Easy Homemade Calzone: A Tasty and Healthy New Year

Easy Homemade Calzone: A Tasty and Healthy New Year

It’s no secret, we love Italian food around my house — specifically, a great homemade pizza. I have perfected the art of pizza making in The GrooVy Foody household, trying out tons of dough recipes until I came across one that is, our idea, of perfection. So for my last recipe entry in Bob’s Red Mill(BRM) and California Olive Ranch(COR) Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge I decided to put that crust to the test — in a Calzone.

Crimini mushrooms, red onion and Italian herb blend

An Un-Whole-y Confession

Red onion, Crimini mushrooms, spinach and herbs

Though, we prefer and mostly eat whole food, cooked from scratch in our house, I will confess, that after a busy day, I have been known to pop into Trader Joe’s for pre-made doughs (in whole wheat, regular and herb), a jar of their vodka sauce, a package of nitrate-free prosciutto and some free range chicken in order to throw together my chicken, prosciutto and vodka sauce pizza, topped off with TJ’s fresh-in-the-bag organic arugula. This pizza is a crowd pleaser and it’s some that if you make it for guests, they will think you are something of a culinary mastermind, when indeed you just threw together some high quality, but pre-packed goods for a quick and easy, tummy pleasing meal.

Layered filling ingredients

Best, Quick Pizza (Calzone) Dough EVER!

But, had you just a few minutes more or a wee bit more energy, you could make your own crust and sauce (or as I do, pull some of my famous Bolo-Nessie sauce out of the freezer or grab that jar of organic sauce off the shelf at TJ’s) for a truly memorable pizza experience. Not surprisingly, the best pizza crust recipe I have EVER come across for the quick and easy variety, is one by Bob’s Red Mill (told you, I was a fan before they sponsored me!) TIP:they also sell a really great gluten-free pizza crust mix.

Into the oven

Now, there are many crust recipes on BRM’s website (many contributed by fans) but let me tell which one I prefer out of all of them — it’s Bob’s own Quick and Easy Pizza Dough and here’s why:  it’s quick AND easy just like it says. Plus, it has a wonderful chew to it, as well as the perfect texture for folks, who like a thin, floppy, New York style crust with a good pull to it.

But the REAL secret to good pizza dough is in the yeast — and BRM’s is some of the freshest, most active yeast I’ve ever worked with. Just beautiful and it lasts a long while. One 8oz bag, when stored properly, can last you for months. (If you can keep it that long because once you learn how easy this great crust can be, you’ll never call out for pizza or as in this case, Calzone, again.)

 

Finito

I used BRM’s Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and COR’s Arbequina Olive Oil for a Calzone that high in flavor but also packed full of fiber and good nutrition. My hubby and son love pepperoni, so we filled our Calzone with a thin layer of soft goat cheese, the nitrate-free variety of pepperoni you can find made by Applegate Farms or Hormel’s new preservative-free line of products, sautéed red onion and Crimini mushrooms, and topped it with a layer of grated whole milk mozzarella. I serve  this with a marinara or Homemade Bolo-Nessie sauce on the side for dipping.

Mangia!

QUICK & EASY PIZZA or CALZONE DOUGH

Adapted from: Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods 

  • 1 cup Warm Water (110°F)
  • 2 tsp 1/4 BRM’s Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp  sugar
  • 2 cups to 2 1/4 cups  BRM Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbsp California Olive Ranch Olive Oil (plus more for top and pan)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease pizza pan with a light coating of COR olive oil; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water — let bubble for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Beat vigorously 20 strokes and let rest 5 minutes.

FOR PIZZA:

On a floured work surface with a floured rolling-pin, roll out the dough until it is the size of the pan you will be using.

Place dough on prepared pan. Spread sauce over dough and top with your favorite toppings. Bake on middle rack of oven for 15-20 minutes. Makes one 16-inch pizza crust (12 slices).

FOR CALZONE:
  • Tear or cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out dough on floured surface or stretch and toss by hand until it is double the desired size of your Calzone.
  • Fill with cheese, herbs, veggies and desired meat of your choice, keeping a 1 inch lip around the edge of the dough, filling-free so that you will be able to seal it properly. Be sure to take care not to over-stuff your Calzone and to get a nice balance of flavors.
  • Next, crimp, fold or otherwise seal the edge of your Calzone with a fork along 1 inch lip all around the edge. This will ensure your filling stay tidily inside.
  • Then, lightly coat the outside of you Calzone with olive oil using either a pastry brush or your hands and cut three venting slits in the top of your Calzone and place it on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake on middle rack of oven for 12-16 minutes.  Makes 4 medium-sized Calzones.

