I used to think all those people who got colds in the winter were just weak.
Now I think they live in climates where they don’t see the sun or exercise for 3 months.
At least that’s the reason I’m telling myself I got so sick this week/weekend. Since becoming vegan 2.5 years ago, I can’t think of a single time I’ve been this ill. I got a cold on our RV trip that lasted about 36 hours, and I thought I had vegan immune system superpowers.
I still think I do for the record, but working when I should have stayed home and getting no time outdoors must have caught up, and I was knocked out this whole weekend.
WHICH is a major bummer because we had big plans to go snowshoeing at Slide Mountain in the Catskills. After a few months in the big city, I was reallllly missing the trails (I wanted to feel like this again). But this cold knocked me out, so Shorty got to enjoy some fresh air and I spent most of today moving from the couch to the fridge…but I’m finally starting to feel a little better. Sometimes your body just forces you to take a break, ya know?
And on the plus side, I got to learn dozens of herbal cold remedies on Instagram and feel very loved by my followers. Y’all jumped on that!
I did manage to stay vertical long enough to remake the risotto from last weekend to test the recipe so I could share it with you.
I can only recall making two vegan risottos before (a butternut squash version and a summer corn version), which is crazy, because me and risotto go way back.
When I first started cooking in…2009 (?), risotto was one of the first foods I tackled.
Don’t ask me why I chose a finicky dish that needs to be babysat for 45 minutes and served immediately before all is lost to start my home cooking career. Maybe I thought if I could crack the code on risotto, it would be all be downhill from there? Or maybe I just wanted to eat risotto. Because it’s one of the most perfect dishes in existence.
Anyway, after I started to trust myself in the kitchen, I realized risotto wasn’t so scary, and that you don’t have to follow every recipe to a T, even if Ina Garten tells you every step is crucial. I even (gasp!) started to make it without a recipe.
The problem for vegans is, risotto is often just a vehicle for cheese, cheese, and more cheese. My favorite version for years was Emeril Legasse’s Three Cheese Risotto…with extra cheese. Soooo I avoided trying to veganize it, mostly because I wasn’t sure it was possible. And I lived a largely risotto-less life…until now.
So, the vegan butternut squash risotto worked because the squash is so creamy, it kinda makes up for the lack of cheese. (Similar to how this butternut squash pasta works.) And the corn one worked because corn is so starchy. In this mushroomy version, instead of going for a cheesy texture, I bulked up the flavor with a mushroom stock made by steeping dried forest mushrooms. (They sound exotic, but you can get them at many grocery stores). And at the end of cooking I added some nutritional yeast and lemon to make it tangy, plus a blob of Miyoko’s Kitchen cultured vegan butter. The magic of risotto is that the starch makes it creamy all on its own, so it still has that signature risotto-y texture, even without the cheese.
Now look, if that’s sacrilege to you, you can still make this recipe, and sub the vegan butter for butter butter, and the nutritional yeast for parmesan.
But, I think you’ll be surprised how satisfying the vegan version is. Plus, it’s not quite as heavy, so you don’t have to feel bad about eating half the pot. Which I did.
That said, this is the perfect dish to serve at a small dinner party—the kind where you spend most of the time standing in the kitchen with wine. 🙂
I know risotto can be intimidating, but it’s actually pretty simple as long as you follow a few steps:
- Start with a rice specifically used in risotto, like Arborio.
- Sauté onion and garlic in oil.
- Toast the rice by adding it to the onion and garlic.
- Add wine or spirits to the rice and cook off.
- Add hot broth to the rice, a little at a time, and stir as often as you can.
- Do this for 20–30 minutes.
- When the rice is al dente, finish it with add-ins and serve immediately.
With those steps, you can make any variation on risotto. And this mushroomy one is a forgiving starter version, since you don’t have to worry about overcooking the mushrooms. 😉
TWO questions for you this week:
1. Do you notice you get sick if you aren’t in the sun?
2. Have you ever made risotto? And does that kind of recipe intimidate you?
Serves 2–3 as a main dish and 4 as a starter course or side dish.
- 1 oz. Dried forest mushrooms (I used a medley of porcini, shiitake, crimini, maitake, and oyster mushrooms)
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups baby portabello or cremini mushrooms, sliced into quarters
- 2 Tablespoons olives oil
- Salt + Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small shallots, finely diced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 Tablespoons vegan butter, like Miyoko’s Kitchen
- 2–3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½–1 teaspoon salt, to taste
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 2 Tablespoons finely sliced chives
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Boil 3 cups of water and pour over the dried mushrooms. Cover and let sit for at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours. Drain the mushrooms and reserve the broth, then slice the mushrooms roughly. The longer it rests the stronger the broth will be.
- In a small pot, bring the mushroom broth to a simmer. Keep covered.
- In a larger pot, bring 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat (a large, wide pot is better if you have it, but I just used the pasta pot since it’s all we got).
- Sauté the shallots for 2–3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the garlic and sauté 2–3 more minutes, until softened but not browned.
- Add the rice and toast for 3 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking.
- Add the white wine and stir until the liquid is cooked off.
- Add mushroom broth, a few ladlefuls at a time (if you don’t have a ladle, use a ½ cup measure).
- Stir almost constantly to prevent sticking.
- Meanwhile, toss the fresh mushrooms in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and a few turns of fresh-cracked pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.
- When the mushroom broth is used up (this should take 10–20 minutes), add the vegetable broth to the small pot and bring it to a simmer.
- Add the chopped, soaked mushrooms to the risotto.
- Add the vegetable broth to the risotto, a little at time, until rice is al dente.
- When rice is al dente, promptly turn off the heat, and mix in the nutritional yeast, parsley, vegan butter, and lemon juice. Taste for salt.
- Ladle into bowls and top with the roasted mushrooms and fresh-cracked pepper.
- Serve immediately.