Baked Mushroom Risotto

IMG_1170Here it is the beginning of spring and I’m baking a mushroom risotto.  It’s still cold out, although if the sun’s shining while working out in the garden it’s wonderful to feel the heat!  I think that as long as the weather still has us cooking indoors, we can still enjoy a hearty repast.  This dish can be served as a main course, with a few vegetables on the side, or a big crunchy salad.  It also serves well accompanying pork or beef.  I try to serve meat as a component of the meal, not the star attraction.  I think it keeps meals more balanced.  Continue reading

Risotto with Shrimp & Peas

IMG_2653Risotto is not a finicky dish to make.  Picture yourself in a large Italian farmhouse kitchen, with a big apron tied firmly around your middle.  Put a couple of pins in your hair to keep things neat.  The stove has been on most of the day while you’re making bread.  You have a large pot on the back burner with fresh chicken stock, never wasting anything that you’ve either grown or carefully purchased in the market.  Family members have come and gone, chatting as they go about their chores.  During this time you’ve been sautéing onions, adding rice and then slowly have added spoonfuls of the chicken stock with a few splashes of wine, while you stir and talk.  When the family gathers round, you add in some grated hard cheese, and maybe some tender vegetables with a knob of butter.  Without paying too much attention, you’ve created a beautiful glossy dish of risotto, warm and creamy, one of the best comfort foods.

This is a social dish – prepare your ingredients before hand, and enjoy a glass of wine while you cook and visit.  Don’t let it be pretentious.  When it’s ready, serve it simply.  The rest of the meal can be served after. Continue reading

Toasted Barley “Risotto” with Roasted Cauliflower

One evening, in the mid-seventies, our family had neighbours over for dinner.  Their recent high-school graduate daughter had just returned home from a Katimavik type course.  We were told that she was now a “vegetarian” which sounded a lot like “alien” coming out of my mom’s mouth.  What to serve?  Mom had recently adapted to our father’s new diabetic diet, and now here she had to come up with another special dish.  She created a mushroom barley casserole (using tinned mushrooms) that fit the bill. While we chatted and heard the stories of groups of young people finding their way (I still have visions of everyone in corduroy caftans with wooden bead necklaces), I watched as Mom’s casserole emptied.  Everyone was eating it to the last scrap.  I was so proud of her, how clever!

Nowadays, when cooking for even just a couple of guests, there seems to always be someone who’s intolerant or allergic to certain foods, or on a special diet due to a more severe medical condition.  Mom used to toast the barley in her version of essentially an oven-baked barley risotto.  Here I’ve toasted the barley, and roasted the cauliflower giving the dish a wonderfully earthy flavour, so that once again, every last scrap will get eaten.  I’ve put quote marks around risotto, as there isn’t a “scrap” of rice in it! Continue reading