YOUR LAST CHANCE TO WIN!!!

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway

Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.

Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.

That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!

For more information on how you can win– visit the host page for links to the other sites!

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge with Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge with Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch

It’s a new year and that means people all over the world are gearing up to be the very best they can be. Instead of just focusing on weight loss in 2012, some of us are focusing on better overall health. That’s why the Virtual Potluck Bloggers have teamed up with Bob’s Red Mill (BRM) and California Olive Ranch(COR) (like this GrooVy Foody did back in December for their “Bake a Better Holiday”) to bring you “A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge.”

Each week the VP participants will cook up their fabulous BRM/COR Healthy New Year offerings and GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO WIN A BOB’S RED MILL/CALIFORNIA OLIVE RANCH PRIZE PACKAGE! (See details below.)

Virtual Potluck’s January 2012 mission

Duration: 4 weeks during January 2012

Challenge: To develop, inspire, create – 1 recipe per week for a 4-course meal, over course of month’s time

Ingredients: 1 new California Olive Ranch Olive Oil paired with 1 fresh Bob’s Red Mill product every week  (see schedule below)

Participants:  Virtual Potluck Members at 12 blogging outposts around the country

Week 1: Appetizer – Hard White Whole Wheat Flour – Arbequina extra virgin olive oil
Week 2: Side Dish – Grande Whole Grains Blend – Miller’s Blend extra virgin olive oil
Week 3: The Main Event– Quinoa Grain – Arbosana extra virgin olive oil
Week 4: Dessert – Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – Everyday Fresh California extra virgin olive oil

(Some may branch off from this schedule, so don’t be surprised to find different pairings or different types of dishes.)

The Virtual Potluck Bloggers


A little extra focus on health is always in fashion over at Diabetic Foodie where Shelby whips up culinary creations that won’t spike your blood sugar but still taste divine.

Warm Herbed Goat Cheese with Homemade Whole Wheat Pita Breadusing the Arbequina and Hard White Whole Wheat Flour. I made the pita bread dough in a bread machine, then rolled it out in individual rounds and baked it. It was so much fun to see it puff up in the oven. Once it puffed, it stayed puffed – even after it cooled – so when you sliced it in half, there was already a built-in pocket (no trying to peel the two layers apart and then tearing the bread as with store-bought).For our second week, Shelby has set out to dazzle you with her sumptuous Onions Stuffed with Grande Grains, Currants and Pine Nuts and week 3 brings a hearty Quinoa and Lentil Chili.

Proving that healthy doesn’t have to mean deprivation, Heather over at Farmgirl Gourmet decided to make an orange infused baked (not fried!) donut using the Hard White Whole Wheat Flour and Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  The donuts came out light and moist and needed only a quick dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Coming up for Weeks 2-4 will be a “Homemade Spicy Sausage & Grande Whole Grains Stuffing”, a Pear and Bacon Quinoa Pizza and lastly a “Peach Upside-Down Whole Wheat Olive Oil Cake”.

Over at Not Rachel Ray‘s, our resident Rachel has whipped up quite an assortment of recipes for her Healthy New Year including:
Dessert: Yogurt Tart in a Whole Wheat Crust

Donna at Cookistry bakes her way to health with mini-flatbreads served with hummus and warm olive salad and says,” Just a few bites, but packed with flavor. Even better, you can make this in advance, and assemble just before your guests arrive. Or, let the guests assemble their own.”

As an accomplished baker, Donna put a new twist on the second week’s grande grains by baking them into her Grande Grain Miller’s Blend Muffins. Check out Week 3’s Rice-i-Noa– a healthier alternative to a familiar box.

The “Miss” of Miss in the Kitchen used Bob’s Red Mill Hard White Whole Wheat Flour to make blinis topped with homemade ricotta, fresh rosemary, pine nuts and a good drizzle of California Olive Ranch Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it sounds fancy doesn’t it?  Well, it’s super easy and will be the appetizer that is totally impressive to your guests!
For week two, using the Grande Grains and Millers Blend Olive Oil, Miss made a healthful and tasty Sesame-Stir Fry Vegetable Grande Grains Pilaf that she says is, “perfect along side a grilled chicken breast, fish or even steak.” Quinoa takes center stage in Miss’s Week 3  Smoked Salmon Quinoa Patties and lemon tartar sauce.

