One of the big reasons I wanted to start this project was to experiment with cooking techniques and styles that I had never tried before. Sure, money is certainly a big motivation (or lack thereof), but I also wanted to cook food in ways that weren't as straightforward as I had become accustomed to.
Now, I like to cook, and before I started this project I considered myself a relatively good cook. So initially, when I started fooling around with recipes for this project, I thought I'd be doing all these crazy things to my food. Little did I know how absolutely lacking my culinary knowledge and skill were. Probably the most egregious thing on this list: I had never zested a lemon.
At first, I wanted to include this recipe because I wasn't very familiar with risotto. Not only had I never cooked risotto, but I had never really eaten it. My stepfather was never a fan of Italian food so it wasn't something we ate too much at home. However, I have to say that the real victory for me in this recipe wasn't that I made risotto, but that I learned how AMAZING lemon zest was. Although I'm sure the risotto would have been nice on its own, risotto is something that I've read can feel very heavy and thick. I was especially worried about this because I had never eaten risotto and wouldn't really know what to look for to achieve the right consistency. And maybe I think this because I have no frame of reference, but this risotto was not heavy at all, and the lemon gave the dish a tang that I think without would have left the risotto a little flat and one-dimensional.
Haha. This was my sad attempt at pretending to talk about food like I know what I'm doing.
After this, I explored other recipes that I could throw lemon and lemon zest into. And I became a little bit obsessed. Ask any of my co-workers, who ate these cupcakes for about three weeks straight because I couldn't get enough of them. And if I didn't bring them to work, I would have sat at home and eaten them all. By myself. Like a loser.
Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn about food and how to use ingredients in new and interesting ways. Hopefully one day I'll be able to talk about food like I have a clue. But that's unlikely--mostly because I never have a clue what I'm doing. :)
Lemony Mushroom Risotto
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, chopped (the recipe calls for porcini as well, but I'm cheap)
1/4 stick unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (eep!)
1/4 grated parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Cook onion with butter until the onion is soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add rice, and stir to coat for about one minute. Add wine and simmer until wine evaporates, about 1-2 minutes.
Add mushrooms, and stir in 1/2 cup of broth into the mixture at a time, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue to add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice is tender but al dente, about 18 minutes. The mixture should be creamy, but not soupy.
Add zest, parmesan, and parsley, and stir into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. I don't know how well this reheats since I ate most of it in one sitting. :p