I thought I'd mention vermouth, as it's a kitchen staple in our house, and I've used it a bit more than usual recently. Vermouth is made from wine - white or red - and flavoured with herbs. You can buy red vermouth, sweet white, or dry white. I keep dry vermouth on hand at all times, for two reasons: dry vermouth is best in risotto, which is what I mostly use it for; and it's also best in martinis, which are a favourite drink of mine. (Ah, I look forward to having one of those again one day...)
Anyway. I've posted my recipe for a basic risotto before, but I thought I'd post a couple of other recipes involving vermouth that I've made in the past couple of days.
For a tasty snack lunch, or even a delicious breakfast, mushrooms with vermouth and butter on toast. It's so easy, I hesitate to call it a recipe. But it definitely made for a lovely light lunch today.
Chop some mushrooms. How many depends greatly on their size, but for two pieces of toast you want about a cupful of chopped mushroom. Melt a good spoonful of butter in a frying pan over moderate heat. Please use butter: margarine just won't cut it. If you avoid butter for dietary or ethical reasons, use a good olive oil instead - but the butter is for flavour purposes, not simply greasing the pan, and I really think that in this case olive oil would be a poor second.
Fry the mushrooms lightly until they're well coated in butter, and are softening slightly. Then splash a little dry vermouth in the pan. Add a little more butter if the mushrooms have soaked it all up already (they probably will have). As the mushrooms soften and cook, the vermouth and butter in the pan will combine to make a delicious thin sauce. Add some chopped parsley to the pan, and if you want to throw caution to the winds, a spoonful of cream is a decadent addition. Even without the cream, though, these mushrooms are delicious served on hot toast. Serve with a wedge of lemon.
Yesterday, I did something rather different. Pears are in season here right now, and we bought a bag of Sweet Williams for a few dollars the other day. So yesterday I made poached pears for dessert. I made them ahead of time, so I could serve them cold: but I'm sure they'd be lovely served hot or warm, also. I made them up as I went along, but they were delicious!
For two people, I used three pears, cored and sliced roughly. I put these in a saucepan and just covered them with water. Into this water, I put a couple of heaped tablespoons of honey, a splash of vermouth, and squeezed in the juice of half an orange. (If you don't eat honey, use a spoonful or two of brown sugar instead). I let this simmer away gently until the pears were soft - I didn't time it, but I'd guess fifteen to twenty minutes. I then lifted the pears out gently, placed them in a bowl, and sprinkled them lightly with ground cinnamon. Meanwhile, I turned up the heat on the saucepan, and reduced the liquid down to half a cup or less. It gave me a brownish coloured sweet syrup, which I poured over the pears.
I covered and refrigerated these pears before serving with whipped cream, but I'm sure they'd be delicious served warm.
Incidentally, the best martinis are made with extra dry vermouth, Bombay Sapphire gin (at subzero* temperatures, of course), and a twist of lemon rind. Feel free to argue the point, but if you disagree with me, you're wrong. =P
*Celsius! None of that Fahrenheit rubbish around here.