Category Archives: Mushrooms

I ate a taco.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Every recipe has a backstory. Here’s how pork chops cooked on a bed of mushrooms with cotija cheese came to be:

Like most great dishes, inspiration didn’t manifest, it accumulated, beginning, innocuously, with the purchase of two, thick-cut, bone-in pork chops. Something to have on-hand for dinner. But, rather than cook the pork chops, my husband Jason and I went out to dinner at DC’s newly-opened El Rey taqueria. The queso con hongos tacos, filled with rich, earthy mushrooms and crumbly cotija cheese were delicious. We ordered a second round.

The next day I thought, “I really should cook those pork chops before they go bad. I wonder how they’d taste with cotija and mushrooms?” Remembering a Silver Palate cookbook recipe for chicken cooked on a bed of mushrooms, I scanned it briefly for technique and roasting temperature.

The first attempt: since I planned to cover the roasting dish with foil, I browned the pork chops first in a pan. Then promptly ignored my own fabulous advice about cooking mushrooms in batches to avoid crowding the pan. The result? A baking dish filled with a soupy layer of wilted mushrooms topped with seared pork chops . We agreed the dish was worth repeating, but that most of the flavor ended up in the liquid in the bottom of the baking dish. We also thought the thick-cut chops got a little thin on flavor toward the center.

The second attempt: A quick and painless brine for the pork chops added all the flavor we needed. Cooking the mushrooms in batches until golden-brown on the edges minimized the broth in the baking dish. Increasing the scallion greens and cilantro from a garnish to a solid sprinkling provided a welcome fresh balance to the earthy mushrooms, sweet, mild pork and the light tang of the cheese.

It’s a winner. I wonder if it would make a good taco?

Baked Pork Chops And Mushrooms With Cotija

Serves 4

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup kosher or sea salt
  • 4 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops
  • 2 cups chicken stock, boiling
  • 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3-5 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts chopped separately
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 lbs crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbs dried epazote or oregano
  • 2 tbs chili powder, like guajillo
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese, or feta

Directions:

  • Dissolve salt in 8-10 cups cold water. Add pork chops to brine and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, up to 2 hours.
  • Pour boiling stock over mushrooms. Let sit for 20 minutes. When reconstituted, strain liquid through a paper-towel lined sieve, reserving the liquid. Rinse mushrooms clean and chop finely.
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Drain and rinse pork chops. Pat dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Warm 1 tbs oil in a 12” skillet over med-high heat. Brown pork in two batches, about 3 minutes per side. Add an additional tablespoon of oil for second batch if needed. Reserve, tented with foil.
  • Add 2 tbs more oil to pan, reduce heat to medium. Add onion and scallion whites. Cook until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
  • Add mushrooms to pan in a single, thin layer, about half of them. Cook until mushrooms begin to brown on edges. Reserve mushrooms.
  • Return pan to heat, and add an additional tablespoon of oil. Add remaining mushrooms and cook until edges are golden brown. Return reserved mushrooms, along with chopped porcinis to pan. Add reserved porcini liquid and cook until reduced and thickly coating mushrooms.
  • Season mushroom mixture with epazote, chile powder, and 1/4 cup cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Place mushrooms in bottom of 9” square or 9 x 11″  baking dish. Top with pork chops and cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 until done, about 20 minutes.
  • Serve topped with scallion greens and remaining cilantro.

This is so difficult you may not even want to try.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

The gift of a spaetzle-maker, originally intended for the giver’s daughter – “Honestly, you’re more likely to use it.” – has plagued me for years. It sat in the cupboard leering, challenging me to finally take it from it’s simple, clear plastic wrapping and make a batch of the quickly simmered soup dumplings.

For some reason, however, making doughs, an activity involving things like measuring and specific ingredients, always seems so foreboding, a challenge best left to classically trained pastry chefs and German grandmothers.

Last week, the need to dress up my recipe for asparagus soup drove me to research spaetzle. Custards felt fussy, and a garnish of wild mushrooms just lazy. Mushroom spaetzle, though daunting, seemed the perfect solution. We carefully measured each ingredient only to discover that sweet, light Oyster mushrooms disappeared in the rich dough. We pressed on, sautéing hearty, bold Criminis for a second batch. They were delicious and we were in love.

