Recipe: Broccoli and Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is an easy, cheap version of therapy for me.  Well, I should clarify that cooking risotto is an easy, cheap version of therapy for me.

risotto on plate 6 - edited

Eating it is good, too.  I’ll never forget my first taste of risotto (made by a professional chef – not by own hands).  The experience stunned me.  That creamy, rich and bright delicious first bite ranks high amongst my greatest food experiences.

But cooking risotto is even better.

People say it’s difficult.  They say it’s tricky or precarious or too easy to ruin.

I say: Bah!

risoto with vegetables 2 - edited

None of that is true in my own experience.  Risotto takes more attention than a casserole or a soup, maybe, but it is attention that I’m glad to give.  The slow, deliberate process behind a good risotto is better than meditation or a good sleep for calming any negative energy or frayed nerves that I my be harboring.  I’m drawn to the smell of the dry rice toasting up before any liquid is added.  Then I am soothed by swirling the small batches of broth into the pan, time and time again.

The gentle stirring is like a lullaby and the scents like the very best aromatherapy.

Plus, I am continually fascinated by the transformation of a small pile of dry rice into a heaping mound of creamy, rich risotto.

It’s pure culinary brilliance.

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Broccoli and Mushroom Risotto

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe, inspired by countless recipes viewed over time

Serves 4-6

Feel free to use this recipe as a guideline for quantities and method.  If broccoli isn’t your thing, you could easily sub asparagus, for instance.  No mushrooms on hand?  Try zucchini or yellow squash.  The vegetables, as well as the herbs, can easily be adapted to your preference and pantry staples.

Ingredients: risotto cooking 6 - edited

  • 2 cups mushrooms, diced (I used a mixture of portobello and white button)
  • 7 cups vegetable broth (consider making your own)
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 tspn salt
  • ½ tspn black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups (about 1 small head) broccoli, chopped finely
  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (may sub butter or other butter substitute)
  • 1 tblspn nutritional yeast (can sub Parmesan if not vegan)
  • 1 tblspn fresh marjoram, chopped
  • 1 tblspn fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Pre-cook your mushrooms by tossing them into a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, until they shrink in size a bit and start to brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, pour your vegetable broth into a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  You’ll want to keep the broth warm through the cooking process, as it should not be added to the rice cold.
  3. Add oil to the pan.  Once warmed, add shallot and garlic.  Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until they are translucent and fragrant.
  4. Toss your rice, salt, and pepper into the pan with the shallot and garlic.  Toast the rice briefly, about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Increase heat slightly, then add wine.  Mix ingredients together and let the wine deglaze the pan and cook off for 1-2 minutes.  Once the wine has cooked down, lower heat again to just below medium.
  5. Begin to add your warm broth in ½ cup increments.  Between each addition, stir rice frequently, mixing the broth into the ingredients slowly and deliberately.  When most of the broth is absorbed, add the next ½ cup full.  Continue this process until all but 1 cup of the broth is used and rice has become soft and very plump.  This process should take somewhere around 30 minutes.
  6. When its time to add in the second to last ½ cup of broth, add broccoli to the pan.  Stir together broccoli, rice, and broth.
  7. With the last ½ cup of broth, add pre-cooked mushrooms.  Stir mushrooms and final batch of broth into the rice.  When all broth has been absorbed, turn off heat.
  8. Add Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, and fresh herbs to the pan and stir gently to incorporate all ingredients together.  The heat from the risotto will melt the Earth Balance and help blend all ingredients together.  Serve immediately.

Recipe: Lemony Lentil, Orzo, and Broccoli Bake (Plus, New Beginnings in Old Territory)

I’m starting a new journey today.  Or maybe it’s more apt to say I’m returning to an old one?  I work in human services and for the last year and a half I’ve worked to provide services for seniors and people living with disabilities.  Prior to this role, though, I worked for about 7 years in domestic violence advocacy.  I loved doing anti-violence work.  I have a tremendous amount of passion for it and, frankly, I thought I was pretty good at it.  Plus, the women (and men, but mostly women, if we’re honest) that I got to know in my years doing that work are incredible, both co-workers and program participants.  You see some amazing spirit and humanity in that work.  When I left it a year and a half ago, it was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make.

I left for a combination of reasons.  As much as it pains me to admit it, one of the biggest ones was money.  I don’t work for money the way some people might, but I was flailing with debts racking up, student loan bills growing, and my weekly paychecks stagnantly low (I could write a tirade on the pay rates for people who do that and similar work, let me tell you).  It wasn’t sustainable and I needed to make a move to keep from drowning.

So I did.

Finished in dish 5 - edited

I looked outside of the field, at other focuses within human service work that might allow me to create a more stable economical platform with which to build my life on.  I ended up landing the job with seniors and people living with disabilities.  The financial change was significant and I’ve learned a great deal of valuable information about systems I didn’t know much at all about before, but the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t ignite the same fire in me that my old work did.

But sometimes careers take interesting turns.

The job I’ve been in is part of a larger entity (a government entity, to be precise) and one very small part of that entity is a unit that does domestic violence work.  When I saw a rare opening posted in that unit, I didn’t have much expectation it would pan out, but it has.  So, today, I return to familiar work, in a new environment.

My work will be less direct service than I did before and will involve more time spent supporting others who are doing direct service work.  I’m pretty excited about it, really.  I get to return to a field that really matters to me, maintain a sustainable income, and put a new spin on work that I feel really comfortable doing.  I hope it’s not too good to be true!

On plated with bread 3 - edited

Now, let’s get on to the recipe.  For me, this recipe has some of the same qualities as what I am experiencing with this job change.  This dish is warm, comforting, and something about feels familiar despite this having been the first time I’ve made it.  Yet, it’s also kind of new and exciting.  The brightness from the lemon adds a zing that contrasts (but harmonizes with) the hearty comfort of the dish.  I loved eating this fresh from the oven and for leftovers throughout the week.

I hope you will too.

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Lemony Lentil, Orzo, and Broccoli Bake

Adapted from Vegetarian Times Finished in dish 4 - edited

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tblspns olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, stem discarded (or saved for veggie stock!), chopped
  • 1 tspn red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry brown lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh basil
  • 3 cups low-sodium or homemade vegetable stock
  • 6 oz (1 cup) dry orzo
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • Juice of one medium lemon
  • 1 tspn lemon zest
  • ½ tspn kosher salt
  • ¼ tspn black pepper
  • 1 – 1 ¼ cups hot water
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tblspns chopped fresh Italian parsley

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 3-quart casserole dish by coating lightly with cooking spray.
  2. In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat ½ tblspn olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and carrots to pot and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes (stir often).
  3. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring almost constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Add lentils, thyme, and basil to the pot and stir to distribute.  Add broth and lemon juice.  Bring mixture to a simmer.  Then, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes, add in the chopped broccoli and stir.  Re-cover and let broccoli soften 2-3 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat.  Add to pot the lemon zest, the drained tomatoes, orzo, salt, and pepper and stir until everything is well combined.  Pour all contents into the prepared casserole dish.  If needed, pour just enough hot water over mixture to ensure orzo is covered with liquid.  Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tblspn olive oil, and parsley in a small bowl.  Mix well.
  8. After the first 20 minutes of baking, remove foil and sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top.  Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 more minutes.  Let sit 5 minutes or so before serving.