Tofu Talk

September 9, 2021

 

Yes it’s me, your long lost vegetarian food blogger.  A year after I told you I was coming back to this space, I’m really back.  For real.  I had every intention of making this a more regular thing but I got stopped by technology.  I started this blog way back in May of 2008.  About a year after I started, I worked with a designer to move me over to WordPress and redesign the site.  And that’s the last time anything was updated.  I don’t really care that the site looks dated, but using a very old version of WordPress left me banging my head against a wall.  Because I am intimidated by the tech aspect of the blog, I just put it off.  I’ve had this post ready to go for months but couldn’t go anywhere with it.  I finally reached out to my friend network and someone suggested I post the job on Fiverr.  A few days and a little bit of money later, I’m back!

Now before I get to the tofu, I have to simultaneously apologize to and profusely thank those of you who left me such lovely comments on this post.  I was operating under the impression that no one really reads this blog anymore so I hadn’t bothered to check the comments.  In fact, that is not the case.  I am humbled by your welcomes back to this space and by your sharing your own difficult experiences with mental illness.  I have always been so grateful by the support of friends and strangers when I talk about the tough stuff here.  Thank you all so much for reading and supporting.  There is nothing more motivating than having wonderful readers.

Onward.  I’ve noticed that every time I post something about tofu on Instagram, I get questions.  Tofu, it seems, is not only a polarizing ingredient but also a perplexing one.  I’ve been cooking with it for well over 25 years and while I’m not an expert, I do have some Thoughts and Opinions, as well as a favorite way to prepare it.  I just read over my old tofu posts (some great recipes there!) and I have addressed most of these points in previous posts, but here are all my thoughts in one convenient place:

Tofu is not a meat substitute.  If you are looking to reduce your meat intake but also are looking for something to replace your steak or roast chicken, tofu is not your guy.  Tofu, while it can be delicious if treated the right way and nutritious, is not going to satisfy you if you want animal protein.  Treat tofu as its own unique thing and you will be more likely to accept and like it.

Always, always extra firm.  If you have gone looking for our soy friend and been overwhelmed by the choices, I can totally understand.  Silken, soft, medium, firm, extra firm, super firm, water packed, vacuum packed – did I miss any?  I occasionally buy silken tofu (the type that is shelf-stable and found on the Asian foods aisle) for using in miso soup or blending into desserts, but otherwise I always go extra-firm or super firm.  If possible, I also try to get the type that is shrink wrapped and NOT packed in water.  One of the keys to getting flavor into tofu is to remove excess water (more on that in a minute), so you have to work harder at this task if the whole block is sitting in water.  Wildwood makes a good one they label as super firm and if you are in the Bay Area, Hodo Tofu is made right here in Oakland and has a great texture.  Trader Joe’s also has a good one.

Get rid of excess water but don’t make yourself crazy. Many tofu recipes will tell you to “press” the tofu.  This involves laying it on a towel, placing a baking sheet over it, and then placing heavy cans on top for 20-30 minutes.  The idea is that you are pressing out the excess water which will allow the tofu to absorb more flavor and have better texture.  I agree with the end goals but in my experience, this is a time-consuming and unnecessary step.  If your tofu is too soft, it will sploosh apart under the weight and if it is extra-firm, it will just sit there and not really give off any water.  Your best bet is to lay the whole block on a clean kitchen towel and aggressively blot the outer edges dry.  You can even give it a bit of a squeeze.  Then, slice the tofu into planks and dry each of those, both sides, with the same towel.  Then you are good to go!

Flavor, flavor, flavor.  One of the biggest complaints I hear about tofu is that it doesn’t taste like anything.  (The other one is that it is mushy, which you can solve by buying extra firm.)  That complaint is pretty much true – tofu on its own doesn’t have much flavor.  But, if I remember correctly, neither do chicken breasts.  You do things to chicken to make it taste better, like season and/or marinate it, and so you should do the same with tofu.  If you are simply stir frying it and adding it to another dish, be sure to season it well with salt and pepper before sautéing and even give it another sprinkle of salt after it is done.  But to get even better flavor (and texture) consider marinating and baking the tofu.  I think Asian profile flavors taste best so I lean toward ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and chile paste.  But you could certainly explore other options.

