Monthly Archives: September 2011

Mushrooms (generally) aren’t poisonous.

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Sure, there are some poisonous mushrooms out there. But most of them are perfectly safe (please, however, consult an expert before picking and eating anything not found in a grocery store or farm market). My dad would have you believe differently.

Dad hates mushrooms and has made it a lifetime commitment to keep them off the table. Fortunately, I have my mom, sister, brother and husband to back me up on this one. Plus, much to his chagrin, dad secretly loves the flavor of Porcinis.

Last weekend I came home with a bagful of beautiful Oyster mushrooms, Shitakes and Hen-of-the-Woods. Their scent was rich and meaty, earthy and begging for butter and herbs. I thought of them chopped fine, softened and browned and a tapenade came to mind. No mushrooms, but salt, vinegar and layer-upon-layer of flavor.

Capers were obvious (thanks Jim!). The anchovy paste less so. BTW if the mention of anchovy paste got your cursor speeding across the screen to close this window as fast as possible, STOP! You won’t taste it at all. At least not that you recognize. It will smell super-fishy when you first add it, but that goes away and just adds a little je ne sais quoi to the recipe, otherwise known as the flavor umami. I double-dog-dare you.

We first put this on toasted baguette. I also happened to be roasting a chicken with potatoes, and we spooned the mushrooms over both. Lots of them.

Wild Mushroom Tapenade

Ingredients:
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2 lg shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste*
  • 4 cups chopped wild mushrooms**
  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 2 tbs capers, rinsed and minced
  • 1 tbs chopped oregano (thyme and rosemary work well too)
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
* I’m not letting this go. It really does make a difference in the flavor, but you won’t taste any fishiness at all. You can find anchovy paste in a tube in the italian or spanish aisle in your grocery store. If not, buy a jar of them, preserved in oil, and mash it into a paste with a fork.
**You can use just about anything here. Portabellos, Chanterelles, Shitakes, Oysters etc… If you are making this for a crowd, save yourself a few bucks and use criminis or white button mushrooms for up to half of the total volume.
Directions:
  • Melt 2 tbs butter in a large sauté pan over med-low heat. A big pan is important so that the mushrooms are not crowded later. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 5 min.
  • Add garlic and anchovy paste and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Raise heat to medium, add 2 tbs butter, melt, and add mushrooms.
  • Cook mushrooms until softened and golden, about 8-10 minutes. When you first add them, watch for burning. They will immediately suck up all the butter. Then they will release their own liquid. As that liquid evaporates the flavors will concentrate and deepen.
  • Add capers, oregano and parsley, stir through and cook until fragrant. 1 minute.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and possibly a squeeze of lemon juice.

Beets aren’t poisonous.

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My Dad doesn’t like beets. Or mushrooms. Every time I serve them to our family he jokes, “They are poisonous and we really shouldn’t eat them.” Now my beet-hating husband backs my Dad up in these arguments. Thank God for my mom.

Admittedly, this recipe has not made Dad a convert, but it does continuously get rave reviews and a visitor to @Eastern Market yesterday morning walked up to my cooking demonstration with a bag full of beets and said, “those are the best beets I’ve ever had and I’m making them at home tonight.”

All due credit goes to chef Deborah Madison for this amazing combination. It sounds bizarre, but it’s awesome! Finely dicing your beets into a 1/4″ dice really speeds up the cooking. You can have this done in 20 minutes without any oven roasting involved. Score one for the beets.

Beets with Crème Fraîche and Mustard
Ingredients:
  • 2 large beets, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes*
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs chopped thyme
  • 2 tbs crème fraîche
  • 1 tbs dijon or grainy mustard
  • Sherry vinegar
* There’s a trade off here: more knife work means less cooking time. If the idea of cutting beets into 1/4″ cubes sounds to you like one of the lower planes of hell, please feel free to cut them into larger cubes and increase your cooking time.
Directions:
  • Melt butter in a 10″ sauté pan over medium heat. Add beets and thyme.
  • Stirring every few minutes, cook beets until softened, about 20 minutes. I like mine pretty firm, but cook yours the way you like them – it’s your kitchen!
  • When cooked, remove from heat and stir through crème fraîche and mustard.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of sherry vinegar. The vinegar brightens the rich, fatty flavor of the butter and the earthiness of the beets.

Everything’s better with bacon!

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Butternut squash soup is perfect on a grey, cool fall day like today. Warm, sweet, rich and thick. But how can you make it quickly, and produce a rich roasted taste without baking the squash in the oven for 40 minutes? Peeling and chopping your squash into a 1/2 dice saves a lot of cooking time. Letting the squash caramelize on the bottom of the pot for a few minutes produces some of the flavor you get from the oven.

