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Waldorf Salad – GCC: Menu 30

04/25/2011 6 comments

It’s been so long since I’ve made a dish from the Gutsy Cooks Club, I feel like I’ve just joined for the first time.  Thankfully, Monica (our club founder) has been patient and kind enough not to boot me out :-).

The Waldorf Salad was first created between 1893 and 1896 at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City by Oscar Tschirky, who was the Waldorf’s maître d’hôtel.  This salad is traditionally made of fresh apples, celery and toasted walnuts, dressed in mayonnaise, and usually served on a bed of lettuce as an appetizer or a light meal. 

Hmm, I thought what a perfect (and super easy!) Spring dish and accompaniment to Easter dinner at the In-laws.

The recipe from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible consisted of apples, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice and walnuts, along with some salt and pepper which I thought was a bit bland. 

Therefore, I searched around and found this Waldorf Salad recipe and added romaine lettuce, seedless green grapes, dried cherries and jazzed up the mayonnaise with some non-fat, plain greek yogurt, lemon juice and in lieu of sugar, I added my newfound friend agave nectar, a sweetener made from the Blue Agave plant (which tequila is made from).

Much to my delight, the sweet, tart and nutty flavors combined with the crispy, crunchy and juicy textures of all the ingredients made this salad a total hit with everyone.

Needless to say, I will make this again and I think next time I’ll add some goat cheese.

Ladies and Gentlemen…this concludes this week’s Edible Adventure.

“To remember a successful salad is generally to remember a successful dinner; at all events, the perfect dinner necessarily includes the perfect salad.” George Ellwanger (1848-1906) ‘Pleasures of the Table’ (1902)

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Mushroom Risotto – GCC: Menu 21

02/22/2011 6 comments

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always heard that risotto is a difficult dish to make.  Needless to say, I was both excited and a little apprehensive about making this week’s Mushroom Risotto, but definitely up for the challenge. 

Risotto is a class of Italian dishes of rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. The broth may be meat-based, fish-based, or vegetable-based; many kinds include parmesan cheese, butter, and onion. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy.

As you may already know Sam L-O-V-E-S mushrooms and was really, really looking forward to this dish.  So there’s no way, I could let this one slide (not that I wanted to).

Ironically part of my “difficulties” was not so much in cooking the risotto, as it was in posting about it.

First and foremost, I was entertaining 17 guests over the weekend and though it crossed my mind to include the risotto as part of the menu, due to the “attention” that’s required in making this dish, I didn’t think it would have been such a wise choice for a risotto novice like myself.

Secondly, despite leaving work a little early to cook the risotto, it was too late to photograph the finished product in natural light.  I figured, no big deal, there’s enough left over (to make risotto cakes, yum) that I can shoot pictures in the morning before going to work and post from the office (hopefully none of my colleagues are reading this ;-)).

Sounds like a good plan, right?

It would have been perfect, if I had not forgotten the cable that connects my camera to the office computer (DUH!).

The one thing I can say about making risotto (at least in my one humble experience) is that it’s a high maintenance dish that demands love & nurturing and can be therapeutic in the making.  

Because it requires constant stirring for approximately 25-30 minutes, it’s not something you want to make if you are either impatient or in a rush.  So make sure you’ve got some good music playing and if you happen to be alone, don’t need to go to the bathroom :-).

I started out by reconstituting a package of dried wild mushrooms and reserving the stock for the risotto.  Then I cooked the wild mushrooms, along with white mushrooms in butter with salt and pepper for about 10 minutes.

 

Sautéed an onion and a few garlic cloves in olive oil & butter for about 5 minutes, added the rice and cooked for another few minutes.

Then the loving began….

I poured a ladle of hot chicken/mushroom stock to the rice and stirred until absorbed.  This process was repeated every 2 – 3 minutes, until I was able to see the rice had a creamy consistency and upon tasting, the texture was soft, yet al dente (about 30 minutes).   

Stirred in the mushrooms and parmigiano-reggiano, removed from heat, sprinkled on some fresh parsley and served. 

This was just DIVINE! This dish is sophisticated, yet comforting. The creaminess of the rice combined with the earthy, buttery mushroom flavor, blended with the sharpness of the parmigiano-reggiano makes you fall in love. 

In fact, I think I’ve just given Sam another reason to love me ;-). 

The love and nurturing required is soooo worth it…certainly one to be shared with family and close friends.  

Ladies and Gentlemen…this concludes this week’s Edible Adventure.

“When you make a risotto you should be in perfect harmony with yourself. You shouldn’t be nervous or angry. It’s a ritual that is going to give you so much pleasure later that it’s worth spending fifteen or twenty minutes over a hot stove stirring very slowly. It can be like seducing a woman. She doesn’t know you, and you need to work things out with her slowly—meeting, flirting, getting to know each other, and wanting each other. That’s what a good risotto is all about. It’s the dish of romance. If you rush it’s never good.” –Pino Luongo
 

Mushroom Risotto

Adapted by The Kitchen Bible Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 6 cups vegetable stock or water, kept simmering
  • 4 tbsp butter, diced
  • 1lb (450g) cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes.

2. Gradually add the stock, about ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly, waiting until it is absorbed before adding more. Continue in this manner for 25 minutes or until the rice is barely tender and has a creamy consistency, adding water if the stock has run out.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have browned and the liquid evaporates.

4. Stir the mushrooms into the rice and turn off remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese and serve immediately.