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/

Bologna

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I have this theory that every time I think about eating a cone of gelato, five minutes of the day just disappears. Cuz I’ve been meaning to post about Bologna for a while now, and I feel like it hasn’t been that long since I went. But then all of a sudden it’s been like 2 and a half weeks and I don’t even know what day of the week it is and my friends and I will go out to eat after work and I’ll look at my watch and BAM it’s 9pm.

What does that say about how much I think about gelato?

Anyway, Bologna is a super cool place. We even got to masquerade as locals because we met up with our friend and his cousin who lives in Bologna and got shown around instead of having to give ourselves away by opening a map.

Bologna is home of the oldest university in the world. It’s like a college town in the US but better because there is so much history, and it’s in ITALY, of course. After tiring ourselves out climbing a 498 step tower (Torre Asinelli) and stuffing ourselves with bread and pasta at Osteria dell’Orso for lunch, we spent a while in this beautiful park called Giardini Margherita. There were kids playing Frisbee, an outdoor market, a drum circle (you read that right), and some PDA I’d like to unsee.

We must have passed at least three markets while we were walking around, each with unique treasures. Outside of Basilica di Santo Stefano (which has 7 churches inside of it!!) there was an antique market with everything imagineable. The market by the park had flowers, scarves, furniture, and art for sale. I’m pretty sure another market we passed had more shoes in a single place than the DSW warehouse.

In one piazza, Piazza Maggiore, there is a fountain with an enormous statue of the god Neptune. There’s a pretty funny story about a disagreement between the sculptor and the church about the size of certain parts of the statue which I’ll link to here for your reading entertainment.

Bologna has a few nicknames. One is “la rossa,” meaning “the red one,” because of the color of the roofs of the buildings. Another is “la dotta,” or “the learned one,” because of the university. My favorite, though, is “la grassa,” or “the fat one,” because of Bologna’s reputation for its delicious food (which is well-earned).

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I was only there for one day, but here are the places we ate at that I think are cool/delicious (because food):

La Scuderia – Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, 2
This is a café that apparently turns into a bar at night on the weekends? We went there in the morning and ate some of the best brioche (Italian croissants) I’ve had so far. It was converted from a barn, and it’s really popular with the university students.

Osteria dell’Orso – Via Andrea Costa, 35
Another student favorite, this casual restaurant serves up some of the best pasta in Bologna, and it’s pretty cheap. If you’re not vegetarian like me, try their pasta with ragù sauce. I had ravioli, and it was yummmmmmmy.

La Sorbetteria Castiglione – Via Castiglione, 44
This is a gelato place, go figure. Fresh, creamy, and super flavorful. A+

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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memo2munch
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.

memo2munch
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!

memo2munch
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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Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins + EXCITING NEWS

THESE MUFFINS ARE DELICIOUS AND I REALLY WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT THEM BUT I HAVE SPECIAL NEWS FOR YOU AND IT JUST CAN’T WAIT.

Okay, I’ll try to keep the caps lock to a minimum, but I’m telling you it’s gonna be hard.

Because.

I’m going to Italy. ITALY! (I’m sorry. I just couldn’t stand to see Italy not in caps.)

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins | memo2munch

Yes, this summer I will be going to Florence–and spending what I’m sure will be two of the most memorable weeks of my life—to study the Mediterranean diet and gluten intolerance. In Italy. At the University of Florence. I am just at a total loss for words, so I’ll copy and paste the description of the program from the website.

Join University faculty and registered dietitians in Italy for a two-week immersion into the Mediterranean diet — the food and lifestyle. Learn about the ongoing research at the University of Florence on old wheat varieties and grains to address gluten intolerance and sensitivity.

As if by this point I wasn’t already drooling enough, the website goes on to add:

Visit local food markets and producers of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, wine, cheese and pasta to explore and experience the production, marketing and consumption of regional foods. Prepare foods of the Mediterranean diet and participate in discussions with researchers and practitioners engaged in studying ways to alleviate intolerance and sensitivity to gluten.

You guys. YOU GUYS. Not only will I be in Italy, but I’ll get to EAT EVERYTHING IN ITALY. You think I’m kidding. I’m so not.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins | memo2munch

Honestly, this opportunity is a dream come true. I’ve had this obsession with Italy for a while now—the culture, the language, the art, the architecture, the history, and obviously the food. Obviously.

I took French during high school, but I decided to start taking Italian in college. It has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made, and a large thanks has to go to my aunt, who majored in Italian, for inspiring me to actually start learning the language. (Shout out: Hi, Tanta Karen (and the whole fam)! Love and miss you!)

You want to talk about a beautiful language? I could sit and listen to someone talk in Italian for HOURS. About literally anything. There’s just such a beautiful, natural lilt to it. It reminds me of iambic pentameter, and I don’t care if that makes me sound weird. Italian is like the Shakespeare of language. That’s a thing.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins | memo2munch

This trip will be my first time out of the country, and I’m a little nervous. I don’t even have a passport. I think this happens for a lot of people, but when I get nervous, crazy scenarios start running through my head. There are the bad ones like, “What if I’m ogling Italian bread or something, and the group leaves me behind, and then I can’t find them, and I have no sense of direction to get back to the hotel, and I have to sleep in the corner of a bakery for shelter overnight?” I mean, I guess that wouldn’t be too bad. But then there are scenarios that are definitely good. Like…

“What if I meet a nice Italian boy man who can cook?!” I can imagine the conversation now:

Him: Salve! Come state? (Hello! How are you?)
Me: Sto bene! Voi siete perfetto. Mi date il cibo. (I’m good! You are perfect. Give me food.)

Anyway, I’ll be sure to spam memo2munch with pictures and stories when I get back! Let’s talk about these muffins now.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins | memo2munch

Since part of the reason I’ll be going to Italy is to study gluten intolerance, and I have friends who can’t have gluten, I figured I should give a gluten free recipe a go.

And man, are these good.

They’re made with one hundred percent corn meal. While it’s not the healthiest of whole grains, corn IS a whole grain. It sure beats white flour, friends. These muffins are more of a scone consistency because cornmeal is a heavier base than flour. They’re also studded with fresh blueberries (the grocery store was having a sale!), so you’re getting a pretty substantial meal/snack out of these!

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins | memo2munch

I made these vegan by using a mashed ripe banana and blueberry soy yogurt instead of eggs. You can easily use eggs, but I find the vegan substitutes really fun to play around with! Did you know that when you mix 1 tablespoon flax meal with 2-3 tablespoons of water, it has the same binding properties as an egg?

Sometimes I feel like a mad scientist when I bake, and it’s awesome.

Okay, this post has gone on long enough. Make these muffins! I’ll be looking at google images of Florence. *sigh*

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Gluten Free Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
Makes: 12 muffins

Ingredients

2 cups corn meal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 ripe banana, mashed*
½ c. Blueberry (or plain) soy yogurt*
½ c. almond milk
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
1-1.5 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, not thawed

*Note: you can substitute 4 eggs for these ingredients if you wish. They will no longer be vegan.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line muffin tin with paper. (Alternately, you can just grease the muffin tin and not use paper liners.)
2. Combine corn meal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk together remaining ingredients—except blueberries—in a separate bowl.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix. Fold in the blueberries. Distribute mixture evenly into muffin tins.
5. Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees, and then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. (The initial 5 minutes at the higher temperature helps the muffins lift and achieve a domed top.)