I have become a huge fan of Giada di Laurentiis. I was recently watching her show "Everyday Italian" and she did a recipe for a Halloween version of the classic Italian dessert, crostata. A few years ago, I spent a few nights in Milan and after having authentic Italian gelatto, I vowed to only eat ice cream for the remainder of my trip.
And then, the next day, on my way to Il Maria di Grazia to see da Vinci's Last Supper, I stumbled across a quaint bakery, nestled down a quiet lane. Rows and rows of freshly baked bread and pastries lined the shop window, and of course, I gave in and a few seconds later sunk my teeth into a breakfast combination that only works in Italy: a Michetta (typical bread roll from Milan) and a crostata.
I decided to tweak Giada's recipe and create a strawberry crostata of my own, using fresh strawberries I collected last weekend at a typical Mancunian market. The crostatas turned out amazing: light filling with fresh strawberries in a mix of flour, sugar and cinnamon on the inside. Pure loveliness.
Deciding to keep with the Italian theme, I made a risotto tonight. It was meant to be a typical mushroom risotto, but after making omelets earlier in the week, I didn't have as many mushrooms left over as I would have liked, so I quickly added in some mint and peas and made it into a mint and pea risotto with mushrooms and parsley. :)
It was my first attempt at making a risotto and I was delighted to find that it is actually pretty easy! To add depth to the dish, I softened some onions and garlic in the pan in a bit of olive oil before adding the white wine and arborio rice along with the mushrooms. I then added ladlefuls of chicken stock to the pan, letting the liquid reduce before adding more. When I was about half way through the stock, I added in the mint and peas and continued to add liquid before finally adding the seasoning, parsley and parmesan. Simple and tasty.
This dish really works because you have the earthy nutty flavors of the mushrooms grounding the dish, so to speak, along with the yummy fresh taste of frozen peas and a subtle echo of mint that's not too overpowering but still full of flavor. You also get hints of wine (I used a rather unusual Hungarian white). Depending on the type of wine you use, the dish can be a myriad of flavor combinations.