried porcini mushrooms, washed and sliced (stems included)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb mixed wild mushrooms, such as crimini or shiitake
1/4 c fresh sage, sliced thin, plus a few small leaves for garnish
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 medium sweet onions, diced (regular onions are fine)
2 c arborio rice
2 c dry white wine (that you would actually drink)
6-7 c vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth here if you like)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

Heat 4 cups of water with a dash of salt in a small saucepan until boiling. Add the wild rice and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the rice is tender. The water will not be completely absorbed, so drain the remaining water and set the rice aside.

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the remaining 3 cups of water (which should be hot). While the mushrooms are soaking, heat a generous pour of olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add crushed garlic and saute just until browned; remove from oil and discard. Add mushrooms and sage and saute until softened and pliable; place in a bowl and set aside.

Remove porcini mushrooms from water and place in a blender or food processor. Save 2 cups of soaking liquid. Add a splash of the remaining one cup liquid to the blender and puree with the mushrooms until you achieve a paste-like consistency, adding more liquid if necessary. Set paste aside and discard any remaining liquid.

Heat a 4 tbsp of olive oil in the large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions and a healthy dash of salt and saute 2-3 minutes or until onions are softened. Add arborio rice and saute one minute until toasted. Add wine and stir until wine is completely absorbed. Add mushroom soaking water and enough broth to cover the rice. Stir until combined. Repeat this two more times with the broth. On the third repetition, stir in the mushrooms and 2 tbsp of the porcini paste. Add remaining broth to cover the rice mixture and stir until liquid is just absorbed. Fold in cooked wild rice and continue stirring until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese until melted. Add salt to taste.

Serve in warmed bowls with shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh sage leaves.


Sunday Night Ratatouille

Sunday nights are usually relaxing, lazy nights for me and Chris. Easy dinners in the backyard with an inexpensive bottle of wine, reflecting on the weekend and prepping for the week ahead.

This past weekend, I was excited to cook with the first eggplant we'd ever grown ourselves. I cannot express how excited I am that we were actually able to grow an eggplant! Is that dorky? Anyway, we wanted to make a pasta dish since, despite being people who enjoy a good bowl of noodles, hadn't had any in a while. Originally my thought was to roast a bunch of veggies together, but our taste buds were saying sauce, so we made sauce. I concocted a modified, fast version of a ratatouille, which, because of its faster cooking time, keeps the veggies intact and less mushy than some ratatouilles. The result is a chunky, herbaceous, veggie-rich pasta sauce. Tossed with whole wheat pasta, topped with Parmesan cheese and a dollop of Chris' homemade basil walnut pesto. Simple, fast, and oh so delicious!

Sunday Night Ratatouille
Makes 1 pot, enough for 4-6 meals

4 tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 dashes crushed red pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 14.5-oz cans organic fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
1 tbsp organic tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add crushed garlic cloves and saute 3 minutes. Add eggplant and zucchini; stir to coat with oil; saute 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and fresh herbs; saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, sugar, and a pinch of fresh ground black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, or until flavors meld and sauce thickens. Add more spices & herbs as desired.

Spoon over pasta and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.