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Wintery Dinner for Two: Brown Rice with Leek and Mushrooms

Cena invernale per due: riso integrale con porro e funghi

Firenze a dicembre - Florence in December

Florence by nature is one of those places that is so loaded with beauty at every turn that just being there feels like an enormous gift, and this is never more true than in December when the city gets decked out in lights and wintery decorations and looks like a fairy wonderland. If you've never been to Florence at Christmastime, I suggest you add it to your bucket list. My favorite activity in the city during this month is to go to the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce. The Italians borrow this tradition from the Germans and Austrians, which makes sense as a few northern Italian regions border Austria and are culturally influenced by this neighboring country. The market is open all day and into the night, which in my opinion is the most special time to go. Stalls selling ornaments, spices, pottery, clothing, toys, and more are interspersed with the fragrance of cinnamon and cloves and the offerings of bratwurst and strudel. Wandering around the market at nighttime with a bit of chill in the air, warming your hands with a cup of mulled wine, and discovering perfect gifts for friends and family makes for a fantastically festive evening.

Here are some photos from the Christmas market in 2013 :)

As the cold of December sets in here in Boston, I've been inspired to prepare food that warms body and soul from the inside out. One such meal is this healthy yet hearty leek and mushroom dish served piping hot with brown rice.

La Ricetta - The Recipe

Gli ingredienti - the ingredients

  • riso integrale ~ brown rice - 1 cup

  • brodo vegetale ~ vegetable broth - 2 cups plus a few tablespoons

  • un porro ~ 1 leek

  • funghi cremini ~ cremini mushrooms (or another variety of mushroom) - 8 oz

  • aglio ~ garlic - 2 cloves

  • olio extravergine di oliva ~ evoo - 2-3 tablespoons

  • peperoncini ~ red pepper flakes - 1/4 teaspoon

  • rosmarino secco ~ dried rosemary - 1/4 teaspoon

  • sale ~ salt - 1 teaspoon

  • pepe ~ pepper - 1/2 teaspoon

  • parmigiano reggiano ~ parmesan cheese - 1/3 cup (or more!)

Step 1. Add the brown rice and 2 cups of vegetable broth to a saucepan. Using the broth instead of water gives the rice more flavor. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer, put a lid on the saucepan, and let cook until the rice has soaked up the broth - about 30 minutes or so.

Step 2. Prepare the veg - Chop your garlic cloves. Cut the leek in half length-wise and then chop into slivers. Snap off the mushroom stems and thinly slice the mushroom caps.

Step 3. In a skillet, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. On a medium heat, add the red pepper flakes and dried rosemary and let the flavors release in the pan for about 30 seconds to 1 minute before adding the leek. Let the leek simmer and soften for about 3-4 minutes. and add the garlic. Simmer for another 2 minutes and then add the mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Step 4. Once the mushrooms have been cooking for two minutes, add a few tablespoons of vegetable broth and let all the vegetables and seasoning simmer on low heat about 6-8 minutes, or until the rice is ready.

Step 5. Add the rice to the skillet and top with parmesan cheese. Stir it all together and serve hot!

Buon appetito!

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