As I mentioned, Friday night wasn’t my only dinner party of the weekend. On Sunday we had two people over for dinner and prepared another mountain of food.

Becca took the lead on dinner again this time and made the most delicious mushroom risotto. There are a couple of ways to handle the mushrooms. You can use dehydrated mushrooms and use the leftover mushroom water to start the risotto, or you can use fresh mushrooms (like we did) and use chicken broth or another stock of your choosing. Becca also substituted dry white wine for the Sherry since we had some left over from Friday and we added spice-rubbed chicken pieces for a little protein.

For a side, I made asparagus with balsamic shallots for a recipe I found in the Bon Appetit Cookbook. It’s a very simple recipe: reduce the shallots and balsamic vinegar, cook the asparagus briefly with some butter, and serve together. I love all the primary ingredients in this recipe, so I thought it was pretty tasty, but overall I was not impressed by the recipe. It makes for a perfect quick side vegetable, but it’s not the most complex in terms of flavors or preparation. The good this about this recipe is that you hardly even need a recipe for it. I didn’t measure those ingredients (the magic of eyeballing, again) and definitely cheated by adding more butter than the recipe calls for.

In addition to Becca’s risotto and my asparagus, I also threw together a tomato, mozzarella, and basel salad. I used cherry tomatos sliced in half length-wise because cherry tomatos are far cheaper than the perfect, glowing heirloom tomatos I really wanted to buy but was, for once, sensible enough not to buy. Jyoti was a dinner guest again and brought over this wonderful treat that I had not heard of before. She layered mascarpone with honey and pomegranate seeds and served it with pita chips. It was a great flavor combination and I think I remember using my finger to clean out the dish.

Needless to say, by this point Becca, Nick, and I are getting pretty good at throwing dinner parties. Of course, we are missing a dining table because I am on a budget and procrastinate a lot, so balancing plates on knees while juggling champagne flutes always makes our events slightly less civilized than they could be, but I like to think that it is all part of our charm. Still, a major goal for 2010 is to get a dining table and I only have a few days left, so wish me luck!

Recipes after the jump.

Wild Mushroom Risotto


  • 3 14 1/2-ounce cans vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (such as oyster, crimini and stemmed shiitake), sliced
  • 1 cup arborio rice* or medium-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme


Bring vegetable broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low; cover and keep broth hot.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter with olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped shallots; sauté 1 minute. Add wild mushrooms; cook until mushrooms are tender and juices are released, about 8 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Add Sherry and simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add 3/4 cup hot vegetable broth and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining hot vegetable broth 3/4 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh thyme. Serve warm.

*Arborio, an Italian short-grain rice, is available at Italian markets and at many supermarkets nationwide.


Asparagus with balsamic-shallot butter sauce


  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, room temperature [blogger’s note: or more!]
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Combine vinegar and shallots in heavy small saucepan Boil over medium heat until almost all vinegar is absorbed and about 1 tablespoon liquid remains in the pan, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Set aside.

Combine asparagus, butter, 3 tablespoons water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in heavy large skillet. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until asparagus is almost tender, about 3 minutes. Uncover and cook until all liquid evaporates and asparagus is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes longer. Add balsamic-shallot mixture and toss to coat. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt, if desired. Transfer to platter and serve.