So, was it worth the painstaking pain and suffering? Should spaetzle be left to the chefs? The answer is “no.” Made with four ingredients, simmered and served, spaeetzle couldn’t be simpler. Guten appetit!

Mushroom Spaetzle

Serves 6-8

Spaetzle makerIngredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until softened and golden on edges. Add wine to pan and scrape up any brown bits. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Chop mushrooms and parsley together until minced.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together flour and salt. Add mushrooms and whisk to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until it forms into a smooth dough.
  • Press dough through a colander, or spaetzle-maker, over simmering water. Cook for 2-3 minutes and drain.
  • Serve with butter or over soup.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 6-8

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley, reserve stems
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Sherry vinegar

Directions:

  • Snap tough ends from asparagus. Add ends to a 4 qt saucepan with stock, thyme, bay and parsley stems. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer potatoes and leeks in butter. Add a little water as needed. Cook until potatoes are soft.
  • Strain stock into soup pot and cook for five minutes. Cut remaining asparagus into 2” pieces and add to stock. Remove 10-12 tips after 3 minutes.
  • When asparagus is just tender, pass soup through a food mill or processor. Stir through parsley.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and vinegar. Garnish with asparagus tips.

Trust.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

During my Eastern Market cooking demos, I am often asked, “Do you only cook with organic ingredients?”

The answer? “No.” I prefer organic, but I put my full faith in farmers. The reality is that raising and selecting healthy food is more complicated than a single factor, like organic. There are highly toxic organic pest and disease controls. And who has certified the food to be organic, the USDA? Those standards are too broad to be meaningful, and don’t cover important health and flavor factors like soil nutrition, cultivar selection and harvest and storage practices.

Develop relationships with farmers and their food. Ask them where it was grown*. If it tastes amazing when you bring it home, go back to them and buy more. If you’ve never been to the market before, watch the locals.

At the end of the day, I trust that they are experts in growing healthy and flavorful food. Like electricity or aspirin, some chemical pest and disease controls are okay, used properly. That’s part of the expertise of farming.

My farmers sell me and my family the same food they serve their own families. Their livelihood depends on being able to look me in the eye, confident I will return healthy and happy the following week.

So, when Marvin at Long Meadow Farms told me his Gold Rush apples had stored well over the winter, that they were nice and crisp, despite wrinkled skins, I trusted him. And they were delicious.

*Sometimes I hear people complain that farmers sell produce they didn’t grow themselves. Farmers are often part of local agricultural communities. They have friends and neighbors who grow great food too. Growing everything yourself isn’t a pre-requisite for being a great purveyor of delicious, healthy farm-fresh produce.

Golden Apple Oyster Mushroom Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups chopped Oyster mushrooms
  • 2 tbs brandy
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Blackberry Balsamic or balsamic vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cup Koroneiko or another high- quality, light, grassy olive oil*
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 2 Gold Rush or other golden apples cut in matchsticks

*Blackberry Balsamic vinegar and Koroneiko olive oil are available in Washington, DC or online from Sapore Oil and Vinegar.

Directions:

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until softened.
  • Deglaze pan with brandy. Cook until evaporated and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • While mushrooms cook, whisk together shallot, Blackberry Balsamic vinegar, mustard and honey with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
  • When mushrooms finish, whisk oil into vinegar mixture. Taste with spinach and adjust seasoning.
  • Lightly dress spinach and top with mushrooms and apples.

Sobering.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My friend Ali and I are both responsible, mature adults. However, for a brief period, before we met our husbands, she and I got together regularly for an after work cocktail or seven. We often ended those less-than-sober nights dining on what we affectionately referred to as “cheap Chinese.”

Several years ago, after a glass of wine, we returned to the scene of youthful excess, excited to once again dine on some of DC’s best Chinese food. It was an epic mistake. Rule #1 of drunken dining: don’t ever go back sober. The food was terrible.

Unfortunately, Chinese food, which can be fresh, bright and rich, often disappoints, salty, fatty and limp. Egg fu yung, is perhaps one of the worst perpetrators,  laden with a corn (starch and syrup) gravy. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Farm fresh eggs and toasted sesame oil makes this Asian omelet rich. Lightly stir-fried cabbage delivers the crisp crunch missing in mung bean sprouts, while Shitake mushrooms provide the umami depth typically derived from MSG. Our gravy, thick with cornstarch is bright with vinegar, soy and homemade stock. So sober up, and get ready for some amazingly good Chinese!

