Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Risotto is comfort food for me, especially in the winter.  When I made this recipe earlier in the week, I used a combination of fresh shiitake, cremini (sometimes called "baby portobellos") and oyster mushrooms, but you can use any mushrooms you like.  You can omit the roasted pumpkin seeds if you prefer, but I found that they add a mild nutty flavor that complements the earthiness of the mushrooms and pungency of the cheese, along with a gentle crunch that provides a pleasant contrast to the creaminess of the risotto.  A dear friend grows herbs in her garden and I was the lucky recipient of some her marvelously aromatic dried Greek oregano a few months ago, so I decided to use some of that in my recipe.  If you have access to fresh oregano, you can substitute it for dried by increasing the amount to 1 Tablespoon.  And if you dislike or don't have oregano, simply substitute parsley using the same measurements for dried vs. fresh.  I find that the cheese adds sufficient saltiness to this dish, but feel free to season with salt and pepper (after you've stirred in the cheese and tasted for balance).  This recipe makes 4 servings.

1/4 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
4 cups poultry or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 oz (or more) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion (you can substitute shallots)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rice for risotto, such as Arborio rice or Carnaroli rice
1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano cheese
1 tsp dried oregano

To roast the pumpkin seeds:  Preheat oven to 325F.  Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until they swell and start popping, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In a small pot bring the broth and wine to a very gentle simmer.  While the liquids are heating up, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan that is deep enough for cooking the risotto.  Add mushrooms and saute over medium heat for a few minutes until softened, then use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked mushrooms to a small bowl for later use.  Add remaining butter plus the tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and when the butter has melted add the onions and garlic.  Saute until the onions are soft and translucent.  Stir in the rice and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until the the edges of the grains start turning translucent.  Use a ladle to add about 1 cup (2 ladles' worth) of the simmering liquid to the rice mixture and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  When the rice has absorbed this first batch of liquid, add another 1 or 2 ladles of the simmering liquid and stir (occasional stirring after each addition is fine - you don't need to continuously stir).   Repeat until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it has a creamy but not mushy texture.  Stir in the cooked mushrooms, oregano and Parmesan cheese.  Taste for balance and season with salt & pepper if desired.  Serve immediately, topping each serving with a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds, and a little additional oregano and cheese if desired.

Zestfully yours,

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