Saturday night eat-in

Saturday night eat-in: Spinach Mushroom Risotto

Spinach Mushroom Risotto
Risotto is easy and classic with limitless possibilities.  The Italian rice - Arborio, Vialone Nano and Carnaroli needed to prepare this dish is readily available almost everywhere. 

For years I was intimidated by this wonderful Italian specialty.  But once I began experimenting with risotti, I discovered it was as simple as good timing and a strong stirring arm.

Risotto is a great dish for sneaking vegetables into unsuspecting kids - diced spinach, pureed winter squash, even mushrooms.   The kids gobble up the Parmesan cheese laden rice with its hidden nutrients and are none the wiser that they've eaten something healthy. 

Rachel Ray takes risotto one step further with a Risotto and Mini Meatball dish that is a bit too cute for my taste, but is sure to make the kids ask for seconds.

A basic risotto recipe can be altered simply by changing the intingolo, the sauce or cooked ingredients added to the risotto.  Risotti are prepared following the same basic procedure, with variations according to the intingoli.

For this recipe, you'll require two pans - one for the intingolo and the other for the basic risotto.

Basic Risotto Recipe

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1½ cups Arborio rice
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 medium shallot or ½ small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • Kosher salt, to taste


Heat the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot. Note: Liquids added to the risotto should be warm rather than cold.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot or onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until slightly translucent.

Add the rice to the pot, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon until the grains are coated. Don't let the rice turn brown.

Add the wine, stirring until the liquid is fully absorbed.

Then add a ladle of warm chicken stock to the rice, stirring until the liquid is fully absorbed.Continue adding ladles of stock and stirring the rice while the liquid is absorbed. As it cooks, the rice will take on a creamy consistency as it begins to release its natural starches.

Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy.

If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn't done, you can finish the cooking using hot water. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring while it's absorbed.

As the last stock is being absorbed, stir in the desired intingolo.

Finally, stir in the remaining butter, the Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese and the parsley.  Correct to taste with Kosher salt.

Serve immediately since risotto turns glutinous if held for too long.  Properly cooked, the risotto should be soft and creamy.

Spinach Mushroom Intingolo


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup, red pepper, diced
  • 4 cups spinach, washed & coarsely torn

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Cremini mushrooms, red pepper and garlic.  Saute until tender. Then add the spinach and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted, about 3-4 minutes.

Saturday Night Eat-In: Wild Mahogany Clams with Linguine

These tender and meaty clams taste great and are beautiful plated

Recently I found myself in Chinatown - early - going for accupuncture and massage treatments.  I love this time of day, when the streets are clean and uncrowded and the fishmongers are putting out the day's catch.  It all looks good and smells good and inspires me to cook.

I spied a heavenly bag of wild mahogany clams next to the heaps of bags of brilliantly black mussels-alive-alive-oh.  They glistened like wet tiger's eye.  And into my shopping bag they went, to be transported back to Brooklyn for a garlicky feast.

Wild mahoghany clams or golden neck are similar in flavor to Quahogs, but more robust and a little saltier.  They are fantastic in pasta dishes and hold up well in dishes with strong, complex flavor structures.  

I bought a bottle of Shiao Xing wine, which tastes a bit like sherry, but drier, to add to my impromptu feast.

Wild Mahogany Clams with Fresh Herbs & Linguine

8 ounces linguine

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small tomato, diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 sprig thyme
1 cup clam juice or chicken stock
1/4 cup Shiao Xing wine
2 pounds (20-24) Wild Mahogany clams, scrubbed and cleaned of grit


Place clams in a cold salter water bath with a 1/4 cup of corn meal for about a half hour, rinsing periodically as clams disgorge grit. Discard any clams with bnroken shells or those which are open and do not close when handled. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta. 

Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add tomatoes, herbs, wine and stock. Finally, add clams and cover, reducing heat to medium. 