High heat is your friend.  To get great texture, you need to work with relative high heat and give it a bit of your attention.  If I am adding tofu to a stir fry or fried rice, I will stick with the season and then pan fry method I describe below.  Frying it will tighten it up a bit and give you a bit of a crust.  Do not expect fried chicken level of crunch but the texture is nice.   If the tofu is more of the star of the show, I marinate it for at least an hour, even longer if possible.  Then I bake it in the marinade in a 400 degree oven until the marinade has been absorbed.  Below you will find specifics on how to cook/bake the tofu.  I’m giving you a yield of 16-20 ounces because the Wildwood and Trader Joe’s super firm comes in a 16-ounce pack.  If you can find Hodo brand, it (annoyingly) comes in 10-ounce packs, so I buy two.

Pan-Fried Tofu
16-20 ounces of tofu

You will notice that I have you sautéing the tofu in slabs first, then cutting into cubes once they are golden brown.  There are few tasks I find more mind-numbing than turning individual cubes of tofu over four times but if that sounds like fun to you, cut each slab into cubes before frying.  Just don’t forget to season with salt and pepper.

Remove the plastic packaging from the tofu and using a clean kitchen towel (or paper towels), blot the brick(s) dry.  Cut the brick(s) into approximately 1-inch thick slabs and blot each slab dry on both sides.  You can give them a gentle squeeze too.  Lay out on a plate and sprinkle both sides with a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Place a large non-stick sauté pan over medium high heat.  Drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of a flavorless oil (canola or grapeseed are my choices) and carefully lay the slabs of tofu in the pan.  They will tend to splatter a bit so watch your hands.  Allow the slabs to cook until they are a uniform golden brown, then carefully flip them over using tongs or a spatula.  Allow the second side to get golden brown.  If you are able to stand the slabs up on their ends without them falling over, allow those to get golden brown too.  If that doesn’t work for you, don’t worry about it.  Once you have golden brown tofu, remove the slabs to a paper towel lined plate.  If you were not able to cook all the tofu in one batch, repeat these instructions with the rest of the tofu.  Sprinkle all the slabs with another pinch of kosher salt.

Once the slabs are cool enough to handle, cut them each into the desired sized cubes.

Oven-Baked Tofu
16-20 ounces of tofu

1 package Wildwood Super Firm Tofu or two packages Hodo Extra Firm Tofu
3 tbsp. soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. honey or brown sugar
1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. salem olek or other chili paste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the middle position.  Remove the plastic packaging from the tofu and using a clean kitchen towel (or paper towels), blot the brick(s) dry.  Cut the brick(s) into approximately 1-inch thick slabs and blot each slab dry on both sides.  You can give them a gentle squeeze too.  Cut the slabs of tofu into approximately one-inch cubes.

In a large baking dish, whisk together all the marinade ingredients.  Taste and make sure the balance is right.  You want a nice salty/sweet/sour flavor but adjust until it tastes right to you.  Tumble the tofu cubes into the dish and stir to combine well.  Allow the tofu to sit out, stirring occasionally, for ideally 30-60 minutes.  The flavor gets better the longer it sits so you can also prepare this early in the day.  If it is going to sit out longer than an hour, cover the dish and place in the refrigerator.  Stir occasionally.

Place the uncovered dish in the oven and bake, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the marinade is completely absorbed and the tofu is getting crispy, about 35-40 minutes.

 



The Dip You Can Serve with (Almost) Anything

July 3, 2020

Asian Avocado Dip 3

Friends, let me tell you, I am RUSTY at this food blogging thing.  I think I figured that when I finally sat down to get this old girl up and running again, the posts would just magically flow like they used to.  Except the reality is that they never magically flowed.  I worked hard on each post, reworking it over the course of several days, getting it to that point where I was making my story clear and enticing you to want to make the recipe.  Being away for six and a half years made those writing muscles really rusty.

