Let’s Grow Mushrooms

April 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

As a child I never liked mushrooms. Strike that—I never had the opportunity to eat mushrooms because my parents didn’t like them. Entering adulthood I just stayed away from encounters with mushrooms, picking them off the late-night pizzas ordered with friends at college and steering clear of them on Chinese food take-out menus.

Time has moved on, and so have my taste buds. I now love mushrooms. The earthier the mushroom, the better. Every shopping trip sees me sorting through the bins of different kinds. What a silly kid I was, I think as I marvel at the fresh and dried fungi.

This is the year I stop relying so heavily on store-bought mushrooms and I attempt to grow my own. With the popularity of “grow-your-own” everything—from bean sprouts to dinosaur kale to heirloom tomatoes—several different companies now offer grow-your-own mushroom kits. There are two that I know of:

Back to the Roots: Probably the most well-known of the mushroom-growing kits, the Back to the Roots kit promises to produce up to 1.5 pounds of pearl oyster mushrooms in about 10 days, and can produce at least two crops worth of mushrooms—maybe even three crops. Each box, which is shaped like a cardboard milk carton, contains 100% recycled plant-based waste which performs as the growing medium. Just open the lid, mist with water, and set it by a sunny window. How convenient to grow indoors!  www.backtotheroots.com

Back to the Roots Pearl Oyster Mushroom Kit

Back to the Roots Pearl Oyster Mushroom Kit

Happy Cat Farm: This organic seed producer from Southeastern Pennsylvania offers a Shiitake Mushroom Log for outdoor mushroom growing. The log comes inoculated with a strain of mushroom spawn. Given proper shade and moisture, the log will produce shiitake mushrooms every 8-12 weeks for several years. Just place the log right on the ground in a place like a shaded mulched planting bed and keep it moist. If it dries out for more than a week, soak the log overnight in a container of water and it’ll be as good as new.  www.happycatorganics.com

Happy Cat Shiitake Mushroom Log

Happy Cat Shiitake Mushroom Log

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Tofu Marinade

July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tofu. Exciting stuff.

Exciting stuff that you most likely stay away from. Am I right? “Meh, whatever. I’ll have the chicken,” is what you’re saying.

The best tofu I’ve ever eaten was takeout from this hole-in-the-wall Chinese place in Ithaca, New York, about 18 years ago. It was a bit spicy with a shockingly crisp texture. No idea what they did to it but I can still remember how tasty it was.

While trolling the Web in search of what to do with tofu, I came across a fabulous marinade. And by fabulous I mean I had all the ingredients on hand and it was super-simple to make. The recipe has been on a Post-It Note on the fridge for about 8 months now, and before I lose it down that mysterious gap between the icebox and the counter, I thought I’d post it to Dainty for safekeeping.

Okay, so … you marinate this tofu baby. Then what? The cooked marinated tofu slabs go well with an Asian-style slaw. Put both in a wrap or on top of brown rice. A little added soy sauce is a good addition for the latter, as well.

marinating tofu

marinating tofu

Ingredients*
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tbs minced ginger (a heaping tsp of ground ginger works, too, and gives it a tiny bit sweeter flavor)
1 tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne

*This recipe easily doubles BUT think twice before doubling the cayenne. A double recipe will more than adequately cover a standard block of tofu cut into 1/4-inch slices.

-Combine all ingredients in a tall-sided container and whir up with a hand-held immersion blender. Or, put in a regular blender. Blending isn’t totally necessary, but I feel it gives the marinade more body than just a simple whisking. It then holds onto the tofu better.

-Brush overtop 1/4-in. tofu slices, and the sides, too, if you wish. You may have extra marinade – keep that around to pour on top of your wrap or tofu rice bowl.

-Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two. Then place slices bottom-side down in a medium-hot pan. Flip after 3 minutes. Flip again after three minutes—this helps get the marinade onto the side that wasn’t brushed.

We used the marinated tofu in a brown rice bowl along with a raw corn-cabbage slaw and some leftover sauteed mushrooms that we reheated in the same pan used to cook the tofu. A sprinkle of nama shoyu or regular soy sauce gave the dish a nice pop.

marinated tofu overtop brown rice, mushrooms and corn slaw

marinated tofu overtop brown rice, mushrooms and corn slaw

What’s your favorite tofu marinade? Please share below – it’s good to have more than one in your recipe book!