Looks like Nelly (our newlywed) over at Cooking With Books, has some scrummy treats in store for us this month:

Appetizer: Lemon Thyme Cookies with Roasted Pepper Spread
Side: Cape Cod Cranberry Grande Grain Salad
Main Dish: Quinoa and Sausage Casserole
Dessert: Olive Oil and Marzipan Spiced Brownies
Our resident Celebrity Chef, Jay DuCote of Bite n’ Booze (He was on MasterChef, did you catch him?) put together Elk Sausage and Black Bean Soup.  Jay made a roux for the soup with BRM whole wheat flour and COR Arbosana olive oil.
For week three Jay has whipped up Toasted Pecan and Parmesan Quinoa plus a Giveaway!
If you know Theresa over at Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine you know she hunts down and serves up with the best of ’em. For this challenge, Theresa baked up fresh whole wheat bread from scratch for her Caprese Bruschetta.
“I made whole wheat bread with the flour and an amazing pesto with the oil.  I also, drizzled the oil on the bread before constructing.  This was one of the best wheat breads I’ve ever made and the oil was also very flavorful.”
Theresa’s second week entry over at Food Hunter is a Mediterranean Whole Grain Salad and for the third week a fresh Quinoa Primavera to set your heart aflutter.

Any meal with family or friends deserves an appetizer that really kicks things off. This Olive Oil Flatbread from Matt at Thyme in Our Kitchen is easy to make and can be adapted to fit any health goal. The flatbread is made with Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour and the fruity Arbequina olive oil from California Olive Ranch. Toppings on this heart healthy version include caramelized shallots, roasted egg plant and fresh spinach. It’s drizzled with a cilantro chutney and of course a bit more olive oil. Week 2 saw Matt whipping up Curried Whole Grain Pilaf with Bacon, Mushroom and Cabbage and in Week 3 he wowed with Quinoa Cakes with Walnut and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette.

Susan at 30AEats  brings us a Sundried Tomato, Kalamata Olive and Basil Pesto Focaccia. Since Susan’s whole family works in healthcare (so they know health!)  she solicited input from her husband and daughter to come up with this recipe, “My daughter is a huge fan of pesto, and we all adore kalamata olives, we came up with our Sun-dried Tomato, Kalamata Olive and Basil Pesto Focaccia. . . I paired it with a beautiful salad of local greens from my Seaside Farmer’s Market. I  also used the Arbequina drizzled on top as a dressing.”

For Week 2 Susan made Whole Grain Quinoa Tabouleh With Peppers  and for Week 3 Grande’ Grains Jambalaya.

Tara over at Foodie just took on a new promotion at work that’s keeping her busy — but not too busy to take part this challenge! Watch as she wows you with Prime Rib and Shrimp Whole Wheat Fried Ravioli. Look for Tara’s second week entry of Grande Whole Grains with Spinach and Serrano Ham and the Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa with Ribeye and Roasted Brussels Sprouts she just cooked up for week 3 .

Week 1 Cheesy Asian-Inspired Sesame Rolls right here on The GrooVy Foody.
Week 4

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway

Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.

Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.

That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!

For more information on how you can win– visit the sites listed above!

“Baking a Better Holiday”: Chocolate-Almond Olive Oil Cake (*with a Kick)

“Baking a Better Holiday”: Chocolate-Almond Olive Oil Cake (*with a Kick)

. . .California Olive Ranch in my kitchen.

When Bob’s Red Mill met. . .

Not long ago, as things with the Emeril promotion were winding down but before Virtual Potluck really solidified into the amazing network of food bloggers it is today, I approached Bob’s Red Mill (BRM) asking them to partner with my blog and to let me explore their many flours, grains and legumes. Being the “real people,” kind of company that they are, they got right back to me (the SAME day!) and agreed to let me sample their wares.

(Look for a post on this later in the week AND a brilliant Giveaway, courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill!)

Cooking up a plan

As I chatted back and forth via email with Cassidy from BRM, she mentioned that my blog might be perfect for a holiday baking promotion they were running with California Olive Ranch Olive Oil (COR) — since I LOVE olive oil, for everything from sauteing to baking to conditioning my hair — I said an immediate, YES!

Something for your little monster. . .and the big ones too!

NOTE: After pitching my Virtual Potluck brethren to both Cassidy at BRM and Kirsten at COR they decided to tailor a little cross promotional fun for our group in January (Look for VP’s Healthy New Year in January — there will be freebies!)

