Last night I taught another cooking class at Whole Foods Market Westport. The theme for the evening was Vegan Valentine's Dinner. The menu for the evening was a shiitake mushroom risotto with shallots & white wine paired with an organic green salad with walnuts and cherry tomatoes and a fig balsamic dressing. We offered Buckleberry Foods Truffles for dessert that are nothing short of spectacular.

Risotto is one of my favorite special occasion dinners. Not only are shiitake mushrooms incredibly delicious but they are extremely healthy. They are great for your immune system, skin, cardiovascular system and brain. They are both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer. Legend has it they are also aphrodisiacs making them a perfect choice for your Valentine. 

When I do the classes, I'm always hoping that some non-vegans will come so they can taste some really great food. I try to teach something they may not already know or something that was a stumbling block to me. This risotto was a nice entry point because it taught a few things.

  1. Making a risotto doesn't have to be a long painful process. Using a pressure cooker makes it quick and easy and remarkably just as creamy and delicious. 
  2. That using a pressure cooker is not difficult or scary when you know what you are doing.
  3. It's possible to have a cheese-like taste and consistency without using animal products.

I ended up getting about a split of vegan to non-vegan ratio which was nice. The class went really well and people came back for seconds. Yay!

This dinner can me made in about 30 minutes or so. I hope you enjoy it. 

Vegan Risotto with Shitake Mushrooms, Shallots & White Wine
Serves 6

2 cups Organic Arborio Rice
1 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots minced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 cups shiitake mushrooms chopped
4  cups Engine 2 Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup water
1 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 lemon juiced
1 tablespoon tamari
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp fresh sage minced or 1tsp dried
1 tbsp fresh thyme minced or 1 tsp dried
1/2 tsp Celtic Sea Salt

(yields 1 1/2 cups)
4 large dried Turkish figs
2 dates pitted
1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 cup filtered water
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Box Whole Foods Organic Spring Lettuce
1 Box Organic Cherry Tomatoes halved
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts


Remove the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker lid and set it to the brown setting. Once heated, add the olive oil and shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes until just browned. Add the mushrooms and 2/3 cup white wine. Cook stirring occasionally until the wine is almost evaporated. Approximately 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add the arborio rice and stir to combine with the mushroom shallot mixture for 1 minute. Add vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tamari, sage, thyme and sea salt. Stir to combine. Place the lid back on the the instant pot/pressure cooker and set it to the airtight position. Set the cook time to 7 minutes and press start.

Meanwhile make the balsamic fig dressing. Add all ingredients into a blender and blend on high until smooth. Make each salad individually on separate plates. Add a large handful or two of the lettuce. Top with Walnuts and Cherry Tomatoes. Add Dressing to taste. 

After the risotto is done cooking let it rest for 1-2 minutes. Carefully, using tongs and/or an oven mit manually release the pressure manually by turning the valve. Make sure you are away from the steam. When the pressure is released open the lid, stir and serve promptly.