Cleaning out the pantry in preparation for a move to a new house prompts a couple of spectacular meals. Why not use the truffles? The little tins of carnaroli rice and the pretty specialty oils? Then there's a collection of canned and dried chiles, dried mushrooms, fruity vinegars, specialty salts and stunning jams and marmalades.
The spoils from my travels and foodie gifts from friends are turned into a luxurious risotto, several delicious salad dressings, accompaniments for a cheese-and-sausage platter, a kettle of soup and fantastic bread condiments.
As for the risotto, cold days welcome a version packed with aromatic, umami-filled mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. My 2020 goal to boost the percentage of vegetables in all meals prompts the addition of green chiles and baby spinach. Both taste great and enhance the visual appeal of the final risotto.
A favorite product from Urbani Truffles, a tin of black truffle and mushrooms, boldly accentuates the mild flavor of fresh mushrooms in the risotto. The pureed sauce includes champignon mushrooms, porcini, summer truffle, olive oil, garlic and cheese. It's so good, I also use it on toast, in omelets and cooked pasta.
Alternatively, swap the pricy sauce (about $10 for a 6-ounce can) with an ounce or two of dried mushrooms, such as porcini or morel. Dried porcini, sold sliced, deliver big flavor for an affordable price; dried morels tend to be quite expensive, but lend an irresistible, unique flavor.
I stock small plastic containers of inexpensive dried mushrooms (sliced or broken bits) for enriching soups and broths. To use dried mushrooms, soak in just enough hot water to cover them until softened, usually about 20 minutes. Then strain the water through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; the flavorful water can replace some of the risotto's broth. Use the mushrooms as is, or roughly chop.
The trick to risotto? Organization. I make the seasoning base in advance. Then I organize the rest of the meal: Make a salad, prepare some garlic bread and set the table. About 45 minutes before serving, heat the broth in a separate pan and enjoy the time at the stove tending to the risotto. Or, enlist a volunteer to help with the gentle stirring and broth additions.
Of course, you can adapt this recipe to an Instant Pot. Reduce the broth to 4 1/2 cups and follow the manufacturers' directions. If the risotto is too loose for your taste, simply cook it a few minutes longer without the cover on the pot.
Since the average condiment cupboard might not contain these luxury items, I've included substitutes. But the time is now - let's use up the gourmet gifts and cherished bottles of oil. The results make gray skies feel sunny and lighten the cabinet shelves.
This simple, but elegant meal deserves a bottle of red wine; I like a Beaujolais or a medium-bodied pinot noir here. No sense in moving wine to the new house - better to enjoy it now.
MUSHROOM AND TRUFFLE RISOTTO WITH GREEN CHILE AND SPINACH
Prep: 25 minutes
Soak: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Makes: 6 servings
Extra risotto reheats well in the microwave. Or, heat a skillet with olive oil and add the cold, cooked risotto to heat it and crisp it at the edges.
1 to 1 1/2 ounces dried sliced mushrooms, such as sliced porcini, or small whole morel or shiitake (or a combination)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, ends trimmed, halved, thinly sliced
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles, drained
2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1 can (6.4 ounces) black truffle and mushroom sauce, see note
4 cups baby spinach (2.5 to 3 ounces)
1 cup finely shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese
Salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
Large Parmesan shavings, optional
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 bottled truffle (about 1/2 ounce), finely chopped, optional
Truffle oil or salt, optional
1. Put dried mushrooms into a small bowl and cover with very hot water. Let stand until softened, about 20 minutes.
2. Strain mushroom-soaking water through a fine mesh sieve or coffee filter into a medium saucepan. Add broth. Roughly chop the soaked mushrooms and set aside.
3. Heat a large (3 1/2- to 4-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and shallots; saute until soft, 3 minutes. Stir in garlic; saute 1 minute. Add sliced fresh mushrooms; saute until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in soaked mushrooms and green chile. (Recipe can be made to this point up to two days in advance; refrigerate mushroom base and broth separately.)
4. Heat broth mixture over low heat to a simmer. Reduce heat to very low.
5. Reheat mushroom mixture in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in rice; cook, stirring, to toast the grains, 2 minutes. Stir in black truffle and mushroom sauce. Heat mixture thoroughly, about 3 minutes.
6. Ladle in about 1/2 cup of the hot broth mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Stir in another 1/2 cup broth and repeat the process, adding about 1/2 cup broth at a time, until the rice has absorbed all of the broth and is nearly tender to the bite. The whole process takes about 25 minutes.
7. Stir in spinach and shredded Parmesan. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and black pepper. Top with Parmesan shavings and parsley. Serve right away, garnished with truffle and truffle oil or truffle salt, if using.
Note: Urbani Truffle's black truffle and mushroom sauce is available online and at some specialty retailers. If it is not available, use an extra ounce or two of dried mushrooms as directed and an additional 4 ounces of fresh mushrooms. A little drizzle of truffle oil or sprinkle of truffle salt tastes good here, too.
Nutrition information per serving: 424 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 63 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 20 g protein, 505 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
ARUGULA, RADICCHIO AND GRAPE SALAD
Prep: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Add 1/2 to 1 cup crumbled cheese, such as goat, feta or queso fresco to the salad, if desired. Shredded cooked chicken, and/or roasted beets or carrots, turns this into a terrific main course salad.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil, optional (or more olive oil)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze or saba
1/4 teaspoon each: salt, black pepper, thyme
2 cups halved seedless red or green grapes, or a combination
1 medium head radicchio, cored, halved, thinly sliced
1 head Belgian endive, ends trimmed, halved, lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
3 to 4 cups baby arugula
1/4 to 1/2 cup caramelized walnuts, optional, see note
1. For the dressing, mix oils, vinegars, salt, pepper and thyme in the bottom of a large serving bowl.
2. Stir in grapes, radicchio and endive. Toss to mix. Add baby arugula. Serve sprinkled with toasted nuts if using.
Note: For caramelized walnuts, heat a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add 1/2 cup broken walnut halves, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir until the sugar melts and glazes the walnut pieces, 2 or 3 minutes. Do not walk away, as the sugar burns easily. Cool on a plate. Store in foil for a couple of days.
Nutrition information per serving (for 6 servings): 89 calories, 9 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 10 g sugar, 1 g protein, 392 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
CRUSTY GARLIC BREAD WITH TRUFFLE SALT
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 12 minutes
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
If you don't have truffle salt, use a drizzle of a flavorful oil, such as truffle oil or nut oil, and a sprinkling of coarse salt.
1 loaf (about 20 ounces) ciabatta or Italian bread
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon truffle salt (or coarse salt)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice bread horizontally in half; place cut side up on baking sheet.
2. Beat butter in a small bowl with a wooden spoon until soft. Mix in garlic and salt. Smear some of the butter (about 2 tablespoons) over both bread halves.
3. Bake until edges of bread are crusty, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving (for 8 servings): 295 calories, 14 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 36 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 6 g protein, 452 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
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