Welcome home! Mushroom Risotto & Flourless Chocolate Cake

Well guys, I’m writing this post from the States! After 3 and a half months working at the USA Pavilion at this year’s world’s fair in Milan, Italy, I’m back home again in Indiana!

memo2munch | Mushroom Risotto & Flourless Chocolate Cake

memo2munch | Mushroom Risotto & Flourless Chocolate Cake

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I can’t help it. Cheesy, America-related references and jokes are kind of ingrained in me by this point. Or should I say *corny*. Cuz I’m from Indiana.

I’ll stop, I’ll stop.

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memo2munch | Mushroom Risotto & Flourless Chocolate Cake

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So far my time has been spent as such:

  • Stuffing my face with bagels and maple syrup (not together…)
  • Facebook stalking the friends I had to say “see you later” to (miss you guys!!)
  • Hugging friends and family I haven’t seen for a looong time
  • Trying not to fall asleep at 6PM
  • Stopping myself from saying “Benvenuti, welcome” to everyone who walks past me. (Is this how workers at Disney World feel?)
  • Daydreaming about gelato

So you can see I’ve been super busy.

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memo2munch | Mushroom Risotto & Flourless Chocolate Cake

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memo2munch | Mushroom Risotto & Flourless Chocolate Cake

Anyway, my cousin David made me promise to cook an Italian meal for the family when I got back and said that he would get me whatever ingredients I needed, which is an even nicer offer than you would think because I became a food snob while I was in Italy, so, you know, ingredient standards have gone up.

Here was our menu:

Antipasto

Tomato Bruschetta (Pronounced broo-SKEH-tah, not broo-SHEH-tah. When you have a –ch in Italian it sounds like a k. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Told you I was a snob now.) on Crostini

Primo

Mushroom Risotto
Sauteed Zucchini (with onions and garlic, made by my grandpa)
Bread

Dolci

Flourless Chocolate Cake topped with Chocolate Meringue (Recipe from an Italian food blog because it was #necessary)
Macedonia (made by my grandma)
A selection of Italian cheeses, courtesy of Eataly in Chicago
Italian shortbread cookies, also courtesy of Eataly

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memo2munch | Mushroom Risotto & Flourless Chocolate Cake

Man, it was SO fun to make this meal. I simultaneously got to pretend I was still in Italy and spend time with people I love. And I got to feed them, too. (Cue inner Jewish mother fist pump)

Risotto is not as hard as you might think! Another benefit? It’s naturally gluten free! Give it a try. x

Mushroom Risotto
Serves 6
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Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock if not vegetarian)
  2. 1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  3. 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  4. 1 cup finely chopped onion
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 8 oz. white mushrooms, finely chopped
  7. 2 cups arborio rice*
  8. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  9. 1/2 tsp. salt, or as needed
  10. 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  11. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for topping
  12. Black pepper
Instructions
  1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms and set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the stock warm over very low heat.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and white mushrooms.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board and finely chop. Add to saucepan with the the onions, white mushrooms, and garlic. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the rice and let it toast for 1-2 minutes, until the edges become translucent. Pour in the wine and stir well until evaporated. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the stock has been absorbed.
  5. Continue to add stock in small batches and cook each batch until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remember to stir constantly.
  6. Keep repeating this process, adjusting the heat if need be so that the rice is simmering gently, until all the stock is used up. This should be about 20 minutes after the wine was added.
  7. Remove the saucepan from heat and beat in the butter. Then beat in the cheese and pepper. Serve topped with more cheese.
Notes
  1. *It is important that this variety of rice is used for risotto. Regular white rice does not contain enough starch to make the risotto turn out creamy.
Adapted from Mushroom Risotto with Peas
Memo2munch http://memo2munch.com/
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Meringue
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For the brownies
  1. 125 g. (1 stick + 1 tbsp.) butter
  2. 125 g. dark or semisweet chocolate, I prefer dark
  3. 150 g. (a bit less than 1 cup) brown sugar
  4. 3 eggs, whites and yolks separated
For the meringue
  1. 2 egg whites
  2. 112 g. (just over half a cup) white sugar
  3. 1 tsp. cornstarch
  4. 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  5. 25 g. (1/4 c) unsweetened cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Grease an 8 or 9 inch round pan and cover the sides with parchment paper.
  2. For the brownies: Melt together the butter and chocolate using either a double boiler or a microwave. (If using a microwave, make sure to stir the mixture every 30 seconds so that it does not burn.) Add the sugar and mix until the sugar is not quite fully dissolved. Let cool for a few minutes before adding the yolks one by one and stirring well to incorporate.
  3. In a clean bowl, beat the whites to stiff peaks. Add a little of the whites to the chocolate mixture and stir. Then, add the chocolate mixture to the whites. This will help the mixture incorporate better. Stir gently until completely combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the meringue.
  4. For the meringue: In a clean bowl, whip the whites to stiff peaks, adding the sugar gradually. Add the vanilla, cornstarch, and cocoa powder and stir delicately until the mixture is shiny and homogeneous.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven carefully and then spread the meringue on top. Bake for another 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool briefly before taking out the parchment paper. Serve as you like!
Notes
  1. This recipe was originally written in grams and the conversions are not quite perfect, so if you don't have a kitchen scale just do the best you can!
Adapted from Mon Petit Bistrot
Adapted from Mon Petit Bistrot
Memo2munch http://memo2munch.com/