I posted about this Asian-Inspired Avocado Dip on Instagram recently, and got a bunch of people asking about it.  It became clear to me that this was the first food I would need to post.  I had other ideas but the more I thought about it, the more this dish makes sense as my first food post in a very long time.  I’ve been making it forever – in fact, I had to look back through my “dip” category to make sure I hadn’t already written about it.  It is one of those big wallop of flavor for little effort recipes, and every single time I’ve made it, the dip is demolished and several people ask me about it.

I started the first version of this post with a story about going to Las Vegas with my ex-husband and how my experience of eating every meal at a buffet made me realize that food needs to flow.  As in, you shouldn’t have sushi next to meatballs and spaghetti.  This was actually a seminal moment in my food journey.  I have ever since been cognizant of how dishes go together, whether it’s for a simple dinner, a big dinner party, or an even bigger catered party.  There doesn’t need to be a theme per se (July in Provence!), but some semblance of harmony within the dishes helps the food make sense.  You don’t have to scratch your head about it, you can just enjoy. I don’t think I take this to the extreme but I made a red Thai curry for dinner last week and served a cucumber salad that I am currently obsessed with alongside.  I was on the verge of apologizing that the cucumbers were really more of a Japanese recipe so probably shouldn’t have made them with a Thai dish, and then I realized my audience (my husband and two boys) probably wouldn’t even know what I was talking about, and closed my mouth.  But this is the legacy of that trip to Vegas.  Don’t serve sushi next to spaghetti and meatballs.

So allow me to kind of contradict myself when I tell you that while this dip definitely has ingredients often found in Asian cooking (soy sauce, wasabi, mirin, rice wine vinegar), it can be at home with just about anything.  I used to do a regular party for a friend who owns a jewelry shop where I did all different kinds of appetizers.  It was a little bit of everything and this dip was always at home.  I even (gasp!) serve it with tortilla chips.  I made it last week to bring to a socially distanced discussion about books and, unusually, had some left over.  I made pizza that night to eat with a friend and her two boys who came over.  Asian-Inspired Avocado Dip as an appetizer with pizza for dinner?  I wasn’t sure.  But do you know what?  No one cared.  It disappeared as it usually does and I realized that sometimes I need to get over myself.

A few notes about the recipe.  It calls for jicama which isn’t always that easy to find and when you do find it, they are often ginormous.  I have successfully used radishes as a substitute, although the jicama is better because it lends some nice sweetness.  When I have the time and patience, I will cut the rest of the jicama into batons and serve them with the dip.  A friend on Instagram asked if I had ever served it with rice crackers and no, I haven’t and yes, I will next time.  I buy S&B wasabi which comes in like a mini toothpaste tube which I store in the fridge pretty much just for this recipe.  It seems to be just fine in there for long-ish periods of time.  And finally, while you can technically make this ahead, I find it gives off a fair amount of liquid, so it’s really at its most appetizing soon after you make it.  You could certainly get all the components ready ahead of time and just chop the avocados and mix it right before serving.

Asian-Inspired Avocado Dip
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes about 3 cups

1 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. wasabi paste
1 bunch watercress, leaves only, coarsely chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup ½-inch cubes peeled jicama
2 large avocados, halved, pitted, cut into small pieces

Stir sesame seeds in dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic and light golden, about 2 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.  (DT: I buy pre-toasted sesame seeds which make this dip even easier.)

Whisk next five ingredients in large bowl to blend.  Add watercress, scallions, and jicama; toss to coat.  Gently stir in avocado.  Sprinkle dip with sesame seeds and serve.

 



I Have Returned…

June 15, 2020

Grahamspencerblog

(Spencer, 13  Graham, 15)

Hello Friends.

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?  It’s actually been about six and a half years.  I’m doing the math in my head as I type this and I truly can’t believe it has been that long since I’ve been back to this space.  A LOT has happened.  A LOT is happening right now for all of us, isn’t it? The question of why I am back now is a lot simpler than the question of where I have been.  I’m back because I’ve been wanting to come back for a long time and earlier this year, when life was, you know, normal-ish, I set a goal for myself to get back to my blog.  Generally I’m not a big goal setter, but I have a Big Birthday coming up at the end of July and I thought setting some goals for this year would be helpful.  When I’m not actually in the kitchen cooking, or planning on what I will be cooking, I tend to be a procrastinator and sometimes a little lazy.  So as I made that list, it seemed ambitious.  Now, with life altered and a lot of time on my hands, I’ve been chipping away at the goals.  I have already surpassed doing 50 Peloton rides by the end of July, I’ve tackled pizza and sourdough among other baking challenges, and at long last, I’m back here in the land of food blogging.