Cook until clams open, about - 6 minutes. With tongs, transfer fresh clams to plate, throwing out any unopened clams. Add cooked pasta to sauce in skillet, tossing to coat the pasta, about a minute. 

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide pasta between bowls. Top with fresh clams and serve. 

Wine pairing: Henry LaGarde Reserve 2008, Mendoza, Rose "Well-defined salmon color, clear and bright, with outstanding cherry flavors. This blend of Malbec and Pinot Noir is fresh and complex in the mouth." (Beacon Wines)

Saturday night eat-in: asparagus & pepper salame pie

Easy as pie!

This Saturday night's eat-in is as easy as pie - pizza pie.

There's plenty of time for board games, Blockbuster or making small talk with this meal - an asparagus, pepper salame and mozzarella pie.

Grab a bag of dough (whole wheat, herb & garlic, or plain) at Trader Joe's (.99 cents all day long), a bag of shredded mozzarellla too, and get ready to relax with a glass of Chianti and your fam.

Leave the crust out to bring to room temperature.  Flour and roll the dough to fit a large pizza pan. spoon a thin layer of sauce over the dough, then cover with shredded mozzarella.  

Top with thin slices of pepper salame and tender cooked asaparagus.  

Bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven or until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

Serve with mixed baby greens, roasted corn and beet salad lioghtly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Saturday Night Eat-in: Pasta con Mollica


Around our house the running joke for leftover or bare-pantry meals is that it's International Night because you never know what in the world you'll find on your plate.

This week's Saturday Night Eat-In honors the bare pantry with Pasta con Mollica or Pasta with Bread Crumbs. This is Tuscan peasant food which is so simply divine you don't realize you are eating frugally. Serve with spinach stuffed mushroom caps and baby carrots with peas.

Since I am typically a hoarder and keep staples on hand, I always have a box of pasta in the house.  I never knew a carbohydrate I didn't love either, so there is always bread.  Cheese is my best-est friend. 

Voila!  The centerpiece of my meal is all right here.

Next, I dig out the baby carrots my son refused to eat in his school lunch, plus the emergency frozen petits pois - love how elegant French makes garden variety peas.

Lastly, I grab some portobello mushrooms, originally destined for a homemade pizza, and a bag of spinach.  

It's International Night!

Spinach & Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 mushroom caps, cleaned & trimmed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 cups fresh spinach
1 & 1/2 oz goat cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmigiano reggiano
salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil to medium heat, then sautee the mushrooms caps until just tender. In the last five minutes, add the balsamic vinegar.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and place on a baking sheet.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to skillet and heat to medium before adding spinach.  Stir until wilted. Then add to food processor, along with goat cheese and pulse to just smooth.  Spoon spinach-cheese mixture into mushroom caps & top with grated parmigiano.

Place in the oven until grated cheese is melted.  Cut into quarters for serving.

Pasta con Mollica

1 lb mostaccicoli or other short pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1/4 day-old baguette, cubed & toasted
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Bring water for pasta to a boil in a large pot, adding the pasta to cook for about 8-9 minutes or until just tender.  

In a small sauce pan,  heat olive oil and garlic, adding the Italian herbs (I bought mine in Rome's Campo dei Fiori, but they are readily available in grocers or substitute herbs of Provence).

Drain the pasta, then add the olive oil, garlic and herbs, and the toasted bread crumbs, mixing well.
Place a generous serving of pasta in the center of a plate, then place vegetables and mushroom quarters on either side.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with Bio-Weingut H.U.M. Hofer Grüner Veltliner Trocken 2008. $12.99 for 1L. 

"Bottled in a full one liter bottle with a beer bottle style crown cap, (this Gruner) is a refreshingly versatile, food friendly un-oaked white that packs a mouthful of flavor in every sip. The flavors are reminiscent of citrus, minerals, and the tell-tale white pepper that Grüner is known for. Bone dry with plenty of cleansing acidity on the finish, it's a worthy companion to Southeast Asian and Pacific Rim cuisine, as well as with vegetable dishes, fish and white meat." (67 Wine)