memo2travel: In Italy Once More!

IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME AND I APOLOGIZE.

But guess where I’m writing this from? Italia! I’m back!

I’m not just back for a few days, either. This time I’m here for 3. entire. months.

!!!

From now until the end of July, I’ll be working as a Student Ambassador for the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, the World’s Fair in Milan! It’s like the Columbian Exposition, but the theme is all about food, and Italy is the backdrop. (Read: is this real life?!)

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All suited up inside the USA Pavilion

Here’s a quick lowdown: It is projected that by 2050 there will be nine billion people living on this planet. That means nine billion mouths to feed. Expo Milano 2015 aims to encourage the world to use strategies and innovations NOW so that in the FUTURE we’ll be able to feed the population without destroying the planet. And we can’t do it alone. We’ve got to communicate and work together, and Expo Milano will be a great platform for these important discussions.

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DUOMO!!!

Over 140 countries are here at the Expo. Many of the countries have their own unique and exciting pavilions, including the US. My plan is to visit—and eat at—all of them, sharing my experiences here on memo2munch so you can see them too. 🙂

Or even better, you can come visit me and see them for yourself!

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Preview of the USA Pavilion’s vertical farm

There are also “clusters” that concentrate on different big-time contributors to our world food system, such as coffee, rice, chocolate, and more. Certain countries that are intimately involved in producing those foods are represented in the clusters.

And to the surprise of no one at all, I have already visited the chocolate cluster.

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Of course, just living in Italy for 3 months is an adventure! I was nervous to live in Milan because I’ve never lived somewhere so metropolitan. Then there’s the whole fashion capital of the world deal. But it’s been fun adjusting to the city lifestyle. (I understand the metro system!)

Porto Sempione
Porto Sempione

Our housing is on the outskirts of the city, which I love because it’s a more calm, residential area. I haven’t explored downtown too much yet because our days have mostly been filled with training or working at the Expo.

Once we’ve all adjusted to our new jobs and surroundings I’m looking forward to establishing routines and familiarizing myself with Milan. There’s an awesome arts district called Brera that we’ve explored a bit, and the huge, intricate Duomo is beautiful.

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We do already have one routine, which is hitting up the little bakery around the corner. BEST croissants (the Italians call them brioche) I ever did have, and two lovely owners that are always happy and friendly, even at 7 in the morning when we’ll sometimes sleepily stumble in for a treat before work.

Also, turns out Milan has a Chinatown! We went last week and had a great meal that was unbelievably cheap. I think I paid just about 4 euros for mine! (This might turn into a routine, too.)

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We’re all dog tired from working at the Expo, but it’s worth it. And being here for the grand opening was THE COOLEST. Especially because we got to come to the site a few days before opening and watch everything come together.

Our shifts are about 6-6.5 hours long. We’re stationed throughout the pavilion welcoming guests, answering questions, and initiating conversations. It’s a pretty solid chunk of time, so we get to see tons of interesting people come through. So far it’s been mostly Italians–which has improved my language skills already–, but I’ve noticed a lot of French-speaking people as well. We’ve had sooo many school groups, too, and I can report that kids are just as adorable and mischievous wherever you go.

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On occasion I’ve run into Americans, and I always ask how they ended up in Europe because their answers are fascinating. Interacting with guests is definitely my favorite part. I’m really grateful to have this chance to be let in to bits and pieces of hundreds of people’s lives from around the world each day!

I miss everyone at home a lot, and sometimes it’s hard and a bit scary here because this is like nothing I’ve ever done before. But I know that I’m going to learn so much. A special, special thank you for supporting me. More to come soon. 🙂

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