An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

I have been mushrooms.  I haven't pinpointed the exact day it happened.  Maybe it was the Italian class I assisted where the chef made broiled mushrooms and garlic.  Or it could have been the portobello mushroom sandwich with red pepper aoili.  Probably it was a combination of several experiences over the past few months.  Whatever the case, I am having a love affair with all kinds of mushrooms. 

As I was grocery shopping for the risotto ingredients, I felt like such a rebel entering the mushroom section.  Foraging for mushrooms (at the grocery or in the woods) is a very novel idea for me.  If I were in a movie, there would have been a spotlight on me in the corner of QFC.  And maybe the Diana Ross song "I'm coming out" playing.  Possibly a sparkling disco ball lowered onto the produce scale.  You get the idea...mushrooms have become a big deal.

So I carefully picked out a good sized bag of shiitakes.  I used half the amount the recipe called for because they were pretty expensive.  But feel free to use half shiitake and half crimini or other types.   This was one of the dishes I made at the GDC event mentioned in the last post.  So I doubled the recipe. 

The original recipe calls for peas and a small amount of cheese.  I wanted to go a little more purist, so I took out the peas and doubled the cheese.  I didn't want to disappoint the girls.  I also have a ton of dried thyme so that is what went into the recipe.  But if you would prefer fresh use that.  All in all you really can't go wrong with rice, cheese, MUSHROOMS and garlic.  Toss in any other vegetables for something extra.  Chopped asparagus or peas would be nice. 

Shiitake Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Cooking Light
Yields 8 servings

8 cups low sodium broth (chicken or veg)
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat broth to a simmer.  Cover and keep warm.  Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.  Add half of the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add rice and cook for a few minutes, continually stirring.

Add wine and cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed.  Add 1/2 cup broth and cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid absorbs.  Continue this last step until all the broth is used and absorbed. 

In a separate pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.  Add remaining garlic, half of the thyme and saute for a minute.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Stir the mushrooms, remaining thyme, cheese and pepper into the risotto.  Turn off heat and stir until all the cheese and spices have integrated.  Serve immediately as a main course or accompanying a vegetable or meat dish.  Reheats nicely the next day.


Butter Sage Carrots

I thank my lucky stars for having such a good group of girlfriends here in Seattle.  Last week I had the most lovely group of seven girls over for a midweek dinner party.  We call our dinner gatherings GDC, short for Girls Dinner Club.  It has been an evolving group of girls for over three years.  About once a month, or sometimes once every few months, we either choose a restaurant or go to someone's house to eat, laugh and have girl time. 

We have been loosely using the alphabet to determine the theme...sometimes we mix it up and just go to a place that sounds good.  But this time we focused on the letter 'F', because of a certain hair straightening device: the flat iron.  For months now, we have been talking about the idea of flat ironing my hair, to see what a tamed version of my hair would look like.  I get my hair cut at chez moi, so I was really curious to see how evenly it has been done.  N so kindly brought over the flat iron and French wine. 

My kitchen is quite small for one person.  So multiply that by seven, and you've got lots of windows open, fans going and elbow bumping.  As K said, it was like Thanksgiving March.  It was the perfect opportunity to put my kitchen tools and dishes to good use.

We sort of stretched the creativity of the dish names to include adjectives like Fun + Wontons= Funtons.  Our menu items complemented each other so well in color, taste and presentation.  Wow was it all good!  It consisted of:

  • Farfalle pasta with pinenuts and roasted red peppers
  • Fiesta salad with black beans, avocado, corn and tomatoes
  • Asparagus wrapped with blue cheese, prosciutto, bread and butter
  • Butter sage carrots
  • Shiitake mushroom risotto
  • Beef and Broccoli Wontons
  • Baked salmon
  • Brown sugar glazed pineapple over coconut ice cream
We had so much food and so many leftovers, that the party went on for days.  Thank you M, T, K, M, N, and M for coming over and brightening my life. Xoxo

Penny the mascot and fan of our food

Butter Sage Carrots
Adapted from Cooking Light
Yields 4-5 servings

1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
3 cups carrots, diagonally and thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh sage, diced

Heat a medium/large skillet on medium heat.  Add butter.  After butter melts, add olive oil and swirl around.  Toss in the carrots.  Saute and stir for 5-10 minutes, until carrots are cooked well.  Add salt and pepper to taste, making sure each carrot is coated.  Sprinkle with the sage and saute for a few more minutes.  Serve immediately as a side dish to pasta or chicken.


