Food and Drink Blog: Warm vegetable goodness

With November just around the corner, Halloween will soon make way for more wintery decorations as the days get shorter and getting out of bed becomes even more difficult. Carleton’s tunnel traffic will soon reflect the depressing weather outside, and we’ll be taking out those bulky Sorels from under the bed once more.

It’s easy to let the cold get the best of you, but nothing beats coming home and preparing a warm meal that’ll make you ignore the weather forecast. These two dishes are sure to comfort you, no matter how much snow is on the ground. They store well too, so, you can enjoy them both at home and on campus.

Green Pea and Mint Soup

My mom got this recipe from a French cookbook she was given years ago, and she keeps coming back to it for its simplicity and the guaranteed praise from guests and picky family members alike. Cream or milk will make the final product all the more delicious, but if you’re making this in large batches, you might want to skip the dairy as it will store for longer without. Simply add a splash of sour cream before serving, and it’ll taste just as good.

Ingredients:

500g frozen young green peas

500ml light chicken stock (homemade is always best, but if not, find a good quality stock and stick to it—it’s the secret to so many incredible dishes)

A big handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

A splash of milk

Sour cream (optional)

Steps:

  1. Pour the green peas into a large pot and fill with chicken stock. Add in the mint leaves and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the peas are tender.
  2. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. If you don’t have one, pouring the mixture into a standard blender or food processor will work too. Once blended, the soup should be on the thicker side, so don’t worry if it’s not as creamy as you’d like.
  3. With the blended mixture back into the pot, add in a generous splash of milk to add creaminess to the soup. This step is largely up to personal taste, so feel free to add as much or as little as you want.
  4. A dollop of sour cream when serving really adds to the flavor, and feel free to garnish with extra mint leaves. If it’s payday and you’re feelin bougie, sprinkle some pine nuts on top and make sure to send a nice picture to Gordon Ramsay. Let me know what he has to say.

Mushroom Risotto

If I had to pick my last meal, a basic risotto bianco would definitely feature on the list. It’s one of those dishes that’s easy to make, yet people have spent their whole lives trying to perfect it. Much like pasta, it can be a blank canvas for so many variants, but no one would deny that a plain risotto can stand on its own. The choice of mushrooms in this dish is largely personal preference. Basic white mushrooms will work great, but if you have access to some dried chanterelles or morels, they will take it to the next level, as the water you used to hydrate them will add even more flavor to the final product. This is a hands-on dish, but trust me, it’s worth every minute spent stirring.

Ingredients:

200g of arborio rice

One yellow onion

Olive oil

Butter

Parmesan cheese

Mushrooms of your choice

Salt and pepper

Chicken stock (I hope you’re starting to notice how many dishes require stock)

White wine

Steps:

  1. Peel your onion and cut it in half lengthwise (from the tip to the root). Then, cut again into quarters. Separate the quarters into two groups of onion layers, and slice as thinly as you can. Once you have a pile of narrow strips, align them and chop as finely as possible. While there’s nothing wrong with the standard way of dicing an onion for most recipes, for risotto the extra-fine chop will make the onion melt as it cooks, so you won’t be left with onion chunks in your risotto.
  2. In a large sauté pan or wide pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat (pouring a loose spiral around the pan is a good rule of thumb). Once simmering, add in the onions and sweat until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. You DON’T want these to brown .
  3. Add in the rice and stir so the grains are coated in the oil. After a minute or so you should hear a slight crackling sound, at which point pour in roughly half a glass of white wine. If you’re an underage freshman (as I was), substitute wine for grape juice and a splash of white wine vinegar, so you still get the freshness and acidity.
  4. Roughly chop your mushrooms (if fresh) and add into the pan.
  5. Once most of the wine has evaporated, start gradually pouring in your stock. If you were using dried mushrooms, feel free to add in that mushroom water I mentioned earlier. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for roughly 10 minutes, adding more liquid as necessary. Once cooked the grains should be slightly al dente without having any crunch.
  6. Arborio rice will produce enough creaminess on its own, but since it’s winter and you don’t have to worry about a summer bod anymore, add in a tablespoon or two of butter and stir in along with some parmesan, take off the heat and cover for five minutes. When you remove that lid you’ll be presented with an explosion of aroma, and feel free to add more cheese on top to serve.

Photos by Amedeo De Pretto