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Showing posts with label mushrooms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mushrooms. Show all posts

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to Store Shiitakes and a Mushroom Soup That's Perfect for Chilly Days

At most supermarkets, shiitakes aren't cheap so they have to be used sparingly. But at Asian markets, they're inexpensive. $3.99/pound at Mitsuwa in Santa Monica and $2.69/pound at SF Supermarket in Little Saigon. At those prices, it's reasonable to buy several pounds.

In general, shiitakes come in two forms: the slender stemmed variety and the ones which are fatter, with thicker stems and caps. Mitsuwa and SF Supermarket sell the fatter variety, which have a meater flavor.

With so many on hand, they can be used liberally in pastas and soups, grilled, and sautéed with garlic and shallots.

But how to store the ones not eaten those first couple of days?

Everyone knows that mushrooms should only be stored in the refrigerator in paper bags because kept in plastic they quickly go bad. Use a brown paper bag--not a white one, which is coated with wax so the moisture stays inside the bag--in combination with paper towels. The moisture that normally accumulates on the outside of the mushroom is absorbed by the layers of paper.

Kept in the refrigerator another week or two, the brown paper bag-paper towel combination acts as a dehydrator pefectly drying the mushrooms. This technique only works successfully with shiitakes.

If by chance any of the dried shiitakes develop mold, discard and keep the good ones. In my experience, more than 95% will dehydrate without harm.

To reconstitute dried shiitakes, put them in a heat proof bowl, pour in enough boiling water to cover, place a smaller bowl on top to keep the mushrooms submerged. Leave for 30 minutes until they soften.

Gently squeeze out the water but reserve the liquid for later use. Cut and discard the stems. At this point the mushroom caps can be cooked as if they were fresh.

Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Garlic

Shiitakes have a meaty, sweet flavor that is deliciously satisfying in this easy-to-make soup, perfect for a drizzly winter day.

Yield: Serves 4

Time: 45 minutes

Ingedients

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, fresh (stems and caps) or reconstituted (stems removed), washed, thin sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
4 shallots or 1 small yellow onion, peeled, findely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a large sauce pan, sauté the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots with the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock and, if using reconstituted mushrooms, 1/2 cup of the soaking water. Simmer 30 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

Variations

Substitute water for the chicken stock to make a vegetarian version, in which case simmer the mushrooms a bit longer and add 1 tablespoon of butter for flavor

Season with 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Add to the saute 4 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped

Add to the saute and brown 2 Italian sausages, roughly chopped,

Add to the saute and brown 1 chicken breast, roughly chopped

Add to the saute 1 cup fresh, deveined shrimp, roughly chopped

Add to the soup 1/4 cup cream and 1 tablespoon butter

Add to the soup at the end 2 packages ramen noodles cooked first in boiling water for 10 minutes then divided equally among the 4 servings

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Father to Son: A Dinner Menu

I enjoy cooking so much, I was happy when my older son Frank asked if I could help him plan a dinner he was going to cook for a friend.

The best meal is one that starts with great ingredients, which means shopping at farmers' markets and specialty shops. Supermarkets are fine for household supplies but only a few--like Gelson's, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fairway Market, Canyon Market--carry quality produce and meat.

Since Frank will be in San Francisco for the weekend, I suggest he and his friend go to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Saturday morning. Located on the Embarcadero at Market, he'll find premium vegetables, fruits, cheeses, olives, freshly baked breads, desserts, and flowers. The market is open from 8:00am until 2:00pm. If they go early they'll avoid the lunch-time crowds.

While they walk around the market enjoying the cool breezes off the Bay, they can pick up snacks from Hog Island Oyster Company, a muffin from the Downtown Bakery, or sample cheeses from Andante Dairy. The market is definitely an eat-as-you-shop kind of place.

Because I know Frank won't want to spend more time in the kitchen than necessary, the menu I'm suggesting relies on quick-and-easy techniques. And since I know he understands the importance of cleaning as he cooks--a meal is so much more pleasurable if the kitchen is clean when the cooking is finished--I've tried to minimize the number of pots and pans required.