Confetti Quinoa

The other night I had plans to meet up with friends at the Unicorn.  So after work on the bus ride, I started scanning the contents of my kitchen, in my brain.  I looked at the grain shelf first: wild rice...takes too long; brown rice...didn't sound good; white rice...nah; couscous...had it recently; quinoa...ahah! quick and easy...and has a good amount of protein.  Ok, so quinoa would be the base.

I had a sneaking suspicion of a can of black beans on the shelf next to the coconut oil.  And I knew a bag of corn was perched on top of a bag of pretzels in the freezer.  You did read that right, I put my pretzels in the freezer.  I bought a big bag of them a while ago and found that I wasn't going to finish them before they got stale.  And one thing I have learned from doing nutrition research, is how well a lot of food freezes.  So I experimented with pretzels, and low and behold they keep really well and defrost almost immediately.

Anyway, back to scanning on the busride.  Half of a deeply colored red pepper was on the bottom shelf of the fridge next to a bundle of green onions.  Ok this meal was quickly materializing like a Polaroid picture.  I hopped off the bus, satisfied with the plan. 

So walking in the door, I immediately got the quinoa cooking.  Meanwhile, sauted some onion and corn.  I did this first, and then after turning off the heat, I added the black beans.  Stirring the beans in this way still gives them the flavor of the onions but doesn't overcook the beans and make them dry.

I mixed in some red pepper and green onion and a few garlic cloves.  All tossed with the quinoa, it was quite pretty.  I dished up a bowl, and realized I needed a little more protein, so quickly fried an egg and flipped it into the bowl.  Very quick, full of color and a solid base for the rest of the night.  Oh and it was on St. Patrick's day, so the confetti idea was a celebratory move.

A quick note:  I really did just toss this all together, so I am going to loosely list ingredients and steps below.  You can add or subtract as you see fit...or make it a different way, and tell me about it!

Confetti Quinoa
Makes about 3 servings

1 cup quinoa, dry
Water, to fill pot
1/3 onion, minced
3/4 cup frozen corn
Red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 green onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
1 fried egg per serving

Start with the quinoa.  Fill a pot with water (4 cups at least, so that it is more than enough for the quinoa) and add the quinoa.  Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, until done.  You will know when it is done, because the outer part of the grains start to unravel.

Meanwhile, saute the onion in a little olive oil.  Do this on medium low heat so they don't burn.  Once they have softened and cooked through to be translucent, add the frozen corn.  Saute until the corn starts to brown a little.  Add red pepper flakes for a little spice.  Turn off heat and add the black beans.  Mix well.

Fully drain the quinoa and put in a medium bowl.  Add the corn mixture, red peppers, green onion, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Add any other seasoning you wish.  Top with a fried egg for extra protein.  This is so good, you may have to tell yourself to slow down as you eat.


Impromptu Dessert

I guess I am fixing for chocolate this week...because this will be the second post on the topic.  Everytime I go to World Market-Cost Plus, I stock up on their salted dark chocolate bars.  Ok, sometimes I go just to get the chocolate bars, and then happen to find other household items while I am there.  They are good quality chocolate and each bar is only $1.99!

So the other night when I toasted some sesame seeds for the radish salad, (which by the way I made again because it was so good) I toasted extra to use for other recipes.  Meanwhile I was having a craving for something sweet after dinner to balance out the savory.   Chocolate is pretty much the only sweet treat I have in the house.  So I broke off two squares of the salted chocolate bar.  Then I saw the bottle of honey.  My eyes darted to the toasted sesame seeds in the saute pan.  Then my mind had little firework connections.  A little light bulb appeared over my head.  Why not combine the three?  I got out a little plate and assembled the goods.  Pure synergy.  Needless to say, I have had this a handful of times in the last two weeks...please try.  You won't be sorry.

Impromptu Dessert

Chocolate squares
Toasted sesame seeds

Slather a thin layer of honey on top of chocolate.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bite into immediately.


