Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Like pink pearls.. beautiful pink oyster mushrooms

I always absentmindedly check out the mushroom stand in the San Francisco farmer's market. The "Mushroom Guy." I love the Mushroom Guy(s). They are always jolly and helpful. Today, they taught me that "shiitake" is pronounce "shi-yee-ta-ke." He told me Americans are always truncating Japanese words.

I don't often buy anything from them, but today something at their stand caught my eye. While these mushrooms are dubbed "oyster" mushrooms for their taste, their color is that of a lustrous pink pearl. As a part-time girly girl, I am a sucker for anything pink.

I bought a bag of the pink 'shrooms with a creamy pasta in mind. Once, I made a great bechamel and mushroom lasagna, so I decided to adapt that into a pasta for the oyster mushrooms as well. I came up with a simple bechamel sauce, flavored with onion and garlic, to pair with the mushrooms.

The verdict: these mushrooms are pungent!! I can't recall the last time I had normal white-colored oyster mushrooms, so I can't really compare with absolute certainty. But these seem way more pungent than any mushroom I've ever had. They were described by the Mushroom Guy as "woodsy." That was an understatement, to say the least. They were gamy, tangy, and somewhat stinky in a wild-tasting, almost fermented way. It was definitely an interesting experience, but not sure if I would pick the mushroom again.

The pasta was delicious. I'd try this dish again. Perhaps I'll try chanterelles or shiitakes next time.

Pasta with pink oyster mushrooms
Serves 2

  • 1 carton of pink oyster mushrooms
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 6 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 2 portions of whole wheat spaghetti or linguine, cooked (I used spaghetti, but linguine would probably be better for picking up the cream sauce.)
  • 1/2 a lemon (optional)
  • chives or parsley to garnish (optional)
  1. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a shallow, wide pan on medium. Saute diced onions until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the mushrooms and saute just until cooked. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat the milk in a bowl until just warm (~20 seconds at a time, stirring to make sure it does not burn.)
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the original pan. Add the minced garlic, saute for a minute.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter. Stir everything until well-mixed.
  6. Add the milk. Whisk until well-mixed and creamy. Bring to a boil and then cook for ten minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add the mushrooms back into the mixture. Add the cooked spaghetti. Mix, taste, and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Squeeze 1/2 a lemon over the top, if desired, for a fresh, punchy taste. (I like how it cuts through the cream. And I am a big lemon fan, of course!)
  8. Chop some parsley or chives, garnish, and serve.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day! And.. Freshly-Baked Green Onion Bread

Yes, the title is a little random.. but isn't that what leap day is all about? Every four years, Westerners take all the extra minutes and hours that have accumulated, and stash it all together into one extra day. One extra day... one free day of rent! One extra day you have to go to work! (I guess it all evens out in the end.)

It was the same with this bread. I wanted to try the no-knead bread that everyone has been trying out. But instead of making the bread from the original no-knead recipe, by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery (here), I decided to toss in some diced green onions.

Adding a stalk of diced green onions to the dry ingredients

Waiting for the dough to rise

So beautiful! I baked it in my oval 3.5 qt Le Creuset dutch oven

Light, airy crumb... Crisp, crunchy exterior

Try adding some green onion to your no-knead next time. Mashed garlic, sesame seeds... anything random will do. Or lump them all together!

Happy Leap Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mashed potatoes are easy, potato pancakes are even easier

Whenever I make mashed potatoes, I get a really funny reaction. Most of my friends are not that experienced with cooking. So when I buy a bunch of potatoes to make mashed potatoes, my friends ask me, "You're making mashed potatoes? Not from a box?" and they seem really impressed. I insist that mashed potatoes from scratch are insanely easy, and probably 100x healthier for you. Nobody believes me. Ever.

Today is the day I prove my friends wrong. Real mashed potatoes do require a little extra elbow grease, but it's hardly demanding. It's also much tastier than dehydrated potato flakes (check the side of the box- it really says that.) Mashed potatoes are a simple, make-ahead side dish. They go well with just about any protein dish, from hearty meat stews to fried chicken. I love to serve a big heaping pile of mashed potatoes on the side. As my friend said, "It just feels like Thanksgiving."

Garlic and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4

  • 3 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes (about .5-1 lb per person)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

  1. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil in a large pot of lightly salted water until the potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.
  2. Drain the potatoes. Mash with a whisk, large fork, spoon, anything that makes sense (or a potato masher, if you have one.) Leave them somewhat chunky if you prefer.
  3. Add the butter and garlic, stir to combine. Add the milk slowly until the mashed potatoes are creamy. Add the cheese and mix until incorporated. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When they are finished, cover and set aside. If you are serving them later, then just reheat them in the microwave and add a little butter or milk if it dries out.

Now, if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, you can make potato latkes for breakfast! My motto is to never let things go to waste. I am not sure how authentic these are, as most latkes I've eaten seem to have more of a hash brown texture. But it's simple and tasty so I'm sure my Jewish friends won't begrudge me this one.

Leftover Mashed Potato Latkes

  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • oil
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • pepper
  • sour cream or greek yogurt (optional)
  • chives (optional)
  1. In a bowl, mix the mashed potatoes and egg. Add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  2. Heat a good amount of oil in a large flat pan on high heat. (you don't want the latkes to stick, so make sure the pan is well-coated.)
  3. When the pan is hot, spoon about 2 tbsp of batter into the pan. Spread it out into a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Let it cook for a minute or so, until brown. Turn it over and cook on the other side. Remove from pan.
  4. Top with greek yogurt, sour cream, chives, apple sauce, or whatever tickles your fancy. Serve!