But why stop there? Add pancetta – Italian, salt-cured bacon, maple syrup, Moscatel vinegar and a Honeycrisp apple garnish, and you’ve got a multi layered flavor with a sweet-tangy crunch at the end.

Butternut Squash Pancetta Soup

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 pancetta, diced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled+cubed
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tbs maple syrum
  • 1 tbs Moscatel or Sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 finely diced Honeycrisp apple
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley
Directions:
  • In a wide, heavy, 6 qt stock pot, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium-low heat. Sauté pancetta until crispy and brown. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon leaving behind the salty, fatty goodness.
  • Add onions and cook until softened.
  • Add garlic. Cook through one minute until fragrant
  • Add squash. Cook until onions and squash caramelize on bottom of pan. You can let it form a crust, just be careful not to burn.
  • Add 1 cup stock, raise heat to med, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the remaining stock, bay leaves and thyme. Simmer over medium-high heat until squash is soft. About 20 minutes.
  • Remove bay and thyme and process soup. You can use an immersion blender, but a food mill, if you have one, produces a great texture.
  • Finely mince the reserved, cooked pancetta. Stir into the soup and cook 5 minutes more to let the flavors blend.
  • Add 2 tbs maple syrup and a splash of vinegar.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and additional syrup and vinegar as needed.
  • Garnish with apple and parsley.
Vegetable stock: Place 12 cups water in a 6 qt stock pot. Roughly chop 1 large onion, 1 large carrot and 2 celery stalks. Add to pot along with 2 bay leaves, 8-10 celery stems, 2 sprigs of thyme, and 8-10 black pepper corns. If you have leek greens or parsnips sitting around add those as well. (No peppers or cabbage. Yuck!) Simmer partially covered for 30-45 minutes and strain. Season a quarter cup with a little salt and pepper. If the stock is bland, reduce the stock by boiling down to 8 cups. (Just guess. No one actually measures boiling stock to get an exact measurement.)

For want of cauliflower

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Cauliflower, cheddar cheese soup is really hard to make without cauliflower. I discovered this essential truth last Saturday when I arrived at Eastern Market for my cooking demos and there was no cauliflower in sight. Plan B? Curried zucchini soup. My Mom has a great recipe for this.

She, however, was not there, soooooo I made it up on the spot. Once the vegetable stock was done, the soup was ready in twenty minutes. Perfect timing for a quick weeknight dinner – or you can tell your weekend dinner guests that you slaved over the stove for hours. They’ll never know.

A couple notes: First, potatoes thicken the soup without the addition of cream. Calories saved here mean an extra glass of wine with dinner. Second, make your own stock. If you’ve got the time, chicken stock is awesome here. If not, you can have a vegetable stock ready in 30-45 minutes. If you use store bought, ALWAYS go with low sodium. It gives you better control over the amount of salt.

Honestly, I’m not remotely worried about your health here. The soup will be inedibly salty before you hit an unhealthy level. The problem is that your stock will condense a bit as your soup cooks and you can easily end up with soup that tastes way too salty.

Curried Zucchini Soup

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe below)
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 1-2 tbs butter
  • 1 lemon
Directions:
  • Heat olive oil in a 4 qt sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add potato and onion, sauté until onion softens. About 5 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup stock and stew onions and potato for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Add remaining stock and cook until potato is soft 15-20 minutes.
  • Add zucchini and curry powder. Cook for 3-5 minutes until soup is fragrant and zucchini is cooked through but still fresh.
  • Season to taste. Start with salt and pepper. A tablespoon or two of butter and a good squeeze of lemon juice make the soup rich and the flavor bright. If you use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock you will probably get away with less butter.
  • Run this through a food mill, or pulse it a few times in your food process or blender. A little texture is nice. Don’t over process.
Vegetable stock: Place 12 cups water in a 6 qt stock pot. Roughly chop 1 large onion, 1 large carrot and 2 celery stalks. Add to pot along with 2 bay leaves, 8-10 celery stems, 2 sprigs of thyme, and 8-10 black pepper corns. If you have leek greens or parsnips sitting around add those as well. (No peppers or cabbage. Yuck!) Simmer partially covered for 30-45 minutes and strain. Season a quarter cup with a little salt and pepper. If the stock is bland, reduce the stock by boiling down to 8 cups. (Just guess. No one actually measures boiling stock to get an exact measurement.)