Whole Wheat and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I have been using the Nike phrase plus an added word lately...'Just Do It Now!'.   I am in the process of reading a book and applying to my life, called 'Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui'.  It is so inspiring that sometimes I can't read it before going to bed because it gets my heart racing with motivation.  I have an overwhelming feeling of going through my belongings and getting rid of things that aren't serving a purpose for me anymore.  And it makes me feel at ease knowing someone else will be getting much more use out of it after I drop off bag after bag to the thrift store.  There is no time like the present to start those rainy day projects...especially in Seattle!

So the other morning I had big plans for tackling my storage unit and needed something filling and fun, yet healthy.  I thought of my mom's favorite: chocolate chip pancakes.  I came upon a recipe from Gourmet using whole wheat flour and oats.  And it was interesting because they suggest soaking the oats first in buttermilk.  I didn't have buttermilk, so just used water, which did the trick.  This step really helps dissolve the oats a little bit.

This is the work station on the counter.  Definitely need coffee to help with the process.

Just a small sprinkling of chocolate chips is all I needed for each pancake.  I am not a huge sweets person, but this was a real treat.  I was inspired also by D's chocolate chip challah bread from a few weeks ago at a work party.  If you are a protein person, add a side of scrambled eggs, and you have yourself a full breakfast.

So take on that nagging pile of pictures or magazines tonight, and reward yourself with a little TLC from chocolate chip pancakes...and maybe a cup of coffee.

Whole Wheat and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Adapted from Gourmet magazine
Makes about 5 medium sized pancakes
1/3 cup oats, dry
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3-1/2 cup milk (I used rice milk, but any kind works)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate chips

In a medium sized bowl, soak the oats in the water for 10 minutes.    Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda).  Stir in the egg, butter, milk, vanilla extract, and oat mixture.  Stir until everything is just combined.

Heat a medium pan or skillet on medium heat.  Add oil or butter to the pan.  Pour about 1/8-1/4 cup batter into pan.  Add a sprinkling of chocolate chips.  Let it cook until bubbles appear on the top surface of the pancake.  Flip and cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.  Done!  Put a little more oil or butter in pan between batches.

The chocolate chips make them pretty sweet, but if you need a little more sweetness, add honey or jam.  Toss in a cup of coffee, and you've got yourself a lovely morning.


Herbed White Bean Salad

Continuing on with the tapas theme...I went out for tapas on Monday night and had a Spanish tortilla.  It was a very simple one with sliced potatoes, complemented with a glass of red wine.  I also had a lot of the prune filling leftover from the last post, so I have been spreading it on bread and using as a dip for cucumbers. 

This way of cooking and eating really does spark the creative flame in me.  I bought these Great Northern beans last week because they were on sale at QFC...two cans for a dollar!  Really can't beat that.  I have been saving money here and there lately because of all the plane tickets and home improvement tools that my credit card keeps buying.   I see it as a good balance...reorganize the apartment and then take a trip to celebrate.

So back to the recipe.  I ate these beans with the radish and cucumber salad I made last week.  I repeated the recipe for the beans twice afterwards because I had a lot leftover.  And it is a pretty darn easy dish to whip up for a snack, side dish or you could add chicken and veggies and make it a whole meal...whichever way you choose.

Herbed White Bean Salad
Yields about 2-2 1/2 cups

1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 sprigs of mint, de-leafed and minced
1 tbsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar or lime juice
Sprinkling of sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil

*For a lighter dressed salad, cut the dressing recipe in half.

Prepare the dressing first by whisking the mint, parsley, salt and pepper, vinegar and sugar together.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil in, while whisking into a nice dressing.  Adjust flavors or add more sugar if needed.  Place beans in a small to medium size bowl.  Toss with the dressing until all the beans are fully coated.  Enjoy immediately or refrigerate and eat later.


Blue Cheese Stuffed Prunes

After an extremely productive weekend of apartment organizing, I cracked open The Book of Tapas mentioned in my last post.  The bright yellow book has been quietly chirping at me all weekend, and I finally got the time to crack it open tonight.  Even the pages are yellow!  It makes me want to be a tapa. 

