April 21, 2012

Kitchen Before and After!

Evan and I have slowly but surely been redoing our little kitchen.  When we first bought the house, it was on the top of the list of rooms to fix up, considering how ugly it was! Old brown cabinets with pinkish tiles and light green paint, cheap countertops that didn't actually fit the space and an old beat up sink.  Ugo. Our redo was super cheap, here's the breakdown:

1 gallon of high gloss white paint: $30
Stain blocker: $10
Countertop from Ikea: $100
Sink from Craigslist: $30
Tiles/mastic/grout from Craigslist: $30
Pendant lamp from Craigslist: $10
Tiling tools, paintbrushes etc: $40
New knobs: $10
Curtains made from Anthropologie bed skirt: $10
Total: $270!

There were, of course, a few extra purchases, including a jigsaw which we figured we would need in the long run which I will not include in the total.  There is still more to do (painting mostly, and more tile to remove!) but we're getting there! 

BEFORE, blech

After! Yay!

The cats have found a new place to hang out

April 6, 2012

Risotto ai funghi

I love making risotto, particularly after a long stupid day of work filled with stupid Bro quotes (see my twitter for proof).  Standing over the stove slowly adding broth and stirring is cathartic and relaxing, and its a meal that I genuinely feel invested in when it's done. Talk about a labor of love. Now that the weather is warming up, it's unlikely I'll be making this for a while (see: standing over the stove), but it's worth sharing the recipe.
I’ve really only used one recipe, though I tweak it a bit here and there, from Mark Bittman.  I also use pearled barley instead of Arborio rice, which for some reason makes me feel a bit better about this indulgence since I’m getting a whole grain in the meal.  I’ve also been reading up on risotto and the steps, which each have a beautiful Italian name that I will share with you as well!

Risotto ai funghi

A bunch of mushrooms, I use baby bellas and shitake, brush them off, don’t wash them!*
Olive oil
2ish tablespoons of butter
½ large onion, diced (I usually use more because I love onions)
1 clove garlic, minced
Thyme, sage (pinch of each)
1 cup pearled barley
4 cups broth
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
½ cup white wine (optional, and you can also use some white vinegar with water)
½ cup of cheese (I always use way more than that), parmesan and pecorino are of course delish

Start by prepping your ingredients.  Once you’ve started the actual risotto, you won’t be able to step away to do anything else.  You won’t WANT to step away to do anything else!

Cut up the mushrooms and sautee in the pan over medium heat.  I use very little olive oil, because mushrooms have so much moisture in them (they're about 90% water!) you only need enough to keep them from sticking when you first put them in the pan.  Cook them until they are brown, and put them in a separate bowl.

Put your broth in a sauce pan on the stove, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  You don’t want to add cold broth to your risotto, so be sure it stays warm.

Grate your cheese, dice your onions, mince your garlic.

Step one: Soffrito “sweating”
Put the butter in the pan and melt it down.  Add your onions and sweat and stir them for about 4 minutes until they are just becoming translucent.

Step two: Tostatura “roasting”
Add the barley and stir it around in the butter onion mix until they are all shiny and coated.  Then you can add the garlic, and the spices, and continue to stir.

Step three: Deglaze (not Italian, oh well)
This step is sort of optional, but is good to clean your pan if it has any brown parts on it.  Pour in the wine and use it to scrape the pan clean, and then let it bubble away until there is barely any liquid left.  It’s good to add some wine either way, so you have some acid in the mix.

Step four: Cottura “cooking”
Now the fun begins.  Start adding broth, one ladleful at a time, to the barley.  Stir it continually.  I like to scrape the sides, stir the middle, and then use the back of my spoon to spread it all flat on the bottom of the pan.  But you can do whateva’ you want.  Add another ladleful when the liquid is just about gone.  You don’t want the barley to be dry, but you don’t want it sitting in a lot of broth for a long time either. Continue this step over and over, and start tasting the barley after about 15 minutes.  You want it to be al dente.  Sometimes you might need a little more than 4 cups of broth, sometimes less.  Use your judgment.

Step 5: Mantecatura “creaming”
Now add the cheese, mushrooms and if you’re feeling extra decadent, a little more butter. STIR STIR STIR and TASTE TASTE TASTE. Add salt and pepper as needed, then let it sit for a few moments. 

Serve immediately with a little extra parmesan on top. 

*You don’t want to wash your mushrooms.  According to The British Mushroom Bureau (HA! Those crazy Brits!)  "all you need to do is give the mushrooms a wipe with a damp cloth or a quick rinse. It's true that they will absorb water and the more water is absorbed the lower the flavour. This is because they are neither a fruit nor a vegetable so do not have an outer skin like an apple for example, and, as a result, will absorb water. You should never soak, peel or remove the stalk."  There's no arguing with that, they seem pretty serious.

Also, I learned recently that keeping them in an open mason jar in the fridge helps keep them fresh for so long! Plus it looks pretty