Appetizers

Serve a plate of 2-3 cheeses, ones that contrast with each other. A Triple Cream (soft) for example and a Comte (firm). Tasting cheeses at the market is a good way to find the ones you like. Olives, fresh fruit, a baguette, and wine all go well with a cheese.

Putting together the appetizer plate will take only a few minutes. Frank and his friend can snack on the appetizers while he prepares dinner.

Salad

For a salad something simple: fresh arugula tossed with crushed roasted hazelnuts and dressed with olive oil and reduced balsamic dressing, seasoned with a little sea salt and pepper.

Or a tomato and avocado salad with a touch of olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese

Yield 2 servings
Time 15 minutes

Ziti or penne takes about 10 minutes to cook in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. A cup of the pasta water is a key ingredient. When the pasta is strained, put a heat-proof container under the strainer and capture a cup of pasta water.

Ingredients

1/2 box of De Cecco pasta (ziti or penne)
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown or shiitake (washed, dried, thinly sliced longitudinally)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, leaves only, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon sweet butter (unsalted)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt for the pasta water
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Boil 4 quarts of water with the Kosher salt, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Cook until al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, return the pasta to the pot, drizzle with olive oil, stir well, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a frying pan, sauté the garlic, mushrooms, and parsley until lightly browned, add the butter and pasta water and simmer, reducing the liquid by half, then add the pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Add to the sauté, quartered cherry tomatoes and roughly chopped up spinach leaves.

Sauté fresh corn kernels ( 1/4 cup) and shallots (1 tablespoon) with the mushrooms and parsley.

Chicken Fillets with Parsley-Bacon Topping

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes

Buy either chicken tenders--which are pricey--or skinless, boneless breasts and cut them the long way so each breast makes two 1/2" thick fillets.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts (washed, cut into 1/2" thick fillets) or 4 chicken tenders (washed)
2 slices of bacon (finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 avocado (peeled, roughly chopped)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Season the breasts with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Pour a little olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the bacon and parsley on a low flame. Use a fork to break up the pieces and cook until lightly browned. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Drizzle olive oil into the frying pan and season with sea salt and pepper. Get the pan hot on a medium flame. Add the chicken. The fillets cook quickly because they are thin. Lightly brown on each side.

Top with the sautéd bacon-parsley bits and garnish with chopped avocado on the side.

Salt Steamed Broccoli or Spinach

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes (broccoli) or 5 minutes (spinach)

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli or spinach
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

Method

Wash the broccoli and cut off the florets. If you're using spinach, wash well to get rid of the grit, remove the stems and discard. Put a steamer in a pot, add the water and salt, bring to a boil, add the broccoli florets or spinach, and cover. Steam the broccoli for 10 minutes or the spinach for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with the chicken.

Dessert

Good fruit is available now at the farmers' market: cherries, apricots, early grapes, pluots, cantaloupe, and lots of berries. A plate of fresh fruit and a small cake from the farmers' market would make a delicious dessert. Or, with very little effort, baked pluots and apricots, coupled with ice cream or yogurt, make a beautiful finish to a meal.

Baked Pluots and Apricots

Yield 2 servings
Time
30 minutes

Ingredients

2 apricots
2 pluots or plums (washed, cut in half, pits removed)
Raw sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the halved apricots and pluots on a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, dust with raw sugar, and bake for 30 minutes until softened.

Serve with ice cream or yogurt.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wilted Spinach Salad Takes Center Stage

Everyone has an all-purpose dish that can be modified in clever ways by changing a few key ingredients. For my mother, it was the casserole. For me it’s usually pasta but on those nights when my wife wants to “go green” I turn to an old stand-by: a wilted spinach salad.

Versatile spinach works cold in a salad or heated by sautéing or boiling. A hot dressing brings spinach to a middle ground: mostly raw with some leaves wilted from the heat of the dressing. Sautéing the dressing allows for a great variety of ingredients: Italian sausage, anchovies, mushrooms, shrimp, bacon, chicken, duck, chicken livers, or purely vegetarian. As far as I can tell just about any pizza topping would work on a wilted spinach salad, excepting maybe pineapple.

