Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Post-Kid Kitchen: Fungi to Be With

Criminis, shiitakes, and chanterelles (oh my!)

Before I started cooking all vegetarian all the time, I didn't give mushrooms much thought. While I detested them raw (and still do), they were fine in soups and sauces. But that was all: fine. However, somewhere on the vegetarian/vegan journey, I developed a passion for mushrooms. Yesterday, I ate a big bowl of stir-fried shiitakes for breakfast.

Now, stir-frying mushrooms is not difficult, and doesn't really require a recipe. But, as the name implies, it does involve stirring, and sometimes I'm too lazy for even that level of simplicity. So last weekend, I sprayed a bunch of mushrooms with canola oil and threw 'em on my George Foreman grill. And Lazy Sunday Mushroom Sauce was born.

Lazy Sunday Mushroom Sauce
(This recipe requires that you have ye olde Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine. The sloped cooking surface and drip tray are important here.)

a very generous handful of mushrooms (I'm partial to chanterelles)
spray bottle of canola oil or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Spray grill with oil and plug it in. When the grill is warm, add your mushrooms and give 'em a generous spritz of oil. Start checking for doneness around 3 minutes. You want the mushrooms to be cooked, obviously, but what you're really looking for is the "run-off" (there has to be a better word for this). All the oil and delicious mushroom juices that collect in the drip tray are the secret of this sauce. When the mushrooms are cooked through, add them to your favorite pasta or whole grain, and pour the contents of the drip tray over everything. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crazy delicious!

Lazy Sunday Mushroom Sauce over steamed veggies and quinoa

My only complaint with the Foreman grill is that, at least on my little model, there's not enough room to make a meal for three or more in one go. I was planning to make Lazy sauce for my parents when they came over for dinner and tree-trimming last night, and then I realized that there would be a lot of waiting around with tummies rumbling and pasta getting cold as I grilled one serving of mushrooms at a time. Fortunately, I came up with something (almost) equally easy, and way more tasty. Not to mention fancy-looking.*

Spaghetti with Oyster Mushrooms and Swiss Chard

8 oz. brown rice spaghetti
1/4 cup soy-free Earth Balance (or olive oil)
1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. I had a big pot of boiling water ready, and started the pasta cooking right after adding the mushrooms to the pan.

In a large pan, melt Earth Balance over medium heat. Add onion and cook for a good 10 minutes at least, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be thoroughly cooked before you start adding things to them.

When the onions are very translucent, add the mushrooms and give everything a good stir to coat mushrooms with the Earth Balance-onion mixture. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. If things start looking a little dry, add a splash of water (or vegetable broth, or white wine).

When the mushrooms are cooked, remove turn off the heat. Add the Swiss chard to the pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir everything together cover for 5 minutes. Serve over pasta and marvel over your seven-ingredient(-if-you-count-salt-and-pepper) supper.

Note: I made this with my mom in mind. She has experienced incredible health benefits from following a low-salt diet. The dish tasted a little under-seasoned to those of us who are used to eating a little more salt, but a little salt and pepper at the table did the trick nicely. And following Westley's lead, everyone but me elected to sprinkle this with nutritional yeast flakes. (I'm probably the only vegan alive who can't get behind the whole nutritional yeast thing.)

*I got so caught up in cooking - and being hungry - that I forgot to take a picture. But I promise this really is fancy-looking!

You'll probably be seeing lots of mushroom recipes here in the coming weeks. I've put myself on an anti-inflammatory diet, and mushrooms like shiitake and oyster contain compounds that support the immune system. Fungus power!