I’ve missed this space so much.  So much.  Please let me say thank you so much for all of you who have reached out over the years, all of you who have asked me when I’m coming back, all of you who have continued to use the recipes on this site and have recommended it to friends.  It has continued to be a source of joy for me even as I went dark.  Once I get this post out of the way, I will get back to posting food photos and recipes.  I just need to tell you where I’ve been.

In January of 2014, I was felled by a terrible episode of depression.  It seemingly came out of nowhere.  One day I was fine, the next day I felt a little blue, and the next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  At first I chalked it up to coming off a busy holiday season with family in town but after the third day of terrible exhaustion, I went to see my doctor.  She told me I was showing signs of depression and gave me a prescription for Lexapro.  She also told me to try and find someone to talk to but “good luck with that because they all have really busy practices”.  (I no longer see this doctor.)  And thus began the next four years of my life.  Crushing soul sucking depression.  It runs in my family and I had had minor bouts of it in the past but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how awful I felt.  It’s called mental illness for a reason, I was sick.  I felt sick.  Not sad.  Like a migraine without the headache is how I sometimes described it. But so much worse than that. The first year was absolutely paralyzingly awful.  I was seeing a psychiatrist who was not really helping me but I was too wasted to find someone else.  We were trying to find the right meds and the right dosage and all of that took so much TIME and so many side effects.  The few weeks of intense anxiety I felt while adjusting to Lexapro, on top of paralyzing depression, almost sent me over the edge.  I was just waiting and waiting to feel better.  Thankfully, my kids were still young enough to not really understand that something was drastically wrong with me.  They didn’t question why they were getting Oreos in their lunchboxes instead of homemade treats, or why I was in bed all the time.  They didn’t mind the spaghetti with jarred sauce that I made regularly and which should signal to anyone who has read this blog how bad I really felt.  I lost all my joy besides my kids.

After the first year and switching to a new psychiatrist and a different med, I felt a tiny bit better.  Joy was still in short supply and I had absolutely no energy and I was sleeping an alarming number of hours each day, but I didn’t feel that unspeakable awfulness.  The following year was a little better and by year four, I could say that once I was able to get myself out of bed, which was most of the time around noon, I felt more or less normal.  I was back to cooking and baking a bit, I had things I was looking forward to, I was a more active participant in my life.  That terrible weight sitting on my head had lifted.  I had gained a significant amount of weight (common with anti-depressants) and it seemed that most of my feeling terrible had transferred to how I looked.  I really felt all right but I had all this weight on me, a visible symptom of what I had been through.  By January of 2018, I felt ready to take control of the situation.  With my doctor’s blessing and plan for doing it safely, I went off my meds.  Very slowly I started exercising and I also got back to a healthy way of eating. Much more importantly, I found joy again in my life and rejoined my family and friends.

So what happened?  Why did it strike me the way it did?  These are two of the many questions I explored with the two doctors I saw.  Depression, of course, can just happen.  There doesn’t have to be a cause.  But for me, I realized, with the help of my doctors, that I had so many unexplored feelings about having a child with special needs.  We’ve known since Graham was 18 months old that something was wrong and his childhood and adolescence has had so many twists and turns.  But I had never really talked to anyone about how that felt.  I talked about him to people but it was more situational than emotional.  “We need to find a different school for him because his school is becoming a language immersion school and that won’t work for him.”  But not how that felt. How sad I was that he wasn’t “normal” and how exhausting it was to have to keep ahead of the game and find the right thing for him.  How I would think “Why me?” and then immediately feel guilty for thinking that when I had the gift of this amazing kid.  I think the deepest and most candid I got about these feelings were the posts I wrote here on my blog.

