Thursday, October 13, 2011

Speaking of Chanterelles

I haven’t met a mushroom I didn’t like. I have met some mistreated mushrooms, who, out of no fault of their own, ended up slimy as a result of poor preparation. But those are the few, and hopefully forgotten.

After my disastrous fail with mac n’ cheese I’ve walked lightly and thought carefully about what I want to cook and how I want it to turn out.

I ran across some recently foraged Chanterelle mushrooms at my local market yesterday. What to do… what to do.

I am finding I need to plan a little ahead when it comes to cooking without meat. I need to busy my knife skills and soak beans or grains the night before. So when the fancy strikes I’m in the ready. I soaked some barley overnight. I’ve never done that before but had read somewhere that it was a good thing to do.

I decided to let those Chanterelles star in the show with the barley. It sounded like a perfect match. I’m happy to report it was! Barley-Mushroom “Risotto”. Comfort food wearing no disguise.

I used Crimini, white and Chanterelle mushrooms and cut them large and chunky. I added them to some finely diced onion I had sautéed in olive oil. I threw in a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some fresh thyme. I let the magic get all worked up in that pan over a moderately high heat. When the color and texture became caramelized I removed the mixture and set it aside. Then I added more finely diced onion to the pan with a little olive oil. I cooked the onions to translucent and added a cup of drained barley. I “toasted” the barley over the same moderately high heat for a few minutes. Then I lowered the heat to about medium and added a cup of white wine, stirring until it was almost all absorbed by the barley. Then I began feeding the grain a ladle at a time of warm mushroom stock. I added some fresh thyme leaves and red pepper flakes to this mixture and decided to start a pot of veggie soup between stirring and adding stock.

When I got to the end of the cooking process (about an hour later) I added the mushroom mixture back in along with a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley. I topped mine with a tiny bit of vegan parmesan. I needed that zing. If you prefer to use cheese be sure to use a good Reggiano.

I do love fall. But I long for summer and in Seattle summer hardly remains long enough to build a friendship. Wrapping my mind around fall is made easier in the presence of good comfort food.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

In the absence of cheese....

There’s no gentle way to put this. I gave up meat. Animal products actually. That’s right. I can’t candy-coat this one. All these years I’ve said how much I love vegans and that they taste like chicken … now… here I am.

I’m still holding out on eggs though. I mean it’s un-American isn’t it? To deny a farm fresh egg every now and then? You are not the boss of me. If I want an egg I’ll have an egg.

I want to write a word about Tofu Mac n’ “Cheese”.. that’s why I came here today. And I’ll get to it in just a minute. I just want you to chew on that thought while I’m telling you how I got here on this Sunday afternoon with a steaming bowl of Tofu Mac n’ “Cheese” wafting up in my face… not providing the LEAST resemblance (smell, taste nor aesthetics ) of anything cheesy.

I’m a big documentary watcher. Almost to the point of being obsessive. I knock out a half dozen or more documentaries every week. I’m trying to find a little balance there but it’s how my brain is wired. It takes a lot for me to escape into a drama or a comedy. I find myself saying, “This isn’t real”! and that’s that. Biographies over novels, documentaries over dramas. You get the picture.

So, about a month ago I watched a documentary called Forks over Knives. The knife in this title is played by a scalpel. The upshot of the program is that we are an obese, unhealthy nation and we are filling our graveyards at an alarming rate through diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Having lost both of my parents last year to cancer I pay attention to messages that get down and dirty about where this rotten disease thrives and conversely where it is conquered.

I recommend the video. I bought it for myself. I don’t collect DVD’s so that says something. After viewing the program and hearing evidence that studies show in the absence of (or at less than 5%) animal products (not just meat but dairy) that these diseases ceased to exist. I’m in! Well, we still have the issue with eggs but other than that. I’m in!

That’s the long story short. Let’s get back to our tofu mac n’ ‘cheese”. I address this because outside of baking, I typically do not follow a recipe. But I’ve never driven on the tofu highway before and I thought a road map might be a good idea.

So, I bought the Happy Herbivore cookbook. I cannot speak to the other recipes in the book because I haven’t tried them. But the Baked Shells and Cheese with the enticing picture of a fork full of creamy looking seashell pasta with crispy breadcrumb topping; let’s just say I’m going to dog-ear that page all the way over.

Deep inside I think I knew it was impossible to make tofu sing in mac n’ cheese like Martha Stewart makes Gruyere the star in her 3 cheese mac n’ cheese. But I really, really wanted this recipe to prove me wrong. Ugh.

Back to the drawing board.

I know I shouldn’t. But I’m posting a picture of this stuff before it heads for its next destination: my garbage disposal. It’s not the texture so much, I could tweak the recipe to fix that. It was the taste! Yikes! Enough said. I’m moving on. I’m over it. I have a problem sleeping at night and I do NOT want to have tofu nightmares. Get thee behind me tofu!

I commenced healing right away with roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and sautéed mushrooms with fresh green beans. Don’t get me wrong. I am not giving up on tofu. I’m just giving up on THIS recipe. If there’s one thing I do know how to do it’s to make food taste good. The challenge is on!

Life without cheese must go on.