Risotto ai Funghi (Mushroom Risotto)

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes, Side Dishes

Risotto ai Funghi, Italian for mushroom risotto, is traditionally made with porcini mushrooms. However, with porcini mushrooms hard to come by aside from the foragers at local farmer’s markets, I whipped up this risotto with good ol’ cremini (baby portabello) mushrooms and it’s still a comforting, hearty meal for a cold night. You really could use any mushrooms or blend of mushrooms of your choosing, although I would not recommend using only white button mushrooms – those little guys are a bit plain in flavor.

Risotto ai Funghi

Risotto ai Funghi


(adapted from this AllRecipes.com recipe)

3 cups chicken broth (low sodium or homemade would be good so you can control the seasoning)

2 tablespoons olive oil

10-12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used 8 oz of cremini and 3 oz of fresh shiitake)

1 shallot, finely diced

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are good choices)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

In a small pot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer and lower the heat.

Mushrooms, ready to go into the skillet!

Mushrooms, almost ready to go into the skillet!

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Toss in the mushrooms, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and saute until they are softened and browned, about three to five minutes. Transfer the mushrooms and their liquid to a bowl and set aside.

Sauteing mushrooms

Sauteing mushrooms

Now in the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the shallot and garlic until the shallot becomes translucent, about one to two minutes.

Sauteing the shallot and garlic

Sauteing the shallot and garlic

Add the rice. Let the grains toast a bit, stirring frequently so nothing burns. I learned this trick from the instructions on the back of our favorite Rice-A-Roni box. Personally, I like the toasted flavor the step imparts on the final product. After a few moments, pour in the wine and continue to stir until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Toasting the rice

Toasting the rice

Now for the oh so fun (not) maintenance of the risotto. Working on medium to medium-high heat, start ladling in about 1/2 cup of broth. Stir gently to keep the risotto from sticking. It will take about two minutes before the liquid is absorbed. Continue slowly, adding about 1/2 cup of broth at a time, to build the starch levels, the primary contributor to the risotto’s creaminess.

Slowly but surely

Slowly but surely

You may not need all three cups of broth. Or you may find yourself needing a bit more (in which case you could also substitute wine or water, if needed). Risotto making is not a perfect science. But once the rice is al dente, add in the reserved mushrooms and their liquid. Mix to combine.

The step that makes a mushroom risotto a mushroom risotto!

The step that makes a mushroom risotto a mushroom risotto!

Plop the pat of butter and stir in, allowing it to slowly melt and blend with the risotto. Hey, I never said this dish was particularly healthy…

Mmm butter...

Mmm butter…

Sprinkle with the grated parmesan. You’ll want to know how the salty cheese impacts the overall flavor before moving on to the final step – seasoning. I like to use pink Himalayan salt as a finishing salt, along with some fresh cracked black pepper.

Parm time!

Parm time!

I particularly enjoyed this recipe since its difficulty seemed to be just right. Some recipes claim to yield a finished dish in 15 minutes and some call for a full hour or longer, but for me, the rice had absorbed all of the added liquid after about 30 minutes. Also, I found this slow, stirring method to be well worth the extra effort and attention.

Not sure how my humble risotto would fare in Hell's Kitchen!

Not sure how my humble risotto would fare in Hell’s Kitchen!

Don’t let Gordon Ramsay’s relentless yelling on Hell’s Kitchen instill a fear of risotto in you like the show did in me. I believe in you! If you do give this hearty, mushroom-y recipe a try, please holla back and let us know how it turned out.

Potato Gratin (and Bonus – Homemade Potato Chips)

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes, Side Dishes

“What’s a potato gratin?” “It’s like the mac & cheese of the potato world.” “Really?” “Yeah, seriously.”

Yup – I totally had that conversation last week. But layered with cheese, simmered in milk, and beautifully browned with a crunchy crust, the classic potato gratin really does bear resemblance to a baked macaroni and cheese dish. The fork-tender slices of potato glued by savory Gruyère and a golden crust worth fighting over both make this dish a winner!

Voilà - potatoes gratiné!

Voilà – potatoes gratiné!


2 to 2.5 lbs potatoes (yukon golds are best but any will do)
4 oz gruyere cheese
1.5 cups of milk (whole, low-fat, nonfat… your choice)
Salt & pepper
Butter, about 2 tablespoons plus a thin pat for greasing the pan
1 medium onion, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and peel the potatoes.

Potato Slices

Potato Slices

Being very careful with a knife (or using a mandoline if you have one), slice into rounds anywhere from paper-thin to no thicker than about 1/8th inch thick. Just be as consistent as you can, for even cooking.



Grate the cheese into a bowl and set aside.

