Ah, to be in Italy in the Spring ... Risotto alla Milanese with Shrimp and Mushrooms

You can almost feel the pini of Rome swaying gently in the Borghese Gardens while preparing this lovely little dinner.  Fire up your iPod speakers with a selection from Respighi's classic, atmospheric symphony, Pina de Roma, and take a virtual trip to Italy while you put this easy and fast dinner for two (or more) together. The preparation is made all the more simple by the use of an excellent packaged risotto as well as pre-cleaned shrimp and sliced mushrooms. You can get this dinner from pantry to table in less than 1/2 hour!

1 package Alessi Risotto alla Milanese with Arborio Rice & Saffron (see photo at bottom)
1 lb. peeled and deveined raw shrimp
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges and chopped fresh parsley

1. Prepare Risotto according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, sauté shrimp in 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil, about 3 minutes; set aside.
3. Sauté mushrooms in remaining butter and olive oil; set aside.
4. Approximately 15 minutes before risotto is ready, stir in the shrimp and mushrooms into the risotto.
5. Top with fresh parsley and serve with a lemon wedge. Delicioso!

The Empty Nester Gourmet Recommends

Alessi Risotto alla Milanese ... Excellent, high quality product, and so easy to prepare.

Variations on a Theme: Torta Pesca Rustica*

* Rustic Peach Pie

We love peach pie, especially now when peaches are plentiful, reasonably priced, and oh-so-sweet and juicy.

Here's a delicious alternative to a two-crust pie that uses only a bottom crust it's easier and faster to prepare), and looks every bit as wonderful as our lattice pie, posted earlier.

As in the lattice peach pie, we use overripe peaches and a simple custard-like base that assures a non-watery, firm yet juicy and flavorful filling.

One pastry crust
6-8 overripe peaches, peeled, pitted, quartered and drained of extra juices
1 egg, slightly beaten with fork, for mixture
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. melted butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 additional egg + 1 tbsp. cold water, slightly beaten with fork, for egg wash
Ground cinnamon and sanding sugar, for dusting top of pie before baking

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Gently press pastry crust into the bottom of a baking pie plate, leaving about 2" of crust for folding over peaches.
3. Place the prepared peaches into the crust.
4. Mix the egg, sugar, flour, melted butter in a small bowl. Pour over peaches.
5. Firmly fold the crust over the peaches, stretching slightly.
6. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with ground cinnamon and sanding sugar.
7. Bake at 400F for 15 mins. Then lower heat to 300F and bake for another 50 mins.
8. Remove from oven and let cool for two hours before serving.
We serve it with a super-creamy vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint. Magnifico!

It's the Berries!

 Here's the Empty Nester Gourmet's adaptation of America's Test Kitchen's recipe. It uses six full cups of fresh blueberries, sugar and butter, but don't let it all scare you. It's easy to prep and even better to eat. Here's how:

Double pie crust (packaged or your own)
6 cups fresh blueberries
2 tbsp. quick-cook tapioca
1 Granny Smith apple, grated
Zest of one lemon + 2 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
Sanding sugar
Egg wash (1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tbsp. cold water)
1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. 
2. Divide the blueberries into half. Simmer 3 cups blueberries and and sugar in a saucepan until reduced to a thick syrupy mixture. Set aside and let cool. When cooled, add them to the cold uncooked bluberries.
3. Mix in tapioca, grated apple, lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon juice.
4. Spread mixture into bottom crust. Top with butter.
5. Work lattice over top of mixture, seal with egg wash and egg wash over top of lattice.
6. Dust with sanding sugar.
7. Bake on parchment-lined, preheated cookie sheet (@400F) for 30 minutes.
8. Reduce heat to 350F, andn bake for another hour, or until filling is set and crust is a golden brown.

Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream.