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A Side Dish Inspired by Seattle

Last weekend my dad and I flew up to Seattle to visit my sister Rachael. I love Seattle for many reasons-one of which is the food. There were a few spots I’d been wanting to try, so we made the most of our time and hit up Serious Pie, the Chai House, Lark, Macrina Bakery, The Harbour Public House on Bainbridge Island and a few other spots for treats and coffee. I wish I could show you some pictures, but I stupidly forgot my camera. Suffice it to say, it was brisk and rainy (Seattle never disappoints when I visit) but utterly beautiful in a stark, fall kind of way.

Rachael lives in Ballard in a sweet little green house on a wide, leafy street. Oh, and she has a fig tree. Her house is right across the street from this little blue craftsman bungalow that I fell in love with last time I saw it. A few days before my visit last week, Rachael called to tell me if was for sale and that we should check it out the second I landed.

It was my Dad’s first time visiting , so as we cruised him around Ballard and noticed the “For Sale” sign had been taken down. My little blue house sold so quickly! Now it’s not that I was really looking to move this second, but every time I come to Seattle I marvel at how great it is. Yes, we have quaint, distinct neighborhoods in San Francisco and we also have fantastic food. But I love the way the weather and the outdoors is interwoven into the fabric and culture of the city, how casual it is, and how much more you get for your money in Seattle. There’s a quality of life that you can obtain with much, much less. But for now-the flights are cheap, so I’ll settle on visiting.

Our most memorable meal was at Lark. I’ll be honest. I eat out a lot. Often, with time, the memories of a meal or a dish begin to fade. I’m pretty confident this won’t be the case with Lark. They serve small plates, so you order many things to try and share amongst the table. We sampled the roasted sunchokes with rosemary and lavender, Oxbow baby lettuces with beets, Pork rilletes with ficelle toast, crispy pork belly, Meyer Ranch Coulotte steak, and the sauteed wild mushrooms with garlic and sea salt. Everything was absolute perfection: seasonal, thoughtful, and prepared and plated beautifully. But, oh heavens: those mushrooms. They were delicate and flavorful. The table grew quiet.

On the flight home, I bought December’s Bon Appetit magazine and saw a recipe for Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto. It called for many of the beautiful wild mushrooms that we’d had the previous night–and farro is one of my favorite grains, with its hearty, nutty texture. It’s an Italian grain and you’ll start to see it more and more in the stores as it’s slowly gaining popularity here. When I saw the recipe, I knew it was a priority the second I unpacked and settled back in to California warmth (or warmer, at least) and the reality of sending out more resumes (never-ending). So here it is.


Although my blue house sold, I have a little part of Seattle right here at home with this recipe. It’s the perfect warm, creamy, hearty fall side dish. Or, with a big salad or some sauteed chard, it would be a nice, light meal in and of itself. So wherever you decide to call home, this recipe will help you settle right in.


Mushroom-Farro Risotto
From: Bon Appetit (12/09)
I had to go to a few stores to find farro. If you can’t hunt any down, you could certainly use quinoa, bulgar, or a similar hearty grain and it’d be fabulous–just keep an eye on the grains softening as the cooking times may differ slightly. I used dried mushrooms from Trader Joe’s: they sell a “Mixed Wild Mushroom Medley” with porcini, shiitake, black and oyster mushrooms. That’s always an option instead of buying each variety separately. Otherwise, you can find the dried mushrooms at specialty grocery stores in the produce section. And for fresh mushrooms, I used cremini and shiitakes. The recipe does make 8 portions, so adjust accordingly if you don’t have eight folks to feed.

Ingredients:
6 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth, divided
1 1/2-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2-ounce package dried morel mushrooms
1 1/2-ounce package dried chanterelle mushrooms
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as cremini, stemmed shiitake, oyster)
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups whole grain farro
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Directions:

Bring 3 cups broth and all dried mushroom to oil in a large heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mushrooms are soft, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to work surface. Cut large mushrooms in half. Reserve broth and mushrooms separately.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fresh mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown, 7-8 minutes. Add reserved soaked mushrooms and saute 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic; saute until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Add farro; stir 1 minute. Pour in reserved mushroom soaking broth, leaving any sediment behind. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups chicken broth. Boil uncovered until farro is tender, adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls if dry and stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes longer. Stir in cheese, cream, and herbs. Stir in half of mushroom mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl; scatter remaining mushrooms over top.

  1. Posted November 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Oh I love mushroom risotto and this looks interesting made with farro. I think I can get that at the health food store close to my house. Mushroom risotto is a bit of a staple in our house in the winter… I love the sound of the little blue house but also think you are right in that making a comforting dish like this will help you call "wherever you are" home.

  2. Posted November 22, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks, Mardi. Yes, you should be able to find farro at the health food store, maybe even the mainstream market (where I found mine).

  3. Posted November 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I'm glad you had a good time in Seattle. The risotto photographs are stunning. I'm getting hungry just looking at them! And, the recipe sounds incredibly tasty too. I'll definitely be trying this recipe out!

  4. Posted November 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Actually, I just thought of a question. Is there any difference between farro and abborio rice? I don't think I've ever tried farro. What do you recommend?

  5. Posted November 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Hi there-
    You know, farro isn't really the same as abborio rice…farro is quite hearty/dense, almost like bulgar or barley. I think you could certainly do this successfully with abborio rice, but my guess is that the cooking time will be a little quicker and you may need to add must a bit more broth. Keep me posted!

  6. Posted November 22, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    I am glad to hear there is a little piece of Seattle with you where ever you go! Nothing can beat those mushrooms at Lark. I have planned a trip with friends for the first week in December to go back! The photos are absolutely beautiful…top notch!

  7. Posted November 23, 2009 at 7:28 am

    That looks like a hearty winter dish and good for me too. More please!

  8. j
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 9:04 am

    This looks great! A question: in my grocery store I have a lot of fresh wild mushrooms available. I'm always looking for reasons to buy them. Do you think the recipe would be negatively changed if I used only fresh mushrooms?

  9. Posted November 24, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Hey there J-
    No, I think it'd be great if you used all fresh mushrooms. Essentially what you do with the wild mushrooms is rehydrate them in the broth anyway…just account for the fact that the dried ones aren't soaking up broth, so you'll want to use probably about 1/2 cup less or so. Just feel it out. Let me know how it goes!

  10. Posted November 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    ooo, mushroom risotto, so comforting…

    I love how rustic your photos turned out, such a perfect fit for the mood of the recipe. Makes me feel like I'm in Italy :)

  11. Posted December 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    What a fun blog!
    Love the clove can!

  12. Posted December 6, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Loved your dishes and blog too. Yummy…..delicious.

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