Russian Mushroom Soup

There is a surprisingly tasty and enchanting restaurant downtown. It feels like your European grandma’s house–full of lace, fancy cabinets and glassware (though mismatched), and creepy/homey/charming trinkets. Although my grandmother isn’t Russian, I could see elements of her European roots here.

I realized the first time I ate there that I didn’t know what to expect of Russian food. I patted myself on the back for recognizing some of the names, but by no means could I expect what flavors would work together, which pictures matched up with the food, or most important of all–which infused vodka to accompany everything.

To introduce myself, I got a few smaller dishes, and the crowd I was with was down with sharing, so we all got to taste some of each others’. What left the strongest impression on me was the mushroom soup. It felt like hunter-gatherer food. Light and refreshing, but also somehow sustaining and filling. The broth wasn’t thick and the ingredients hadn’t been stewed down, but the flavors somehow worked together marvelously.

Now that I’m on this mushroom kick and the cold weather swooped in for a visit, we tried to make some at home.

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Russian Mushroom Soup

  • 2 morells (feel free to skip this expensive ingredient that we bought on a whim)
  • handful of woodear mushrooms
  • handful of oyster mushrooms
  • 1 cup or so of porcini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 med onion
  • 2 med potatoes
  • 1/2 of a celery root
  • 1/2 of a fennel root
  • 1 parsnip
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tbs peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbs whole allspice

 

  1. In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onions. If you’re using fresh everything, great, if not, rehydrate the dried ones first.
  2. In a separate pan, cook barley as per package instructions.
  3. As the mushrooms approach done-ness, bring to a simmer 4 – 6 cups of water with the roughly chopped celery root, fennel, carrots, parsnips and bay leaves in a separate soup pot. After about 10 minutes, add the potatoes as well.
  4. Once the mushrooms have lost all their moisture and have gotten somewhat mushy, add them to the soup pot. Let simmer for about 10 minutes
  5. Add nearly the rest of the ingredients : barley, peas, garlic, peppercorns, and allspice. Let simmer for 10 minutes
  6. Add the parsley and dill.
  7. Let stew until the flavors have melded beautifully, about 10 more minutes.

I found the whole peppercorns and allspice lent a good flavor to the soup, but I got tired of crunching down on them. Now, I wish I had used a cheesecloth or something to keep them in the soup. I’ll experiment with that and let you know, but if you have any suggestions for me I’d be very appreciative! For added flavor, you could use broth instead of water.

Mushroom Surprise, Part 2

Hello again!

The overtime has yet to calm down, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten you. Today I’ll post the tantalizing finish to The Mushroom Surprise Saga. The mushroom bacon from the last post was used as a topper for this more complete meal.

We got a sampler pack of mushrooms and tried half of them as the “bacon” and the other half went into this … stir fry? We basically sauteed vegetables that seemed wonderful together, then tossed it on top of some miso-quinoa.

Since there was no meat in either of these recipes, I did pull a few savory tricks out of my bag. When cooking the quinoa, I added some Liquid Aminos and red miso paste. If you don’t have liquid aminos, you could use mushroom broth, beef broth, or even soy or Worcestershire sauce. They all have a similar flavor profile to me, with slight variations.

Cook the quinoa according to your usual methods (bring 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water to boil in a pot, once boiling, turn heat to low, cover and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes. remove from heat and let sit for 5. fluff and serve) but with the extra additions. If you want to be super exact, you can pour your liquid element into a the measuring cup you’ll use to measure the water, to make sure you end up with the proper 2 parts liquid.

As for the interesting bits, I used:

Asparagus

Brussel Sprouts

Shallots

Alba Clamshell Mushrooms

Walnut oil

 

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Start by:

  1. Chop the asparagus into bite-sized bits, and the brussel sprouts in half. Go ahead and chop the shallots too, but set them aside.
  2. Cook the asparagus and brussel sprouts in medium heat until just starting to get tender, use the walnut oil.
  3. Once those are tender, add the shallots. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes or so. (You can probably add the shallots and mushrooms at the same time, it’s just a matter of a difference of texture).
  5. Eat it!

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Fungus Bacon, or, Mushroom Surprise, Part 1

I’ve been staying late at work a lot this week, so I’m going to pull that excuse and turn it into a fun advantage! Today’s article/recipe will be a bit of a teaser.

We were experimenting with mushrooms a little while back and got a sampler pack. In combining the different mushrooms in one dish, we tried out two different cooking methods. One is tried and true, tasty and vegan friendly–maybe even playfully deceptive if you’ve got a little Ferran in you.

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For this part of the dish, we used the shiitake, chanterelle, and king oyster mushrooms. We’ve done this with shiitake mushrooms, but the others were a bit of an experiment. We found out that they all work well, but the key is to make sure to cut them to the same consistency. Slight differences are magnified as the mushrooms cook down, so it’s definitely worth taking your time.

After cutting them, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper. You want them to be covered, but not sopping, and as for the SnP, I say heavy on the P. Some salt is good to help out, but keep in mind that people add salt once it’s on the plate, so no need to overdo it here.

 

 

 

 

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Once they’re ready, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes then flip. Bake another 15 minutes, then check and flip again. Moisture will evaporate more readily from the edges than the center, so try to re-disperse when flipping. Repeat this until the “bacon” is in a satisfactory zone of the crispy-gooey scale.

Inspired by Saag

I’ve been so in love with exotic spices recently so I’ve been trying my hand at food that’s not traditionally in my family and I’ve got a couple of restaurants that will soon be burning holes in my pockets. Since these aren’t flavors and smells I’ve worked with for years and years, I still need to work on calibrating my nose a little and so I follow recipes and recommendations a little more closely. For this post, I used two articles for guidance: AllRecipes Indian Saag and Whats4Eats Saag.