Egg Fu Yung

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

For Omelet:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tbs peanut oil
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 1.5 cups Shitake mushrooms, slice thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For Sauce:

  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs Sherry Vinegar*
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1.5 cups vegetable stock or Asian stock

*For a more complex flavor with a hint of sweetness, use 1 tbs Sherry vinegar and 2 tbs of Sapore’s Serrano Chile Honey vinegar.

Directions:

  • Whisk together eggs, sesame oil and green parts of scallions in a large bowl.
  • On medium heat, warm 1 tbs peanut oil in a 12” skillet. Sauté white part of scallions until softened. Add cabbage and stirfry until tender but still firm. Add to egg mixture.
  • Return skillet to heat, add 1 tbs peanut oil and shitake mushrooms, sauté until softened and browning on edges. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Stir into egg mixture.
  • Heat 2 tbs oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in eggs, cover and cook.
  • While omelet cooks, mix together sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer until thickened. Keep warm.
  • When the top of the omelet is set, loosen the Egg Fu Yung with a rubber spatula, slide onto a platter, and serve with gravy. (Or just eat it right from the pan.)

Earthy and French

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Photograph by Sam Armocido

God did just fine creating cauliflower. Pure, creamy and white, it needs nothing more than a quick steam before  tossing with salt, pepper and farm-fresh butter. That, however, is not the shortest path to impressing you with my culinary creativity. So, last week in the test kitchen we were faced with a decision: sweet and Indian or hearty and French? We stayed up until 1 AM and tried both. Here’s effort number one.

Cauliflower provides the comforting weight of potatoes with a mouth feel as light as zucchini or yellow wax beans. We found earthiness and luxury in Crimini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed, finished with thyme and white wine. Yukon Gold potatoes, relatively low in starch, gave heft without weighing our stew down. We needed depth, and found it in garlic and anchovy paste. A spicy, robust olive oil finished the stew richly.

We had achieved cauliflower stew Nirvana: hearty enough for a cold, damp fall night, but light enough that we weren’t crawling to bed from the dinner table.

You’re freaked about the anchovy paste, aren’t you? Your nose is wrinkled in disgust at the thought of that fishy, salty brown paste, oozing like toothpaste from a tube. Anchovy paste adds necessary layers of flavor in a dish that might otherwise feel one-dimensional. You won’t taste it. It’s one of those perfect stealth ingredients, delivering lots of flavor without getting caught. So go ahead, squeeze a little in, and don’t tell your kids or your picky eater of a boyfriend. They’ll never know.

Hearty Cauliflower Mushroom Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup dry Vermouth
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes*, in 1/2” dice
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (here’s a quick and simple recipe)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs Moresca Olive Oil**
  • Nutmeg

*This past weekend, Dan at Agora Farms introduced me to the Eva potato. Named after the mother of the Cornell researcher who developed it, Eva is creamy and white, with bold flavor (who knew potatoes could have flavor?!) and medium starch. They make a perfect, creamy mash, just sayin’…

**Sapore’s latest introduction, Moresca is a bold, spicy oil perfect for dipping bread, tossing with pasta, arugula and walnuts and gave great depth as a finish to this stew.

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in large sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown on edges. Deglaze with Vermouth. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Reserve.
  • Heat olive oil in same pan. Sauté onions until translucent, add garlic and anchovy paste and cook 30 seconds.
  • Add potatoes and cook until onion begins to brown on edges.
  • Stir in the stock, cover and cook until potatoes have started to soften.
  • Add cauliflower and fresh thyme. Cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp tender.
  • Uncover and let broth thicken. Season to taste with Moresca oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

The pumpkin whisperer.

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Photo by Sam Armocido

Good food starts with good ingredients. Like “haste makes waste” and the Lord’s prayer,  this simple truism about food is fixed in our minds, but its meaning is rarely considered. So is the fact that the best recipes begin with thoughtful consideration of the ingredients we use.

