Monday, September 22, 2014

Salmon with Wild Mushroom Sauce ~ A Recipe Redux

I cannot wait! I have wanted to attend a Wild Edibles class at Shaw Nature Reserve for years now. Each time I’ve tried to register, the class has been wait-listed (apparently I am not the only wild edibles geek).  Well, this year I got a spot!

I already know a bit about foraging for edibles, trying to learn as I go. Last week, on a walk with a friend in the park we came across a few of these:
Giant Puffball (on left), friends foot (on right)
Which I happily threw into the mix for dinner.

And these:
…I’m still contemplating what to do with 'em- got any ideas?

Just like other great finds at the market, when picking up more than can be enjoyed fresh, we try to find a way to preserve the goodness. In the case of wild mushrooms, dehydrating is usually the way to go. Most mushrooms have a high water content so when they are dried, they really condense down and concentrate the flavor. A food dehydrator such as this comes in handy:

Then, when its time to make something dandy that calls for mushrooms, simply rehydrate by soaking in hot water for a few minutes. 
And when making a soup or sauce such as Salmon with Wild Mushroom Sauce there’s a bonus: the liquid becomes a rich mushroom broth that can also be used. The rehydrated mushrooms and its broth deepen the flavor of the sauce, adding an extra layer of earthiness, so perfect for fall.

You certainly do not have to forage for mushrooms to make this dish. Dried mushroom medleys can be found in many markets, usually in small cellophane packaging. 
until next time...

Salmon with Wild Mushroom Sauce (recipe inspiration from Eating Well Magazine, Nov/Dec '10)

  • 1 ounce dried mushroom blend (porcini, shiitake, oyster, chanterelle, morel, or any mixture you can find)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced finely
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound salmon fillet, in 3-4 portions
Cooking Directions
  1. Pour boiling water over dried mushrooms, allow to soak about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add oil to skillet, saute onion for about 3 minutes until translucent. Add in stock and wine, allow sauce to reduce, about 5 minutes.
  3. When mushroom have rehydrated, strain out mushrooms, chop mushrooms into smaller pieces, and add to cooked onion mixture.
  4. Whisk corn starch into reserved mushroom liquid, then slowly add to skillet with onion mushroom mixture. Allow sauce to thicken; add in butter, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. In a separate skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil, add salmon and cook until just cooked through, 3-5 minutes per side. Serve with warmed mushroom sauce.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Don’t “Turn Up” Your Nose to Turnips Part 2: Lebanese Pickled Turnips

Poor turnip. Sort of a wallflower, this drab white vegetable is easily overlooked at the market. The taste is a bit bland. Even the name phonetically sounds unappealing.

My first attempt to warm up, rather than give up on turnips was making Indian Inspired Turnips with Kidney Beans dish. This is a very tasty and unusual recipe, but not one I made on a regular basis.

As time went by, I didn’t give much thought to the turnip until I tried these:

Lebanese Pickled Turnips

And my take on turnips changed forever.

My friend Lisa brought a batch of pickled turnips to a party. Of Syrian descent, Lisa recalls her grandma and her great-grandma making pickled turnips similar to these when she was a child.

I, still not having a clue what I was nibbling, kept taking a few more. I simply could not get enough of these “whatever-the-heck-they-are”. I guess my friend could tell that I was quite fond of the pickled turnips, and to my delight she brought me a full container the next day!

What once seemed a forgettable, not so interesting vegetable, has now transformed into a curiously addicting, stand-apart-from-the-crowd favorite of mine! The plain white color takes on a gorgeous magenta with the help of a few beets thrown in. The once bland flavor is replaced with a quite assertive tang, prominently of vinegar and garlic.

With turnips and its other root vegetable cousins now in season, this is the perfect time to pick up a few pounds and start preserving these little lovelies into something special!

Oh, and before you go, if you happen to live in the Lou, be sure to check out St. Raymond's Lebanese Festival this weekend (September 20-21). Admission is free and will feature live music, authentic Lebanese foods and lots of events for the kids. For more info:

Lebanese Pickled Turnips, Kabees Al Lift (recipe from St. Raymond's Maronite Catholic Church cookbook, "Lebanon and its Cuisine")
½ quart water
1 quart white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup salt
3 pounds turnips, quartered
3 beets, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic

Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, then cool.
Place turnips, beets and garlic in a big sterilized jar. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over turnips, seal jar.
Wait 5 days to enjoy!

Note: these pickled turnips will keep in the refrigerator for about a month or two (but I betcha that they’ll be gone way before then)
until next time...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Spicy Lemongrass Tofu

Spicy Lemongrass Tofu
This recipe could not be easier, so why was I hesitant to make it? I know my way around the kitchen, but when it comes to traditional Asian or Indian cuisine, I can get intimidated.  It’s not so much the cooking technique, it’s the unfamiliar ingredients that make me shy away…so many curries and chili pastes, which do I choose?…hoisin or sambal oelek, which should I use?

Last week, there was an impromptu potluck at work. Van-Ha, a colleague, brought the most fantastic meatless dish. While eating, I got lost in the fantastic flavors, my mind wandering, trying to discern the ingredients in each morsel. Is that lemongrass I taste? Another bite. Indeed it is, but what other ingredients are in this? Obviously tofu…soy sauce…Instead of continuing the internal guessing game, I asked Van-Ha for the recipe. She happily rattles off the ingredients and explains how to make it. And then she mentions the chilis and the intimidation sets in. I think to myself, “There have to be a thousand different chilis, how am I supposed to know which type to buy?”

Apparently Van-Ha could read my mind. The next day, she shows up with tiny red chilis from her garden. These are the ones to use! I’m still not certain exactly which chili she shared with me, but from my search, I’m guessing they might be the bird’s eye Thai chili or at least a close cousin.
Now armed with the ingredients and confidence, I recreate Van-Ha’s Spicy Lemongrass Tofu. And now I present it to you. Enjoy!
until next time...
Spicy Lemongrass Tofu

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemongrass, thinly sliced (I found in frozen section at Trader Joe's)
  • 1 or 2 (or 3!) Thai chilis 
  • 12 ounces tofu, drained
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • cooked rice (we used Martin Rice from Bernie Missouri)
Cooking Directions
  1. Drain tofu, pat dry with paper towels, then cut into 3/4 inch cubes.
  2. Heat oil in wok or large skillet. Add lemongrass and chilis, stir-fry about 2 minutes. Add tofu, garlic and onion powder, stir-fry about 2 more minutes. Add soy sauce.
  3. Serve over rice.
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