Jennifer’s Ode to a Clam (Chowder)

April 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

What we have here is a guest post. My first guest – awesome! And it’s from none other than the best chef I know personally—my dear wife, Jennifer. She’s the real cook in the Dainty household. Who needs a recipe? Not her, not really. Today’s topic  happens to be one of those recipe-less recipes that she just developed from experience. You eat enough chowder, you’re gonna know how to make it eventually.

So, without further ado, here’s Jennifer’s brilliant rendition of clam chowder.

Ode to a clam. Yes, I said clam. Many of you out there have an aversion to shellfish, which are easy to ruin in unskilled hands. Perish the thought. I know one former Eastern Long Island resident (editor’s note: That would be me) who had such an aversion, until she was able to experience what shellfish cooked well tastes like … manna from heaven. Well, actually the sea—the sweet, briny, bountiful sea.

Inspired by photos posted by dear friends who did some late-winter clamming, I suddenly remembered the quart-sized pouch of clams frozen in our freezer; harvested New Year’s weekend during an unseasonably warm morning outing in the flats of Provincetown Harbor.  I had frozen the clams along with the liquor they produced, waiting for the right moment to make a chowder. Not your typical Monday night meal, and it only took moments to whip up!

-I thawed out 4 cups of clam broth and 2 cups of fish fumet

Jennifer's clam chowder

-Diced into 1 inch cubes 3 potatoes

-I cooked the potatoes in the clam liquor along with 2 bay leaves for seasoning. While the potatoes were cooking I sautéed up a mirepoix (fancy way of saying celery, carrot and onion).

-2 medium carrots

-2 celery stalks

-1 large onion

-Once the veggies were mostly soft I added 4 oz. of shitake mushrooms. I had them in the fridge, and thought, why not?!

-When the potatoes were done (15 minutes or so), I used an immersion blender to break down the potatoes, but not completely. I wanted to leave some chunks, but also give the illusion of some cream in the broth, so I let my starch be the cream substitute. To the pot I added my cooked veggies and the quart plus of clams, warmed the mixture through and wished I had some crusty bread to serve along with it.

Man, oh man that was good!  Thank you P & J for inspiring me to bust out the bounty harvested a few months ago. Food-inspired memories!

Comments? Questions? Your favorite clam chowdah experience? Leave us a note below!

Brothy Asian-Inspired Soup

March 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

Hearty soups … yes, I love them. And the ones I make are nearing the definition of stew. But every once in a while I will be in the mood for something light, breathy and brothy.

This Asian-Inspired Soup is a riff on something Mark Bittman published in March 2011. He gave three simple (very simple) recipe suggestions in each of four categories: creamy, brothy, earthy and hearty. The second and third recipes are slight twists on the first in each category. By the end of making the twelfth, he says, you’ll never need to follow another soup recipe.

With a package of firm tofu and some leftover chickpea broth (remember that from Pressure Cooker Basics?), I twisted Mark Bittman’s own Asian twist on brothy soups.

Ingredients ingredients for Brothy Asian-Inspired Soup

  • 8 cups water, in this case chickpea broth and water
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (about 3-4)
  • 1 package firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 4 oz oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sesame oil

-To a large pot add the water or broth, scallions, tofu, mushrooms, soy and sesame.

-Heat over a medium-high flame to just boiling, them bring to a quiet simmer, partly covered. Let simmer for … 15 minutes? 20 minutes? It’s up to you and how tender you like your oyster mushrooms. Check it at 15, then check the mushrooms every few minutes.

oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms - aren't they just beautiful?

-Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a few chopped scallions. You might enjoy a crispy baguette to dunk.

Asian-inspired soup

Brothy Asian-inspired soup

Seriously, I tried to make this soup sound difficult/complex/sophisticated/finicky. But that’s just impossible. This soup is just way simple. And delicious.

Any Asian-inspired and simple soup suggestions or ingredient ideas? Leave a comment and let me know.

Hiking Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

July 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a long, long spring and summer. All work and no play makes Dainty a very sad and tense Dot. Good thing we scheduled vacation for this week.