Galeux d’Eysines is a pale, peach-skinned pumpkin covered in peanut-like warty growths. Those “peanuts” are the result of abundant sugars building up under the skin. The dense, bright-orange flesh is relatively non-fiberous, delivering the smoothest purée of any pumpkin I know and, though sugary-sweet, the flavor is delicate.

While hearty Hubbard squash and Marina de Chioggia pumpkin inspire rich recipes, the peanut pumpkin wants a lighter touch: a stock infused with its flavorful seed mass, savory boar sausages and mildly-earthy, sweet Shitake mushrooms deglazed with dry Madeira wine.

Being the pumpkin-whisperer probably won’t get me my own television series, but it did deliver a spectacular soup recipe. And that’s far more important, isn’t it?

“Peanut” Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6-8 Shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced, stems reserved
  • 3 cups Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin purée, seed mass reserved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Wild boar sausages, casings removed*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup Madeira or brandy
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • Fig Balsamic Vinegar*

*If you can’t get to Canales Quality Meats at Eastern Market in DC, grab a pork and sage sausage, or just a pork sauce and mix in some dried sage leaves. Fig Balsamic should be on the shelf at your grocery store, but you can definitely order this really good stuff from Sapore Oil and Vinegar

Directions:

  • Simmer stock in a 2-3 qt saucepan, for 20 minutes, with the Shitake stems, pumpkin guts, bayleaf and thyme sprigs.
  • Meanwhile, in a 4 qt soup pot, brown sausage in 2 tbs olive oil. Breaking it up as it cooks. When browned, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add 1 tbs olive oil and onion to pot and cook until softened.
  • Return sausage to pot, strain in stock and cook for five to ten minutes.
  • While the soup simmers, sauté Shitake mushrooms in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. When mushrooms have softened and edges begin to brown, deglaze pan with Madeira, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add pumpkin purée to pot and cook five minutes longer.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or two of butter. Serve garnished with mushrooms and Fig Balsamic Vinegar.

I’m still wearing white shoes.

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*Sincere thanks to Jenny Lehman for this beautiful photo of the soup she made at home from this recipe.

Spring and fall in Washington easily compensate for summer’s most humid days and the city’s damp, insipid attempt at winter. One of the great joys of these seasons is their length. In New England, where I grew up, spring announces itself with a six-week flurry of daffodils, Forsythia and Rhododendron that fade as quickly as they arrive. DC’s season’s last months, lingering over spring flowers and the long change to autumn, marked by crisp leaves, bright mums and jaunty scarves and caps.

Why force it then? I’m puzzled by the appearance of pants and sweaters on the first 75 degree day in September while I’m still enjoying the end of summer in shorts and a tee. I feel the same way about food. Hearty soups are inappropriate on a warm, humid day no matter what date the calendar marks.

Presented with the year’s first Delicata squash, I wanted to serve up a soup that was light and celebrated this cultivar’s sweet, floral notes*, saving rich, sugary Hubbards and Kabocha’s for colder weather. A double stock, flavored with anise-y fennel, the season’s last tomatoes and earthy Shitakes bring out the lighter notes in Delicata. Using the seed mass beefs up the squash taste. This soup delivers so many layers of flavor, for so little work, the first bite caught me by surprise. Farm-fresh butter adds welcome richness. In a rare decision, we left out vinegar. Even rich balsamic dulled Delicata’s delicate sugars.

*”Seriously, floral notes and light sweetness? Next you’ll be telling me about lingonberry accents in my Pinot.” My parents and I actually conducted a squash tasting at home one night. That’s just how we roll.

Delicata Squash Fennel Soup

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-1.5 cups fennel stems and fronds
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 4-6 Shitake mushrooms, stems and caps
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 6 parsley stems, about 3″ each
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1” cubes. Seed mass reserved.
  • 1-2 tbs butter

Directions:

  • While you chop the squash and onions, simmer the vegetable stock with fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs and bay leaves for 20-30 minutes.
  • Warm oil in a 4qt soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook one minute until fragrant.
  • Add squash and sauté 5-7 minutes.
  • Strain the stock into the vegetables and cook until squash is easily pierced through with a fork or tip of a knife.
  • Purée soup in a food mill or with an immersion blender. I prefer a food mill for this soup because of the smoother purée it produces.
  • Season to taste with butter, salt and pepper.