At the halfway point of my month of eating in, I’ve been thinking about the second-century Jewish scholar Achai ben Josiah. Achai compared someone who buys grain rather than growing their own to an infant whose mother has died and can find no match for her milk.
I don’t grow my own grains, but I can see the allure of spending time preparing them. In fact, this weekend, my boyfriend and I joked that my theme was Constantly-Stirred Grain Dishes. I started off with a golden, slightly firm polenta. The next night, it was a creamy risotto with saffron, lavender, and mushrooms.
I did purchase bulk grains I’ve eaten this month, but I’m still here — and remarkably satisfied. I hope Achai believed in baby steps.
If you need an idea or inspiration for eating in, here’s a recipes for the risotto. (After the jump)
Risotto with Saffron, Lavendar, and Mushrooms
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer et al
Serves 2 as a main dish, 3-4 as a side dish. Pictured here as an entree with salad and black bean soup.
1 tsp. cheap saffron (or a generous pinch of the good stuff)
1 cup hot water
5 or 6 crimini or white mushrooms, halved and sliced
2 Tbs. butter or olive oil, divided
1/3 cup white wine
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cups stock or water, at room temperature or hot
1 1/4 cups arborio rice (available in most stores’ rice/pasta or bulk sections)
1/4 cup white wine
a few pinches dried, crumbled culinary lavender (leaves or flowers)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
This recipe has three parts: Soaking the saffron, sauteing the mushrooms, and making the risotto itself.
Start by combining the saffron with the hot water and allowing it to steep. When the water has taken on a deep orange color (after about 30 minutes), strain out the saffron threads and reserve the liquid.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 1 Tbs. butter or olive oil over medium-high heat.
When hot and bubbling, add the mushrooms. Keep the heat up!
Saute mushrooms until browned, about 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and remove the mushrooms to a bowl.
Deglaze the pan by pouring in the white wine, swishing around, and pouring it into the mushrooms. Set the mushroom mixture aside.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the second Tbs. of butter or olive oil.
When the grease is hot, add the onions.
Saute unions until beginning to brown and turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir so that all of the grains meet the bottom of the pan.
Continue to stir for about 3 minutes, or until the rice is entirely white and chalky.
Throw in the lavender.
Now begin adding the broth and/or water. Start with a 1/2 cup of the saffron-infused water.
Keep the heat under the rice hot enough that the added broth will immediately begin to simmer.
Stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, then add the other 1/2 cup of the saffron water.
Continue adding liquid and stirring until it is absorbed, adding 3/4 or 1 cup at a time once you get the hang of it.
After 10 minutes of stirring and adding liquid, taste the rice. Notice how firm or soft the texture is. You’re going for al dente (from my understanding and liking, that means firm, with perhaps a crunch at the center, but not entirely crunchy)
Continue adding liquid and stirring until the rice looks evenly cooked and is al dente.
Turn off the heat and fold in the Parmesan cheese and the mushrooms.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with a green salad and extra Parmesan and pepper.