I invite everyone to send in suggestions. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this infinitely variable dish.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Shrimp, Avocado, and Olives
Yield 4 servings
Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 large bunch spinach, the root ends trimmed and discarded, thoroughly washed to remove the grit
2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, finely chopped (optional)
6 mushrooms (brown or shiitake), washed, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, cut into rounds 1/4" thick
2 shallots, peeled, cut into thin rounds
12 shrimp, medium sized, washed, deveined, sliced in half (optional)
12 olives (oil cured black, green split, or Castelvetrano green), pitted, quartered
1 small avocado, peeled, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons feta, crumbled (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Remove the stems from the spinach. Put the leaves into a large salad bowl. Finely chop the stems. To make the hot dressing put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a sauté pan on a medium flame and lightly brown the spinach stems, garlic, bacon, mushrooms, carrot rounds, and shallots. Remove from heat and set aside. In a small sauce pan reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. In a separate sauté pan drizzled with olive oil, cook the shrimps until pink about 2 minutes, then set aside.

When you’re just about to serve the salad, reheat the dressing on a medium flame. Add the rest of the olive oil, olives, and avocado.

Using a rubber spatula pour the hot dressing over the spinach leaves. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic vinegar. Top with the shrimp, croutons and if you want the feta. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.

Variations

The hot dressing can be kept vegetarian by using olive oil, shallots, and garlic. Most vegetables can be added to the sauté: zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, English peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli, or tomatoes. Try tofu or vegetarian patties as well.

A riff on a chef salad, in the dressing sauté baked ham and turkey breast with shallots; add cheese (cheddar or Swiss) and chopped tomatoes when you toss the salad.

Borrowing from the classic frisee salad, use bacon or lardoons crisped in the sauté, topping the salad with a fried egg. A variation on a variation: instead of a fried egg, use a hard boiled egg, sliced or chopped.

Sauté 1/4" rounds of Italian sausage with slices of red pepper, onion, and garlic to make a wilted salad version of a sausage hero.

Grilled or sautéed chicken livers with mushrooms, onions, and lots of garlic.

Add several anchovies and a dusting of pepper flakes to the onion-garlic sauté.

For the meat use slices of roast duck or chicken (dark meat preferably since it has more flavor); put shiitake mushrooms in the sauté.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Udon Finds the Perfect Partners: Clams, Mushrooms, and Garlic

These days udon is almost as ubiquitous as ramen. Served in a hot bowl of fragrant soup, udon satisfies as much with its texture as its flavor. Fat and chewy, the soft noodles are as comforting as dumplings.

Recently we visited Musha, a Tokyo style Izakaya restaurant (424 Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Santa Monica, 310/576-6330). Serving drinks and Japanese tapas--meats grilled at the table on charcoal braziers, sushi, noodles, and soups--the restaurant serves a delicious example of fusion cuisine: Udon Vongole. Using a European approach, the salty clam broth is sweetened with slices of garlic and handfuls of mushrooms.

Since Carlsbad Aquafarm had more of their delicious clams at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, tonight seemed like the perfect time to make the dish at home.

Udon with Clams, Mushrooms, and Garlic


Fresh udon is sold in Asian markets like Nijiya Markets and even some supermarkets. Following Musha's example I used several varieties of mushrooms. The different textures and flavors added to the pleasures of the dish.

Yield: 2 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 packages fresh udon
2 pounds live clams, washed
6 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced thin
2 large shallots, peeled, sliced thin
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 pound mushrooms (shiitake, brown, King trumpet, oyster mushrooms), washed, dried, cut in half
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, washed, stems removed
Olive oil
Pepper

Method

Steam the clams in 1/2 cup water in a covered pot for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Remove the clams from their shells. Pour the broth into a bowl, being careful to discard any grit. You should have 1 1/2 cups of broth.

Sauté the garlic, shallots, and mushrooms with the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the clam broth and butter. Simmer 15 minutes. Season with pepper but don't add salt since the clam broth is salty.

Boil a quart of water. Add the packages of udon. The boiling water will soften the udon in 2-3 minutes. Drain the udon and add to the mushrooms and garlic and stir.