In a small pan, heat the butter until it just starts to bubble and brown. Add in the onions and season with salt and pepper. Saute until translucent and sweet – about 5 minutes. Once they’re done, set aside to cool off.

Layer #1

Layer #1

Butter a 9 x 13 pan (or a 9 x 12 gratin dish) generously on the bottom and be sure to work up the sides as well. Arrange potato slices in a single layer, allowing the slices to overlap a bit. Season with fresh cracked black pepper and sprinkle lightly with cheese. The gruyere I buy comes salted so I go easy on the added salt. Be sure to reserve about 1/3 of the cheese for the very top crust layer. Continue layering with potato, black pepper, and cheese.

Onion time!

Onion time!

After about 3 or 4 layers, arrange the next potato layer. Top with the sauteed onion, spreading to evenly distribute as best you can. Continue with another potato layer and repeat as before.

Use up all of your potato slices or as many as it takes to make about 8-10 layers, leaving one last layer of just potato. Fret not if you have extra lonely slices – you can reserve these leftover slices for making potato chips!

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Pour the milk over the prepared gratin, letting it seep between the layers. Finally, top with the reserved 1/3 of cheese and bake for about 45 minutes to one hour, or until everything gets bubbly and the crust becomes a gorgeous golden brown.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Slice into squares and serve hot. We generally cut the 9 x 13 pan into sixths but it can easily serve 8 if part of a larger meal.

Serving Suggestion

Serving Suggestion

Some nights we’ll eat the gratin on its own paired with a freshly tossed salad… and other nights, we’ll start sizzling up some steaks when the gratin is about 15 minutes out from being done. As a side or as a (relatively) light main, this potato gratin is comforting and hearty dish that’s sure to please!



Bonus Recipe: Homemade Potato Chips!

Oil (olive or vegetable)

Leftover gratin slices


Pour enough oil into a pan (or the small pot you used to saute onions if you want to save on dish-washing) to come up about 1/2 inch. Heat until a small drop of water dripped into the oil fizzles away (if it splatters, and be careful if it does, turn down the heat and let the oil cool a bit).

Fry away, little ones!

Fry away, little ones!

Drop in a few slices, making sure to not crowd the pan. I like my chips nice and browned – this will take a few minutes. Watch them carefully though! They can go from toasty to burnt in the blink of an eye.

Tip: they'll crisp up more as they cool

Tip: they’ll crisp up more as they cool

Transfer toasty chips to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Sprinkle on a bit of salt (or seasonings of choice!) right when you take the chips out of the oil so they will adhere better.

Roasted Bone Marrow

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes, Side Dishes

Roasted bone marrow has to be one of my all-time favorite comforting meat-treats. One Sunday as Martin and I were strolling through our local Mar Vista Farmer’s Market, we stumbled upon Dey Dey Farms, now our go-to vendor for grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chickens. The vendor stall lists their many products on a whiteboard and two words caught my eye — marrow bones. “DIY marrow?” I asked Martin. He was game (haha – no pun intended) and we selected a pound, approximately 4 cross-sections of the cow’s femur. The man behind the table told us that marrow is best consumed raw to really take advantage of its nutritional content, but I just could not resist the thought of gelatinous, rich marrow spread over toast.

Roasted Bone Marrow

Roasted Bone Marrow

Do-it-yourself roasted bone marrow is actually quite easy, and I wish I had learned that sooner. To me, this is the perfect hearty dish for a cold winter’s night.


Marrow *

Sea salt & pepper

Dried parsley flakes

* For a light dinner or appetizer, we allotted a half pound per person.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Clean the marrow bones. Some people like to soak the bones to extract the blood but I haven’t had issues with roasting them as-is. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both of the cut sides of the bones. Top with some dried parsley and roast for about 20 minutes or until the marrow middles break down into a glistening gelatin.

Hot out of the oven!

Hot out of the oven

Serve with a nice, crusty bread au naturale or slice a baguette into crostinis. Use a marrow spoon or just any small spoon to dig out the gelatinous bits and spread them on the bread for a heavenly bite.

You could also whip up a lemon-dressed parsley salad, the traditional accompaniment for roasted bone marrow. For further decadence, serve a bone (or two) alongside a succulent steak!



Bon appetit~!

our-growing-edge-badgeI almost always order roasted bone marrow if I see it offered on a menu, but this was my first time making it at home so I thought it would be perfect for this month’s example of my growing edge – the part of me that yearns to keep learning and trying new things and meeting new challenges. Thanks to Bunny Eats Design for inviting us to participate in the monthly blogging event for Our Growing Edge. :3

Comfort Food: Nui Xao (Stir Fried Macaroni)

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Growing up, one of my favorite one-pot-wonders was tomato stir fried macaroni. Just the aroma of the pasta tossed in tomato paste with garlic and onions brings to mind memories of watching my mom stir fry a quick, hearty meal. The base is similar to Vietnamese tomato rice (com do), and the add-ins can vary from ground beef to chopped shrimp to ground shrimp. The shrimp is my personal favorite, but using ground beef can give it a Hamburger Helper-like flavor (in the good, no-frills, comfort food sort of way). Leftovers keep well and the recipe below will make 4-5 servings — for us that’s a dinner and a lunch per person!

