Mushroom Risotto: Dinner with a real Fungi

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto

First, let me just apologize for that horrendous pun.  Usually I am the first to roll my eyes when the hubs chimes in with a doofy little quip but mushroom-based humour in all of its forms always gets my number.

Mention the word ‘risotto’ to anyone who does not find refuge in the kitchen and I guarantee you their eyes will gloss over.  Yes, they may love that creamy, satisfying dish, but the idea of standing by a stove for 45 minutes constantly tending to what really amounts to be a pan of oddly cooked rice would make most roll their eyes, pick up the phone, and order a pizza.

But I am here to banish this myth that risotto is a tricky, time consuming dish to make!  It is truly a simple little one-pot meal that is much less finicky than many recipes would have you believe.

This rich and dreamy mushroom risotto only takes a bit of chopping, some heating, and an occasional stir or two upon the addition of some stock.  Finished with a little bit of vinegar to banish the stodginess that mushrooms sometimes bring and topped with a scattering of pecorino cheese, parsley, and tarragon, this little number will have you popping back into the kitchen for a second (read: third) helping.

Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4 as a main, more as a side

4 – 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably low/no sodium
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp butter
½ medium cooking onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
12 cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 cluster oyster mushrooms, about the size of a softball, roughly torn
1 portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups arborio rice
2 tbsp + ½ cup dry white wine, divided
2 tsp balsamic, red wine, or white wine vinegar
½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for serving
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan and keep warm on the back burner over low heat.  If you’d prefer, feel free to heat the stock in your microwave.  You’ll just want to make sure that it is very warm when you go to add it to the risotto so you might need to zap it a few times throughout the process.  If you are a lazy one today as I often am, don’t fret about heating the stock up at all.  The recipe still works perfectly fine.  It just might take a bit longer and be a bit more porridge-y which is an a-ok quality in my books.

When the oil is heated, add the chopped onion and season with some salt and pepper.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes or just until the onions start to become tender.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and add another tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the butter, garlic, and quartered cremini mushrooms.  Season with a bit of salt and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the oyster mushrooms and thinly sliced portobello and cook until all the mushrooms have taken on a lovely golden colour.  When the mushrooms are done, deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of wine and cook until evaporated.  This will happen in the blink of an eye so stay with it.  Once all of the wine has evaporated, transfer the mushrooms onto a plate and spread into a single layer.  Set aside.

Place the pan back on the burner and reduce the heat to medium.  Pour in the final tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the arborio rice.  Continue stirring for about 1-2 minutes or until the rice begins to crackle a little and look a bit translucent around the edges.  At this point, stir in ½ cup of white wine and cook until it has all evaporated.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the stock 1 - 1½ cups at a time, allowing it to bubble away and evaporate before the next addition.  No need to worry about stirring constantly.  Just give it a good whirl after each new addition and allow the stock to bubble away.

Continue adding the stock until the risotto is al dente or cooked to your liking.  You’re aiming for a balance between tender and toothy but feel free to err on the textural side you prefer.

When the risotto is perfectly cooked, stir in the vinegar and about ½ cup more stock to loosen everything up, then add the mushrooms, pecorino, and your fresh herbs.  Taste the risotto and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Serve in shallow bowls topped with pecorino, herbs, and a good dusting of freshly cracked black pepper.

Everybody loves cheesecake (even vegans and gluten free-ers)

Baked Cherry "Cheesecake" (V/GF)

Baked Cherry "Cheesecake" (V/GF)

When we bake, it is often with others in mind.  I mean, sure, we’ve all had those days where one cookie turns into twelve and before we know it we’ve polished off a full batch all by our lonesome…  Frankly, I find this random act of gluttony rather impressive and, not to be too predictable, sometimes the only cure for a bad day or a broken heart is a batch of cookie dough smashed into a pint of ice cream.

But at its heart, baking tends to prove that that classic kindergarten lesson of “sharing is caring” has no expiry in life.

So, as baking = sharing in my books, I love to experiment with recipes that cater to those people in my life with various types of restricted diets.  Here is one I’m particularly proud of for its ability to satisfy the vegans, gluten free-ers, and regular old omnivores in the crowd.  I just dare you to find a pro-dairy, gluten-scarfing pal who will scoff at this oh-so-close to the original “cheesecake”.

An added bonus for the baker?  This recipe is made almost entirely in a food processor so dish doing is kept to a minimum.

Baked Cherry "Cheesecake" - Vegan & Gluten Free

Makes 1 cheesecake (7" springform or 9" pie plate)

Oat and Almond Crust (GF)
¾ cup gluten free rolled oats
¾ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut
3 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¼ cup coconut oil, melted

150g soft/silken tofu (about half a package), pressed for about 20 minutes to remove excess moisture
1 Tbsp egg replacer (or 1 ½ tsp tapioca, 1 ½ tsp potato starch, and 1/8 tsp baking powder)
¼ cup water
1 cup vegan cream cheese
¼ cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ - 1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp coconut or almond extract, optional

Cherry topping
1 ½ cups frozen sweet cherries, defrosted and liquid reserved
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla or almond extract
1/8 tsp nutmeg

For the crust, preheat your oven to 350F and lightly grease a 7” springform pan or 9” pie plate.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the gluten free oats, almonds, coconut, sugar, cinnamon, and salt and pulse until it all resembles coarse sand.  Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil over low heat or in your microwave.  With the food processor running, pour the melted coconut oil through the chute and continue to blitz until everything is well mixed.  Dump the crust mixture into your prepared pan and, using your fingertips or the bottom of a glass, evenly press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan.  If using a springform, just press along the bottom and wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to avoid any of your crust or cake leaking out onto the bottom of your oven.  If using a pie plate, press the crust up the sides to create a full crust.

Pop your prepared crust into the oven to bake for 20 minutes then allow it to cool at room temperature while you prepare the filling.  Leave the oven set to 350F for the filling.

For the filling, start by pressing your tofu and blooming your egg replacer with ¼ cup water.  To press the tofu, I like to use coffee filters.  Just line a dinner plate with 3 or 4 filters, place the tofu on top, and cover with another 3 or 4 filters.  Place another dinner plate on top of this and allow the tofu to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.  For the egg replacer, mix the replacer with the ¼ cup of water listed in the recipe and allow this to sit for 10 – 20 minutes to allow the starches to hydrate.

Once pressed and bloomed, toss all of the ingredients for the filling in the bowl of your food processor and blend until smooth.  At this point, give the mixture a taste and feel free to adjust the amount of nutmeg, lemon juice, or extracts.

Pour the filling onto the prepared crust, place your pan on a baking sheet, and bake in your preheated oven for 45-50 minutes if using a springform and 35-45 minutes if using a pie plate.  At this point, the filling should look slightly set and matte on top.  The filling will still be quite liquid but that is totally ok!  The cheesecake is done baking and can be removed from the oven to cool at room temperature.  Once room temperature, pop the cheesecake into the fridge for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

For the cherry topping, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small saucepan and whisk to combine.  In a glass measuring cup, measure 2/3 cup of the juice from the defrosted cherries.  If there is not enough juice, just top it up with water to reach 2/3 cup.  Add the juice/water to the sugar mixture and whisk to combine.  Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes until thick.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, extract, and nutmeg.  Set aside to cool.

When cool, fold in the cherries and spoon over the chilled cheesecake.  Pop this back into the fridge until ready to serve.