Bake a Better Holiday

Needless to say I was pretty stoked about the partnership and looking forward to exploring the food items. Then I received the first batch of Bob’s Red Mill ingredients (full disclosure I already LOVE this company, anyway!) and my first bottle of California Olive Ranch’s oil (I’d never tried it before) and Wowy-Zowy! I was over the moon.

The reasons:

  • I love to feed my family whole, unfettered foods (no added crap!) and BRM and COR are just that!
  • The quality is amazing in both companies lines.
  • The flavors found in just that one bottle of olive oil were enough to make me a believer — NOT all olive oils are alike!

The capper on this “Bake a Better Holiday” promo — I got to create my OWN unique recipe using one grain of my choice from BRM and one olive oil of my choice from COR.  I was SO in!

Endagered Species chocolate (fair trade and eco-minded) + COR's Arbosana

Recipe Development

Though there are many amazing ways to use olive oil in baking, both savory and sweet, I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to use California Olive Ranch’s Arbosana Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my recipe this holiday season.

Since Arbosana is a Spanish variety, what better match than chocolate (no surprise to my readers!), whose history runs deep with the Spaniards and cayenne, which seems to provide just the right amount of subtle, flavorful heat to many latin (as well as French and Creole) based dishes and always pairs well with the dark mistress.

LUV this almond flour for cookies, cakes and breading chicken!

While you might be thinking, “Olive oil in sweets?!” I would like to quickly point out that the Italians use olive oil in everything — including sweets. Besides the extra added health benefits of using olive oil, it lends itself quite nicely to both savory and sweet cooking and baking.

In fact, if you look at a line like COR’s, which cultivates and bottles different varietals, that in turn, produce different flavor profiles (like wine) and when paired correctly, can help take your dish to that next level, you’ll see exactly why olive oil like this is made for baking sweets. Through my travels in Italy, I came across the beautifully dense Italian olive oil cakes, made with almond meal, because of this, I chose Bob’s Red Mill’s Almond Flour Meal for its added moistness and complimentary flavor pairing.

This cake came out amazing!

The Arbosana really is a lovely, complex oil that I enjoyed working with it on this and in many other dishes.The cayenne in the recipe gives this cake a little kick, while the combination of whipped egg whites, olive oil and almond meal flour give this dense, flourless cake an unparallelled moistness and delicate crumb. Though many like to glaze or frost cakes like these and it would be undoubtedly delicious with a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream and a trickle of dessert wine, I urge you to use premium chocolate and eat it naked (the cake, not you — or both, if you like!) If you need something more, just lightly dust it with powdered sugar and a sprinkling of cayenne powder!

Now, they’re passing  on the fun to YOU

Visit California Olive Ranch or Bob’s Red Mills’ Facebook Pages to enter their Contest for a chance to win a $50 BRM gift card and some COR olive oil. From COR’s Facebook page:

“We’ve teamed with our friends at Bob’s Red Mill to launch a Facebook Contest here starting this Thursday, Dec 1. It runs thru Dec 8.  Share a favorite pairing of our olive oil with a BRM product  –  3 winners with the most ‘likes’ will win fabulous prizes.

You can win a $50 BRM gift card and olive oil to boot!  Winners will be announced Friday, Dec 9.

We’re looking for pairings that showcase our two products – perhaps muffins using our oil and one of Bob’s flours. We don’t need a detailed recipe – just an idea and two ingredients, like Gingerbread using California Olive Ranch’s Arbequina and Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour.

Wanna stay in the loop on all the baking and cooking fun?!

Xocolātl (Chocolate) Almond Olive Oil Cake

  • 6 ounces premium bittersweet (72% or higher) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, scraped (or 1tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Arbosana Olive Oil
  • ¾ cup sugar (divided into ½ and ¼ cup measurements)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill almond flour

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a double boiler (or a bowl within a pan set-up) melt chocolate over simmering water, stirring smooth. Once melted, stir in the olive oil and cayenne. In your mixer or a mixing bowl by hand, beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar and vanilla pod seeds or extract until combined and pale in color. Stir melted chocolate mixture into eggs, a bit at a time, incorporating it swiftly to keep the eggs from cooking too quickly. Then add the almond meal flour.

Set this mixture aside and beat the egg whites with your mixer until foamy and white. Slowly beat in the ¼ cup of remaining sugar and the cream of tartar. Continue beating until the egg whites are stiff but not quite meringue. Fold ¼ of your egg white mixture into the chocolate batter, then the rest, a ¼ at a time until completely mixed. The batter will be sort of firm like a loose cookie dough consistency and may be a bit tough to work with, take extra care when folding in the portion of egg whites. As you add more, the batter will become looser and smoother, making it easier to handle. Pour the batter into an 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan (I think a springform pan works best!) that has been lined with foil or baking parchment paper.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely and then pop open the spring and slide onto your serving dish, carefully removing any baking paper or foil. Serve as is or garnish with raspberries, chocolate shavings, almonds, glaze or dust with powdered sugar and cayenne.