Looking for a quick recipe for dinner? Look no further!

The finished product


1 1-lb box of pasta, any shape (we like elbows and shells.. shapes that don’t fall apart too easily)

1 tbsp garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil (omit if using ground beef)

Choice of protein: 1/2 lb ground beef or 1/2 lb shrimp, chopped or minced/ground

1 cup onions, chopped

2 tsp tomato paste, or more as needed

Garlic salt (or regular salt)

Black pepper to taste

Maggi or soy sauce

Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and shock the pasta. I know the hardcore Italians would frown upon the rinsing of pasta, but it keeps the noodles from overcooking while prepping the proteins and ensures that the pasta won’t break apart when it comes time to stir frying.

Rinsed macaroni

In the same pot, start your protein. If using ground beef, cook it in the pan (without oil) on medium-high heat with the garlic and onions; season with salt (or garlic salt) and pepper. Drain off some of the fat when all of the meat has turned from pink to brown. If using shrimp, first clean, peel, and de-vein. Then either chop into small pieces or finely mince until ground. Season with salt (or garlic salt) and pepper. Heat olive oil in a pan with some garlic and sweat the onions. When they are nearly translucent, add the shrimp and cook until they turn from gray to pinkish white. Alternatively, you could omit the protein for a vegetarian side dish; just start your pan with oil, garlic, and onions.

Add the pasta. Stir in the tomato paste, and mix well to evenly incorporate. Add more as needed. I like to sprinkle a bit of Maggi over the pasta and give it a quick toss prior to serving and let each person season their own portions to taste. If you have the time or patience, turn the heat up a bit higher and let the tomato-y pasta brown a bit. :) It doesn’t turn quite as crispy as com do would, but it adds an interesting texture to the few pieces that darken up.

I make mine with extra tomato paste :)

Voila! A quick and easy dinner in minutes (after waiting for the water to boil, of course). Just serve it up and enjoy!

Ready to nom!

Edamame Fried Rice

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Some days we get to go out and splurge on decadent dinners, but most days we’re just a couple of recent college grads who want to sit down to some homemade comfort food after a long day at work. For us, fried rice is one of these comfort dishes that always comes through for us with a satisfying meal when we’re pressed for time. Recently, I started added edamame to my fried rice. It was a weird change since, as a child, I didn’t even like peas in my fried rice and I would spend the first five minutes in front of my bowl carefully extracting each pea one by one with my chopsticks. But for whatever reason, I love adding edamame to my fried rice, and Trader Joe’s sells them already shelled and frozen, making life that much easier. Edamame, or green immature soybeans, are a great way of kicking up a plain ol’ fried rice with some beautiful bright green color and a nice crunchy texture, not to mention the high protein and fiber content! Martin doesn’t like the change in texture, so sometimes I just add some to my portion, or if I have leftovers, I’ll toss in a handful of edamame straight out of the freezer and heat them up together in the microwave.

Voila! The Finished Product

Without further ado, here is the recipe for making this ovo-vegetarian (that is, vegetarian + eggs) dish that you could serve as a side dish or eat on its own as a hearty, well-balanced entree.


3 cups of cooked white jasmine rice (see our com do entry for notes about the type of rice and prep method)

2 eggs, 3 if you like your fried rice extra egg-y

1 cup of edamame, shelled and parboiled (or the pre-shelled ones straight out of the freezer)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive Oil

Garlic Salt

Black Pepper

Maggi, soy sauce, or other soy-based seasoning sauces (we like Golden Mountain)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or wok (you’ll want lots of room to mix and toss the rice around) on medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onions until softened and almost translucent. Add the edamame. You’re mostly looking to “defrost” them if using frozen, but I ended up browning mine a bit and it tasted pretty good with a nice nutty flavor.

Sauteed onions, garlic, and edamame

Pile on the rice and crack the eggs on top. Stir vigorously to coat so that everything is a nice golden color.

That’s Martin stirring vigorously.

Season to taste with some garlic salt, black pepper, and soy sauce of choice. If you like your rice a bit crispy, crank the heat up to high and let the rice sit for a few minutes, stirring occasionally just enough to prevent burning but not too frequently so it will have a chance to brown. Serves 4.

Bon appetit!

Let us know how it goes! We hope you’ll add this recipe to your weeknight dinner rotation.