Reading the pages and looking at the pictures has inspired me to eat more creatively ever since it arrived at my doorstep.  I had a snack of artichoke hearts, olives and white wine today.  The other night, for dessert, I dipped a piece of salted chocolate in honey and sesame seeds (upon M's suggestion today, I will post on this some day soon).  I used the mint in the fridge to make a fresh bean salad last week.  So thank you to Simone and Ines Ortega for writing this book.

There is a little glimpse of the yellow pages in the top corner of this picture.  This is the blue cheese right before I mashed it with the other ingredients.  It actually looks like ice cream in this picture.  Hmm, sounds like a good ice cream flavor.  Maybe add some honey and walnuts?  Below is a picture of the walnuts after I pan roasted them and then crushed with a pint glass.

I changed the recipe a tad and cut it in half.  It orginally called for raisins and pine nuts.  I used walnuts instead because they were on sale.  But try any kind...cashews might be nice.  It called for Magala wine or sweet sherry, but I happened to be sipping a Pinot Gris, so that went into the mix instead.   This recipe would also work well with dates or figs.   I had some extra filling, so I added plain yogurt to it, and will use it as a sandwich or toast spread, maybe topped with thin green apple slices.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Prunes
Adapted from The Book of Tapas
Makes six

1 1/2 oz blue cheese
2 Tbsp walnuts, pan roasted and crumbled
1 tsp white wine
1 Tbsp half and half
6 prunes, pitted

Prepare the walnuts first, by heating a small saute pan on medium heat.  Add the walnuts and continually toss until the walnuts become fragrant.  Remove from heat.  Put on a cutting board and use rolling pin or (carefully) pint glass over the walnuts to crush them.   

In a small bowl, crumble the blue cheese and mash with a fork.  Add the walnuts, white wine and half and half.  Stir into a paste. 

Make sure none of the prunes have pits, if so, remove them.  Take a small object like a chopstick to open them.  Carefully spoon the blue cheese mixture into the hole.  I used the opposite end of a small spoon, because the opening is pretty small.  Wipe off any excess blue cheese from the sides.  Place on plate.  Garnish with fresh or dried parsley.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate for a few hours before serving.  Can be eaten as a small bite for a cocktail or wine with friends.


Toasted Sesame Radishes

A few weekends ago when I was visiting A in NYC, I spent a little time in Book Hampton.  And I have to say, the cookbook selection was perfect.  I recognized how nice it is to go into small bookstores, because the selection is a good quality variety of hot books.

I came upon one book called The Book of Tapas, which I just received yesterday.  So today, I spent the whole bus ride to yoga, carefully paging through the cold and hot vegetable section.  And subsequently thought about a few of the recipes all through yoga class.  I know that you are supposed to leave the details of your life at the door in yoga, but I believe focusing on aspects of your life that make you happy are a good thing while twisting in eagle pose.

So after class, I got all the ingredients to do one recipe and came home and made two totally different ones.  The one I bought for will definitely be made this weekend, and it will be making an appearance next week.  It was an intriguing spin on a standard party food...details to follow!

But I was so hungry when I got home, that I whipped up the sesame radishes and a great northern bean dish with mint and parsley.  And they turned out pretty dang that is what we will talk about tonight.  The radishes and cucumbers are on the left and the bean dressing is on the right, which I will also be blogging about soon.

I got the idea to have radishes tonight from the tapas book.  I forgot about how good they are.   My grandma used to eat a radish a day, and she is almost 92 years I think she was on to something.  The salad below is super simple and similar to something I have had at Asian restaurants.  The dressing is light and the veggies crunchy, leaving you feeling refreshed.

Toasted Sesame Radishes
Serves 1-2 appetizer salads

3 radishes, cleaned and thinly sliced with mandoline or knife
1/3rd of cucumber, thinly sliced with mandoline or knife

1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

2-3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp olive oil

Thinly slice the radishes and cucumbers with mandoline or carefully with knife.  Toss into medium sized bowl.  Set aside.  Heat a small saute pan.  Add the sesame and mustard seeds.  Toss frequently until they become fragrant and slightly browned.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Whisk the vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Slowly add the olive oil and whisk well.  Pour in the sesame and mustard seeds.  Whisk.  Pour over the radishes and cucumbers.  Toss and coat evenly.  Let sit for about 10 minutes.  Toss again.  Serve immediately as a light first course or alongside sushi or appetizers.