Happy Cooking — And Eating!

*BONUS-- I got to use some of my leftover Marx Foods Madagascar Vanilla bean, too!

Marx Foods Makes Me Go Berserk! Spicy Vanilla Mushroom Risotto

Marx Foods Makes Me Go Berserk! Spicy Vanilla Mushroom Risotto

Spicy Vanilla Mushroom Risotto w/spinach and brie stuffed chicken breasts

As a food blogger (and 1/12 of  The Virtual Potluck (VP)) I get to try out new foods, cookbooks and appliances from time to time for free — for a foodie like me, this is some kind of perk! Sometimes those perks are a little better than others and sometimes those perks go a little berserk.

Recently, the VP was approached by Marx Foods who, though based in our soggy sister city to the north –Seattle, I had never run across before. We agreed to let Marx put together a selection of random ingredients for us to try out in our own signature recipes this Thanksgiving. After perusing their site, I was excited to see what they would send us.

Wanna see what the other 11 foodies came up with? Visit our Host Page for this event and follow all the action on Twitter #virtualpotluck!

What I found, when I received the tiny brown box, was a menagerie of seemingly unrelated items, packaged in small quantities. Upon opening the box, I was hit full force by the sweet sensual aroma of dried Madagascar (bourbon) vanilla beans (they sent two small bags — Yay! extra vanilla!)  I confess, I couldn’t stop sniffing the bags– it was addictive!

Besides the glorious vanilla beans, which made their way into banana smoothies, raspberry thumbprint tea cookies, whipped cream filling in my decadent Mt. Hood cupcakes, and a bevy of other dishes and drinks (watch for them later in the week!) was that my box contained 2 deeply cherry-toned, dried Guajillo chilis, 9 dried fiery Habaneros, a palm full of dried porcini mushrooms, a slightly larger handful of dried Maitake mushrooms, and 1 cup of Italian Vialone Nano Rice — only THE best rice for making a saucy risotto!

While I was excited by the amazing quality of the ingredients (this stuff is top-notch — their quality control must be super sticklers — there was  not a bad, crumpled or spotted item in the bunch), I was sort of sad to see that I had so little,  in terms of quantity, to work with. We were all creating brand new recipes from scratch here and having so little of each ingredient, meant the ultimate test of cook’s skill, I was working without a net — I had to get this recipe right in one-shot! Could I do it? What ingredients should I choose? What wouldn’t be a lame cop-out — surely just whipping up some homemade vanilla bean cupcakes was too easy. What to do? What to do? And then it happened ~ all that thinking ~ all that pressure made me pop a spring!

So what did I do?I take that perfectly wonderful perk — and go berserk!

For those of you that do not know the proper definition of the word berserk let me present it to you now, courtesy of Merriam Webster:

1:  an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable

2:  one whose actions are recklessly defiant
Though this would be a frenzied battle (and one in which I would, indeed, prove to be invulnerable) I am NOT ancient (no matter what my 3-year-old thinks) nor am I — Scandinavian. I was however, in light of the short supply, recklessly defiant in my own kitchen. (Somebody call the authorities — I might just run with scissors next!)
I decided to use all of my supplied ingredients (each and every one but not all quantities provided) in one dish.  So I said it — out loud, for the first time, as a joke — “I should make spicy vanilla mushroom risotto.”  As the words escaped my lips, I laughed but inside a little voice said, quietly, “Why not?”
The next time I said it, was in a Facebook chat with my VP cookmates and as I typed the words, the little voice said, “You should do it ~ it would be a great challenge.” A few moments later, I found myself typing in “I’m not kidding. I’m gonna do it.”
And so — Can I get a drumroll, please? I present to you, my GrooVy Readership:  Spicy Vanilla Mushroom Risotto
A few things you should know before you’re too impressed with me:
  1. I am NOT a risotto rookie. Do not try this at home unless you have mastered the art of risotto, first. I learned how great risotto should taste in Italy but I actually learned to make my first risotto well before that, from Nigella Lawson (or I should say from her fabulous cookbook, Nigella Bites, it just makes you feel as if Nigella is standing right next to you, chatting away as you cook together. So, NO. . .I do not actually know Nigella but I Love her just the same!)
  2. I remembered once seeing a recipe floating around the interwebs for Ostrich Steaks with Mushroom Vanilla Sauce, though I’ve never tasted, attempted, or known anyone who has tasted or attempted this dish — just knowing that it existed gave me the courage to dive off this recipe’s cliff.
  3. I am a wuss when it comes to heat (heartburn issues), so I was extremely happy that one of the peppers I was sent were the beautifully mild and sweet Guajillo (often used for tamales and mole’ dishes) and the small but fiery, Habanero (whose scale is only about 1 rung above cayenne’s in terms of heat units on the Scoville — it’s hot, but not Ghost pepper hot!)
  4. We all did NOT get the same ingredients. True — we all got vanilla and the same rice and we all received mushrooms and peppers but the combination of those peppers and mushrooms varied. The ingredients I received really lent themselves well to this dish.