We typically vacation in Provincetown and spend the whole time lying low—as in low on a beach towel. But, as crazy as this is gonna sound, being on a beach towel soaking up the sun can be a bit boring after awhile. Our solution for that is taking a hike.

This time around, we headed to Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a Mass. Audubon sanctuary on the western edge of the Cape Wellfleet Bay Wildlife SanctuaryCod forearm, right on Wellfleet Harbor. Lots of marsh grass and sandy soil, lots of Cape woodland, lots of birds and wildlife, so bring a camera. And there’s lots of green head flies and sand flies, so arm yourself with repellent and you’ll be fine. There are … let’s see … close to 4-5 miles of hiking trails, so pack a light lunch and enjoy it while watching the shore birds at the end of the boardwalk.

The folks at Mass. Audubon must have gotten some inspiration of Groupon deals, because when we arrived at the nature center they were offering a “half-price sale” on membership. $10 would have gotten the two of us into the sanctuary for the day. For just $29, we could have a year-long family membership that would give us free admission to the 50 Mass. Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries throughout the state. And, it feels pretty terrific to support an organization that is protecting our state’s natural habitat.

Somewhere along this hike my eye decided to focus on the little things nature had to offer. Except for a couple of spectacular angiosperms, I mainly captured slime molds, lichen, fungi and the occasional gymnosperm. (Look at me, throwing around fancy botanical references. I feel like I’m in college again!) The vistas at Wellfleet are beautiful, but some of the coolest things are underfoot.

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Double Mushroom Barley Soup

April 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

Will spring ever get here? Until it does, one of the ways to deal with cold and damp weather is with hot soup. Hot, hearty soup. This is one of our favorites in the hot and hearty category. It’s “double” mushroom because it uses both fresh and dried mushrooms. Adding the dried gives the soup its earthy heartiness.

This is another recipe Jennifer acquired from a soup class several years ago. Note on the bottom says it’s from the Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure book. Ah, yes, “under pressure.” This is made in a pressure cooker! Have no fear, people—pressure cookers won’t explode on your stove top. And if you don’t have a pressure cooker, just cover and simmer for … well, I’m not sure. Just keep checking to see if the barley is toothy.

As before, the recipe below is with our adjustments

Double mushroom barley soup

Double Mushroom Barley Soup

  • 2-3 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cups chopped onions or 2 thinly sliced leeks (I use onions here)
  • 6 cups boiling stock (see note in recipe)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms, white buttons are fine
  • 1/2 oz. sliced dried mushrooms
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1.5 tbs dill weed
  • salt and pepper to taste

-Put dried mushrooms in a medium bowl. Add about 2 cups boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for 15 minutes.

-Now, for the “6 cups boiling stock” – set a pot of about 4 cups stock (veggie is good, chicken is okay if you don’t have veggie) to boil. You’re going to add the mushroom liquid to it when those are done steeping.

-While the mushrooms are steeping is a good time chop your veg.

-When mushrooms have steeped, drain the liquid into a measuring cup. You should have a bit less than 2 cups. Just add water to fill up to 2 cups. Add to the pot of stock. Reserve mushrooms.

-Heat oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker (or soup pot if not using a pressure cooker) to medium-high. Add garlic and onions. Cook for 1 minute, stirring so they don’t stick. Add the stock and then invite everyone else into the pool!

-Lock the top onto the pressure cooker. Bring it up to high pressure, then lower heat to maintain that pressure. Let it cook away for 18 minutes. Then, remove pressure cooker from the heat and place it under cool running water to bring the pressure down quickly. Remove the lid, being sure to face it away from you. You don’t wanna get hit with a cloud of steam!

-IF you’re not using a pressure cooker, bring the soup to boil, cover the pot but leave a little crack, and then turn it down a bit to simmer. Let it bubble along for … let’s say 35 minutes and then check every 5 minutes or so until you feel the barley is cooked.

-Discard the bay leaves. Add a bit more salt and pepper. In my opinion it needs more salt than you’d think.

-With barley in there, it’s going to thicken up, especially after being in the fridge for a day or two. Just be aware. If you want, add some stock or water to thin it out a bit. I kinda like the soups that turn into stews the next days.

It’s one of those soups that is dinner-worthy if you pair it with a salad or suitable for lunch with some toast. In fact, it’ll be my vegan lunch in about 3 hours.

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