Taste the broth. If it's too salty, add a bit more butter. Add the clams at the last minute so they don't over cook. Serve in deep bowls and top with the cilantro leaves.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Surprise Surprise, What You Can Find When You Clean Out the Refrigerator

Over the years we've accumulated several refrigerators: 1 in the kitchen, 2 in the garage. But even with 3 refrigerators, there are times when they're so crowded we can't tell what's in there. That's when I have to take the time and give the refrigerators a good spring cleaning. Anything past its expiration date is an easy-throw-away. But what about the half-dozen bbq sauces the boys and I are still experimenting with?

Sometimes there's a pleasant surprise in the back of the refrigerator, like the home cured olives that get better with time. Or a month old paper bag filled with what was two pounds of shiitake mushrooms. Whenever I go to the Vietnamese markets in Little Saigon, I buy 4-5 pounds of shiitakes because they're so inexpensive: $2.79/pound instead of the usual $12-18.00/pound at Whole Foods and Gelson's. For weeks we'll feast on shiitakes: in pastas, grilled on the bbq, in soups, and sautéed with garlic and shallots.

Everyone knows that mushrooms should only be stored in paper bags because in plastic they'll get soggy. An added advantage: the paper bag is a natural dehydrator. In a few weeks the shiitakes dry out perfectly. This technique works with brown mushrooms as well but the shiitakes are the best.

Dehydrating Shiitakes

Put the mushrooms into a paper bag, add a paper towel in the middle to prevent against spoilage and facilitate drying, and close the bag. If any mushrooms develop mold, discard them. Once the shiitakes are completely dried, store in a sealed glass jar. At that point they don't have to be kept in the refrigerator but they seem to taste better if you do.

Reconstituting Dried Shiitakes

Put the dried mushrooms in a heat proof bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover. Place a smaller bowl on top of the mushrooms to push them under the hot water. Let them sit for 30 minutes until they soften. Just before using, remove the mushrooms, gently squeeze out the water (reserve all the water), cut off the stems and discard. At this point the mushroom caps can be cooked as if they were fresh.

Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Garlic

A simple, satisfying soup. Other ingredients can be added to the basic soup: grilled sausages, roast chicken, raw shrimp, carrot rounds, corn kernels, , ginger, or deveined shrimp. If you have a package of ramen, cook the noodles and add those and a sliced hard boiled egg as well.

2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, stems removed, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
4 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
4 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed (finely chop the stems, leave the leaves whole)
4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
Soaking water
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a small pot sauté the mushrooms, garlic, shallots, spinach stems and leaves, and any other vegetables with the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the soaking water and chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper as needed. If you cooked ramen noodles, add them just before serving.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Passing the Baton from Father to Sons

For my birthday my sons, Frank and Michael, paid me the best compliment: they wrote a remembrance of my cooking. As a dad I can honestly say that being appreciated is a great gift, worth all the blood, sweat and tears of parenting. For Michelle's birthday, they took their remembrance one step further: they cooked her a beautiful, multi-coursed dinner (I was happily included).

The quality of the food was impressive. So too were their organizational skills. Intuitively they knew that they had to divide up the work. In short order, they brought out starters: a selection of Italian cheeses, roasted red peppers, olives, grilled chicken wings, and bacon wrapped asparagus, mushrooms, and shrimp. Finished in the kitchen, they came out carrying platters of rosemary chicken, steak, carne asada, salsa, and a fresh fruit salad. "A Mexi-Italian feast," Michael called it.

As parents it's natural to worry about your kids. Will they achieve their goals, will they be happy, will they be safe? We also wonder if values we cherish will be as important to them. As Michael asked me, reacting to our oohs and aahs, "Aren't you glad you taught us how to cook?" Yes. Without a doubt.

Bacon Wrapped Appetizers

Simple and easy to make, the appetizers can be baked or grilled on the bbq.

12 asparagus, washed, white part trimmed off
12 pieces of bacon, cut into thirds
6 brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, cut in half
12 shrimp, washed, shelled, deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Toothpicks

Toss the asparagus, mushrooms, and shrimp in a mixing bowl with the olive oil seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Wrap a piece of bacon around each, secured with a toothpick. Grill or bake in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes on each side. When the bacon crisps, the appetizers are ready to serve.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.