The result was a distinctly flavored and pleasantly complex risotto — one unlike either I or my hubby has ever experienced. The flavor combination itself, was surprisingly, autumnal and very nearly addictive. (We devoured the leftovers for lunch the next day and he has already asked me to make it again.)

Moral of the story: It pays to take risks in the kitchen — all the best chefs do — you should, too! So the next time you have some seemingly random ingredients lying around your kitchen, I hope you think to yourself,  “Maybe I should go berserk and take a risk!”

Happy Cooking!

Spicy Vanilla Mushroom Risotto

  • 2 small or 1 large shallot(s)
  • 2 ribs celery (cleaned and de-stringed)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of dried Porcini mushrooms (rehydrated, reserve mushroom liquor)
  • 1/4 cup of dried Maitake mushrooms (rehydrated,reserve mushroom liquor)
  • 1  cup Italian Vialone Nano Rice (you can sub Arborio)
  • 1 quart chicken stock (a little more or less depending on your heat and stirring action)
  • 1 med dried Guajillo pepper (rehydrated and de-seeded, ribs removed)
  • 2 small dried orange Habanero chilis (rehydrated and de-seeded)
  • 1 vanilla bean (scraped completely)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano, plus more, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Good grating of fresh ground black pepper
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

Dice (or process) the shallots, onion and celery. Heat the olive oil in a deep saute pan, adding the shallot, onion and celery mixture. Cook until softened and transparent (about 5 minutes), making sure it doesn’t stick. Drain the mushrooms (you can soak them together in hot water for 30 minutes) and reserve the resulting liquor. Chop the mushrooms and add them to your saute pan. Add the liquor to an already simmering saucepan of chicken broth, that is just waiting to be added to the rice, one ladleful at a time.

With gloves or well- oiled hands and proper eye protection, remove the peppers from their water (where they have been rehydrating for the last 30 minutes as well) and slice off their stems, cutting them open to de-seed and remove the ribs  (this reduces the heat — if you like more heat, leave them in.) Once the peppers are cleaned, dice these as well and add them to the sauteing mixture. Once it’s all been incorporated, mix in your rice, stirring to give it a good coating of flavor and oil.

Begin adding your ladleful of simmering stock to the rice, continually stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful continuing to stir. Continue to do this until your rice is al dente and saucy but not too thick and sticky. You may not need all of the stock, equally, you may need to augment with additional hot water, if your stock runs out before completion.

Mix the scraped vanilla bean, cream, and egg yolk in a small bowl or mug along with the grated parm and pepper. When the risotto done – the rice is no longer chalky but is al dente and the liquid has been absorbed but is not starchy – remove  it from the heat and add your vanilla, egg, cream mixture, folding it into the risotto along with the butter and salt, to taste. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve topped with Parmesan.

Serves 2 to 4 by itself or as a side dish can work for 4 to 8.

I served mine with a simple spinach and brie stuffed chicken breast, seasoned only with sea salt and olive oil, because I wanted the risotto’s flavors to be the focus, with the chicken complementing its deep, rich flavors but ideally, you’ll serve yours with turkey this Thanksgiving!

Want to win some booty from Marx Foods?

Some of the Virtual Potluck members are giving away ingredient samples. Visit the host page and don’t forget to visit ALL of the blogs. There will be some things given away (different items on different sites),  some discounts  (how about 10% off your Marx Foods purchase, any time between November 21 and 27. Just enter the word POTLUCK into the Coupon Code field at checkout for 10 % off everything.) There’s also plenty of great recipes and fun to be had on Twitter–so make sure you check it all out!