But even deeper than these unexplored feelings about having him as a child were/are my feelings about how I mother him.  Beyond the terrible guilt about sometimes wishing he was different, lies the shame in all the times I have yelled at him for things he can’t help.  The impatience I feel for things that are not his fault.  The worry I feel about his future, beyond the regular worry that I feel for Spencer, and how much despair I feel about that.  These are terrible dark things to feel and so painful to confront and I came away from the four years of feeling bad thinking, no wonder.  No wonder I got felled hard by these terrible things I was feeling and these terrible things I was telling myself.  I think the most valuable thing my doctor gave me, besides her unflagging empathy, is the idea that I am so incredibly hard on myself about how I mother Graham because I have very high standards about the mother I want to be and how I should mother him.  He’s an amazing giving loving person, so I should be more patient.  He can’t help it that he can’t keep track of his things, so I shouldn’t yell at him for losing his jacket.  My doctor helped normalize the things I was telling myself and was very adamant that I not “should myself to death”.

Now that I am on the other side of those four dark years, I have many thoughts and feelings about it.  I feel fear that it will all come crashing down again.  I worked really hard in therapy but I could have worked harder.  There are scary things that I explored but also scary things that I left alone.  Will that come back to haunt me?  I also have to deal with the fact that I lost my mid-40’s.  I have memories from those years, of course, but with a pall over them.  It was the dark time and it took up a significant chunk of my life.  When I expressed regret about that to my doctor, she asked me if I could have a magic pill to make it so that the depression never have happened, would I take it?  That’s a tough one but after thinking about it, I would say that no, I wouldn’t take the pill.  My life changed forever when I was 43 not because of anything I did, and that’s a twist that I have to own.  I came out the other side so grateful to feel better.  When I exercise, when I plan for and cook a big meal, when I am fully present with my family, I am extremely aware that it was not this way for a long while and to never take health, mental and otherwise, for granted.

Next up, a food post!



Nine

December 16, 2013

Deep deep sigh.

My son, my big boy, is nine years old.  His birthday was November 28th – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and his birthday all in one this year.  I started doing these birthday posts when he was six – the age his younger brother is now, although it is only two more months before Spencer turns seven. I like to go back and reread these birthday posts more than any others here on my blog. I have a good memory but being able to capture little moments that slip through my mind’s cracks gives me a better sense of my family. The journey from eight years old to nine was a challenging one so truthfully, I’m not sad to leave eight behind. Even though Graham has become this huge person, not a little tiny boy anymore and that makes me sad, I’m just glad we are able to move on to the next year.

If you have been reading here long enough, you know that Graham has some challenges that do not have a name.  (You can read more posts about him here.)  He is not on the spectrum (Autism or Asperger’s), he is not dyslexic, he doesn’t have behavioral issues, and he is healthy as an ox. He probably has some kind of auditory processing disorder meaning that he doesn’t process language in the way that you and I do. He hears the words fine but doesn’t make sense of them in a timely manner, or sometimes at all. Language, as I have learned first hand, affects everything you do in your life. If you are not fluent in speaking and understanding, you are probably also not fluent in social language. He struggles to follow along in his classroom and he also struggles on the playground. Ever the cheerful and friendly child, he wants to join in games at recess but can’t follow the complex rules that sometimes go along with those games and frustration ensues.   Fortunately, in his case, frustration means walking away, not hauling off and hitting someone.  He also just doesn’t read people in quite the right way so kids sometimes find him annoying or inappropriate. It is heartbreaking to watch. All he wants is to connect, to be friends, and he just doesn’t go about it quite the right way. I watch Spencer, his junior by two years, navigate friendships effortlessly. But for Graham it is just so much harder. I will say that the older kids, especially the girls, adore him and he gets high fives whenever he sees them.