The focus is on greens. One of my oversights was how few I had on hand. When those recipes call for two pounds, they really mean it. As they cook, they really loose volume and when there are more, it helps promote more of a saucy texture. I had one of those tubs of mixed greens, and I should have gotten 2 or 3, but it was still tasty. Many versions of this recipe also call for a blender, but since I don’t have one, I stuck with chopping.

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I’ve been told that I made a Saag Aloo, because of the potato, but I believe in the spinachy spirit of this dish and will leave it up to y’all to customize it and name it what you wish. This was an experiment of mine and I hope you find inspiration from it like I did those other articles.

 

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No two articles I found had the same spices, or even the same proportions, so I played around based on my tastes and what I had available. Slowly I’ve been splurging on spices, and it’s been nice having a variety on hand.

 

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Saag

 

  • Spinach
  • onion
  • garlic
  • potatoes
  • cream
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs niter kibbeh (or butter, or oil)
  • 1tbs coriander
  • 2 tbs turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

 

  1. Par boil the potatoes in a separate pan.
  2. Cook onion in the niter kibbeh, on medium, until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and spices, then saute for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and water. Simmer for about 15-25 minutes. (4 1/2 would be blend it if you got it)
  5. Add chickpeas, potatoes, and cream.
  6. Return to a brief simmer. Finish cooking the potatoes.

Avocado Ice Cream

I’d been wanting to make this for so long, and one glorious day, avocados were on sale.

 

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And with Texas summer, ice cream couldn’t be denied. So I finally tried it out. There are a couple variations out there, so it took me a while to decide how to go for it. In the end, something close to plain avocado won out. I figured, it’d be the best way to help me experiment more, since that way, I’d end up leaving an open door for more ice cream. There should definitely be more ice cream this summer. I need to make that ice cream maker sing!

The ingredients were pretty basic:

3 large Avocados
1.5 cup Milk
.5 cup Sugar
1 cup Cream
1-2 Juiced Limes

Since I don’t have a blender or food processor, I relied on a potato masher to “purée” the avocados. Despite a few small chunks, I was happy with the results.

 

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I was a little nervous about mixing the lime and the dairy, but incorporating the lime in thoroughly before adding the milk avoided any issues. A pretty heavy duty whisk will help with the mixing, if you get tired of using the potato masher. Stir it all up, chill according to your ice cream maker’s instructions (about 4 hours), then mix!

 

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This one’s pretty basic, in that you can swap things our pretty easily from this recipe and make something very different. I’ve got a couple more ideas this summer that’ll be even more interesting.

 

Avocado Ice Cream:

1. Mush avocados in a big enough bowl to hold all the ingredients.

2. Squeeze 2lbs lime juice into the avocados.

3.  Mix thoroughly!

4. Add milk, sugar and cream.

5. Mix even more!

6. Chill for 4 hours

7. Make with your ice cream maker.

Kale Pasta

On a quest to find cheap and healthy food, I ransacked the HEB and came away with a 98 cent bush of kale about 3 times the size of my head. It was a great find, but since leafy greens don’t do so well in my fridge, I knew I’d have to eat them fast. I did some experimenting, and this was one of my favorite recipes that came of it.

kale

I sorted the prep vegetables according to how cooked I wanted them to be.

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First, I sauteed the onion in olive oil, over medium heat until they started getting translucent. After that, I tossed in the rest, sauteing for a few minutes before adding the sauce. Together, I let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes (feel free to do it as long as you’re willing, just make sure it doesn’t dry out).

 

While that was going, I made bacon sprinkles. If you want to keep this recipe Vegan, skip that. It’s totally option and I did it on a whim, anyway, so not much will be lost if you skip it. Only bacon, which you don’t really care about anyway.

 

Bacon sprinkles are just tiny strips of bacon fried until they’re crispy. I’ve used them in a handful of dishes so far and I’ve found them to be a nice way to add a little bit of salty/crunchy to your food. Since they keep well, you can even cook up half a pack or so and just keep them in the fridge for whenever you need some on your pasta, fried rice, or grits.

 

As the pasta was nearing completion, I tossed the kale into the sauce. I waited till the end because I wanted it to still be crisp and fresh tasting. The diversity of texture alone is worth it, and if you’re down for an experiment, I recommend just adding some fresh. Also, if you’re a cheesy kind of person, I’d recommend a hard Spanish cheese for this. I tried it with some idiazabal and it worked really well.

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Here’s my attempt at a printer friendly recipe card:

Kale Pasta

Bacon sprinkles and cheese (optional)

1 med white onion

1 jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic (I eat it in everything, you might not want as much)

24 oz pasta sauce

whatever spices you like in pasta sauce: salt/pepper/garlic/oregano/etc

3 giant kale leaves

noodles

1. Make bacon sprinkles. Drain and set aside.

1 if you don’t want meat. Chop veggies, keep onion separate.

2. Warm a sauce pot with olive oil to medium. Saute onions for about 5 minutes.

3. Add jalapeno, bell pepper, and garlic and saute for about a minute.

4. Add sauce and stir. Lower the temperature to med-low, but keep an eye on it just in case.

5. Start boiling pasta water (waiting to do it until now is a great way to time the sauce and also gives you time to clean up some if you don’t want to save it all till you’re done) and cook the pasta as per the recommended instructions.

6. With about a minute left on the pasta, add the kale to the sauce.

7. Everything’s all a flurry now! Strain the pasta! Add a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick! Stir the sauce some more!

8. Serve. Top with bacon sprinkles and/or delicious Spanish cheese, as you desire.