Monday, October 18, 2004

Free Pitches, #1&2

Here I go, working to keep my mind off the election.

Lately I have been posing new cooking challenges to myself. I've written about some of my lunchtime challenges already, but I'm trying to rethink dinners as well. For instance, ingredient challenges. Example: I bought 2 1-ounce packages of a dried mushroom mix a couple weeks back, when I was working on a tortellini-with-mushrooms recipe. Turns out I only needed one. So the challenge is, what can I make with a 1-ounce package of dried mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, oyster, etc.)?

The answer: risotto with porcini mushrooms (but more all-embracing of diverse mushroom types), courtesy of Marcella Hazan.

Her Italian cookbook is a goldmine. I have yet to try anything in there that was not fabulous, the recipes are very authentic.

So then I needed to combine the risotto with some meat and veggies. My plan had been to make herb-marinated porkchops from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook, but they required marination ahead of time, and guess who forgot?

So instead I tried his so-called basic porkchop recipe, which involves browning the chops and then cooking them in wine, garlic, and broth, and then adding butter and wine vinegar to the reduction right before serving.

As my Finnish friends say, Vitun huskematonga!!! (Forgive my spelling, o my Finnish friends.)

Or in the words of my partner, who had slaved all day to make my computer work again, THESE THINGS ARE AMAZING!

And soooooooooo easy.

What I said about Marcella Hazan I can easily say about Mark Bittman too. His cookbook is a dream: like Joy of Cooking for more adventuresome sorts. Earlier this week, I made some muffins from his book, too, and then tried another muffin recipe this weekend. Both were fabulous, and he always suggests easy and flavorful variations.

Go buy both cookbooks now. You and the people you cook for will thank you and yourself.

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