All along, Randy and I have held tight to the idea that public school is the best choice for Graham. Because he has been tested and has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), he has legal rights to services within the school. If we opt out and go to private school, we lose our rights to services during the school day. The burden would fall to us to get him extra help. Over the years, the schools he has attended have offered him quite a bit in the way of services, but it has never been quite enough, especially as he has gotten older and school has gotten more sophisticated. This past year it seemed they are always just falling short of what he really needs. This has been a frustrating process, to say the least. Both Randy and I believe that their hearts are in the right place, that they care deeply about Graham and want him to succeed, but for many complicated reasons, including funding, they are not able to give him quite enough help. Last year, at the end of our rope, we hired a lawyer to help us navigate the meetings and to help us speak the correct language to get what we want for him.

Through the process of many meetings and innumerable emails, not to mention an honest threat to sue the Oakland school district, Graham is now being helped more than before. He attends a special reading clinic every morning where he and one other student get intensive reaching coaching by a specialist. He still gets help with reading and writing during the school day, and he has an aide shadowing him at recess, to help him navigate the complex rules of the playground. He also goes to speech therapy twice a week. This kid works so hard. I have to wake him up most mornings, then he gets breakfast, then I pile the two boys in the car and drive to downtown Oakland where the reading clinic is. He spends an hour and forty minutes with no break practicing reading and pronunciation. He scores a ten out of ten almost every single day for his effort.  Then he gets on a bus and goes back to his regular school where he has just missed recess, and has to jump in with two feet to whatever is on the schedule that day. His teacher is kind and accommodating, telling him to get his wiggles out on the playground if he needs to, and offering him time to eat a snack, but it is still a big transition. One that he does every single day and will do through the end of the school year. Graham has homework every night that can take him up to an hour, with a lot of assistance, and it is so difficult for him. All through these long days with challenging expectations, he is cheerful and compliant. “How was school today?” is met, unfailingly, with “Great!”

I am so proud of him. I also continue to be frustrated by him. And that is where this post will sound like all the other birthday posts that I have written about Graham. I have this beautiful amazingly sweet tempered child, who tries his best every single day (how many of us can say that?), and much of the time, in addition to loving him, I am impatient with him. Homework is the time of day where I am tested. I sit with him as he struggles to recognize his spelling words (must they be written in cursive??) and watch as his math skills, which are very good, flee his brain as he contemplates word problems. Third grade is a big transition, the work is less linear, more complex. This does not work well for our child. Again, I am grateful to his teacher who is compassionate and understanding. She suggests that he does 20 minutes of homework only, set a timer, and whatever he finishes is great.  So far, that has made things a bit easier for all of us.

At his last IEP meeting, an emotional one where the school therapist shared her findings, and her deep affection for Graham, in a stirring way, Randy raised the difficult question. The one that has been in the back of our minds since he started school. “At what point do we hold him back?” It was one of those things that had been with me so long that it was startling to hear it voiced aloud. And even more startling was how they unequivocally told us that studies show that “retaining” students does them no good. They progress for a while and then continue to get stuck about where they did the previous year. Much better to keep assessing his needs and making accommodations for him along the way. I felt so much better after that was cleared up.  And I also worry.  Of course I worry.  How will this look in the future?  How will he continue to be in the classroom with typically developing kids without his very strong self esteem being impacted?

And then I remember what his pediatrician said long ago.  Before we knew what this was (and we still don’t), before he had started in school, just about when we realized that he wasn’t talking and all the babies his age were.  She told me that as long as he was making progress, we shouldn’t worry.  His peers will make progress too, most of the time faster than he will, so it won’t be a race.  He won’t necessarily catch up.  But as long as he is moving forward, that is what we need to hold on to.  And he is moving forward.  When he was starting developmental preschool and he was still wearing diapers, I could not imagine a day when he would sit at a real desk and do real math problems and read real books.  And here he is doing all of those things and thriving in his own way.

There are lessons here.  Be easier on him.  Be easier on myself.  Celebrate what you have without wishing for what you don’t.  Why is it all so hard?  I imagine other people’s houses at homework time and how effortlessly it must flow.  I imagine other people’s weekends and how much less frustration they must experience just trying to get out the door in addition to everything else.  And then I remember a valuable lesson I learned when I went through my divorce from my first husband.  When we announced to friends and family that we were splitting up, people were absolutely shocked.  From the outside, we seemed like the perfect couple – how could we divorce?  I realized that no one knows what is going on in your house and the challenges you face.  So as I imagine these other people with their other children, I need to remember that everyone has something.  What I have is a gloriously happy (and handsome) child with an amazing attitude who thinks he is awesome and that his life is great.  And I have a temper I wish was less volatile when it comes to this child.  We’ve done the work for him and we will continue to do it.  I think I need to do some work on me.



