Sometimes I am struck by the fact that having a food blog is kind of weird. I take pictures of my dinners and my salads and my treats and I write about those things. I put the pictures out there for anyone to see. I love doing it and it is a big part of my life, but imagine explaining it to someone who has never read a food blog or doesn’t think finding the perfect chocolate cake is important. Weird.
I bring this up because if I didn’t have a food blog, I would have been really happy about this dinner. As is stands, I was happy but also crestfallen because I didn’t pay that much attention to measurements. This is one of those “doing the very best with leftovers” and “planning ahead ” kind of meals – neither of which, I have no problem admitting, I am any good at. In my haste, I did not weigh or measure or really even eyeball anything. But because our dinner was good, because I got some decent photos, and because there was a truffle involved, I am going to soldier on.
Here is the deal. I made risotto. I had risotto left over. I had a husband out of town. I like to make dinners on Sundays, especially when he has been out of town, but am usually kind of worn out from the weekend. In other words, I prefer not to start from square one. In my foggy brain, I managed to realize early in the week that I would probably have leftover risotto and so bought things to compliment it. Then I remembered that I don’t like leftover risotto unless it takes another form. Like risotto cakes.
I stopped eating meat when I was 16 but I ate fish for another 4 years after that. I remember going to the Bay Café on Lopez Island where they almost always have two fish specials. One is salmon and one is halibut. One has a side of rice cakes and the other has a side of potato cakes. I would choose whichever fish had rice cakes as the side. The Bay Café’s rice cakes, super savory, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, were to die for. Once I really paid attention to that fact – that my diet was much more about side dishes than the “protein” – making the switch to full vegetarian was very easy.
I loved rice cakes then and I still love them. In fact, I think I will always make more risotto than I need just so I can make these. I make this very easy on myself by making sure I have very cold risotto and using a 3-inch biscuit cutter to mold them. I find that little tool works best but I have also used a stainless steel measuring cup with good results. If you try that, just run a little water in it every other cake or so, making sure they come out easily.
You can certainly pan-fry them either in olive oil or butter. You will get more browning and a crunchier crust. But the healthy me just can’t pan-fry something when I know I can bake it with almost as good results. 20 minutes in a 375º oven does a pretty nice job.
I was looking forward to this dinner almost as soon as the first round of the original risotto was in its resting place in the refrigerator. And then I bought a truffle at the farmers’ market. Did you know that in addition to having chanterelles and matsuke and lobster and porcini mushrooms growing in our half of the state, we also have truffles? This little mushroom made me very happy. If you have ever bought Italian or French truffles, you might be amazed that this little guy, the size of a chocolate truffle, cost me only $3. Now, my first black truffle was shaved over a plate of homemade pasta in Paris on my 34th birthday. This Washington guy did not have the potency but did have a nice flavor. I would say it certainly brought a special something to a plate of leftovers.
Meyer Lemon Risotto Cakes
Dana Treat Original
If you make the risotto recipe below, you can serve 2 with it and then 2 making cakes with the leftovers another day. Approximately. You can, of course, use this method with any leftover risotto. The mushrooms I served alongside can be found here.
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
Zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parsley or chives to garnish
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to low and keep warm.
Put a wide shallow pot over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot and then add the shallots along with a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, but before they brown. Add the rice and stir well to coat the rice with oil and the shallots. Stir in the thyme and the lemon zest (not the juice). Pour in the wine, another large pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir constantly until the wine is absorbed.
Ladle one cup of stock into the pot and stir constantly until it is absorbed. Ladle in another two cups, give it a vigorous stir as you bring the rice to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Allow to cook for 15 minutes, stirring it twice during that time.
Remove the cover and add another cup of stock plus the lemon juice and peas. Stir vigorously until the stock is absorbed. When it is about half absorbed, add the Parmesan and continue to stir. At this point, you may not need any more stock. If the rice is too al dente for your taste, add a bit more and continue to cook. Also, if you prefer your risotto brothier, add more. The risotto will continue to thicken as it sits so if you aren’t serving it right away, add more liquid than you think it will need to prevent it from drying out.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in wide bowls garnished with chives and more Parmesan. Allow the unused portion to cool completely, then cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For the Cakes
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a 3-inch (or smaller) biscuit cutter on the baking sheet and pack it full of the cold risotto. Smooth the top. Remove the biscuit cutter and repeat with the remaining risotto. (If you are using a measuring cup, you will need to pop the cake out of the cup.)
Sprinkle each risotto cake with a nice dusting of Parmesan and bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the cake is heated through, about 25 minutes. Garnish with shavings of fresh truffle – if you are lucky.