Archive for November, 2013

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.


Back with a Winner

November 13, 2013

Hello friends. How do I explain an over month-long absence? It would be easier if I had some good excuse as to why I’ve been gone. A long trip maybe or a super exciting professional assignment. I can’t boast either. I can’t hide behind illness or family troubles because, truthfully, everything is going swimmingly. It turns out that writing is like exercise for me. Either I’m in it, doing the work on an almost daily basis and it feels natural, or I’m out. I never meant to be out and I apologize that so much time has passed since my last post and this one. My own brother called me a slacker.

Here is a reason that I believe I will never have an over month-long absence for this space again. We moved around our guest bedroom and study. My writing space was once downstairs and is now on the main floor, just a few steps from the kitchen. I know it’s silly that a few stairs kept me from writing but, after living with things the old way for a year, it seemed time to make a change. Also, our new guest digs are bigger, brighter, and more private. A win win for everyone.

So I’m returning with a favorite. I have always loved making Indian food, never more than once I got my hands on two very special cookbooks from a favorite restaurant in London. (Amazon carries at least one of them.) I turn to them over and over again, their pages splattered and slightly coming away from the spine of the books. When an Indian food craving hits, I almost always make this dish alongside some rice (Peas Pilau Rice from one of the books is particularly good) and some other delicious offering, most often starring potatoes and/or chickpeas. Raita and some kind of chutney round out the meal. What makes this dish special is that it is mild, a bit tangy, but still with plenty of spices and the haunting and unique flavor of fresh curry leaves. It’s mildness and creaminess is most welcome on a table of spicy things. I love a dish that can taste so good with a slight richness and that is also so good for you.

Curry leaves are an ingredient that can be hard to find but they do add an unmistakable and hard-to-put-your finger on flavor here. I was able to find them at Uwajimaya in Seattle and I have found them in Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market here in the East Bay. If you have an Asian market or other ethnic store near you, chances are you can find them. They keep for a long time so buy extra because you’ll want to make this dish again. If you can’t find them, make the dish anyway. In addition to being tasty and tangy, it’s healthy with tons of spinach and the creaminess comes from plain yogurt. Sorry for being away for so long.

One Year Ago:  Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Malted Vanilla Milkshakes (and another apology)
Two Years Ago:  Bulghur Salad Stuffed Peppers, Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney (Thanksgiving appetizer anyone?)
Three Years Ago:  Romaine Leaves with Caesar Dressing and a Big Crouton, Roasted Mushrooms and Shallots
Four Years Ago:  Holly B’s Gingersnaps, Gianjuja Mousse
Five Years Ago:  Bulghur and Green Lentils with Chickpeas, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Cheera Thayir Curry

Adapted from The New Tastes of India
Serves 4

Vegetable, canola, or coconut oil
2 tsp. mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 dried red chilies
10 curry leaves
Pinch of fenugreek (optional)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, seeds and membranes removed for less heat, chopped
2 tbsp. peeled fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 tsp. tumeric
5 ounces baby spinach
1 cup plain yogurt (whole milk or 2%, do not use non-fat)
Kosher or sea salt

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and have a lid ready.  Pour in just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then add the mustard seeds.  After a couple of moments they will start to pop.  Immediately add the garlic, dried red chilies, curry leaves, and fenugreek.  If the popping gets out of hand, just cover the pot with the lid until it calms down.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, then add the onion, green chilies, ginger, and a large pinch of salt.

Cook until the onion is starting to turn brown, about 8 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tumeric, and another pinch of salt.  Mix thoroughly, then add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Gradually add the yogurt, stirring slowly and continuously.  Return the pan to low heat and for another couple of minutes just to bring all the flavors together.  Serve warm.