My New Favorite Mushrooms

November 21, 2013

Two quick announcements.  One, I have a new class that I will be teaching in December.  Tarts and Galettes will be our topic and the food will be truly epic!  If you have ever been afraid of making pie or tart dough, this is the class for you.  I have a foolproof recipe and will demonstrate lots of ways to use it.  Information here.  Also, if you are looking for some ideas for the big Thanksgiving holiday next week, I have a Thanksgiving category found here.

My brother Alex is a very accomplished eater. Actually, both of my brothers are. They are those annoying people who have huge appetites, eat well, and are very slim and in great shape. I should mention that they both work hard at staying in great physical shape.  I should also mention that I did not get the eat everything you want and stay slim gene. Nor did I get the tall gene. But I did get the small nose gene! Ahem. Back to Alex. As a child, he was incredibly picky. The list of food he would eat was pretty much confined to apple juice, applesauce, yogurt, and rice. Maybe a fruit or two. I think about this often when I think about the pickier of my two eaters. At least Spencer eats tofu and soba noodles and broccoli and mango and whole wheat bread and chickpeas and lots of fruit in addition to the buttered noodles that he would prefer to eat. I trust that Spencer will someday be like Alex. Some switch will flip for him and what he scoffs at now, he will love later.

Interestingly, there are two foods that Alex still doesn’t like. Mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Two foods that I love. I can’t say I understand the artichoke hearts, it’s not a common dislike, but I do get the mushrooms. I hated them as a kid – we all did. My mom made them regularly but she didn’t make us eat them. Nor did she make us eat the acorn squash halves that she filled with bits of butter and maple syrup and I would gladly eat two of now. Mushrooms are a pretty common dislike, enough so that I always ask a new friend how they feel about them before I cook for them. It is not just a taste thing but also a texture thing. Like I said, I get that. I feel lucky that I like them and that I have a husband who likes them. We eat a lot of mushrooms in our house. Um, two out of four of us do.

This is my new favorite way to use mushrooms and elevate them to a truly special side dish.  First you bake some portabellos to caramelize them and bring out their deep woodsy flavor.  Then you sauté leeks until they are silky and limp.  Next up are a combination of cremini (which are actually baby portabellos) and button mushrooms – those get time in the skillet with herbs and eventually some red wine.  The mushrooms cook down until they are brown and tender and at the very end you throw in some arugula for a little green and a little peppery punch.  It’s a great side dish and would even be amazing tossed with pasta.  Too bad Alex will never taste them.

One Year Ago:  Pumpkin Roll Cake
Two Years Ago:  Squash Hummus and Homemade Flatbread, Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger, and one of my favorite posts of all time – Wednesday
Three Years Ago:  Orecchiette with Creamy Leeks and Winter Squash
Four Years Ago:  Peanut Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Greens, Cider Caramelized Apple Pound Cake
Five Years Ago:  Parmesan and Thyme Crackers, Broccoli Rabe, Carrot and Radicchio Salad

Sautéed Mushrooms with Red Wine
Food & Wine
Serves 6 mushroom lovers

Preheat the oven to 350°. On a baking sheet, brush the portobellos with about 1 tablespoon of  olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, until tender; let cool slightly, then slice 1/2 inch thick.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat another tablespoon of the oil. Add the leeks, garlic and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the leeks are just starting to brown, 7 minutes; transfer to a bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add half of the button and cremini mushrooms and a thyme sprig, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned, 8 minutes. Transfer to the bowl. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, mushrooms and thyme sprig.
Return all of the cooked mushrooms to the skillet. Add the red wine and cook until evaporated. Add the broth, lemon zest and lemon juice and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the mushrooms are coated in a light sauce, 4 minutes. Stir in the Marsala and cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the butter and arugula and season with salt and pepper.


« Older Posts