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.

Tabbouleh, Hummus and Pita Goodness

For a few weeks I’ve had the urge to make tabbouleh, pretty ever since I noticed mom’s mint plants and tried to think of things she could make with them. Once I got back in town, I decided to experiment.

Turns out mine isn’t very authentic–I didn’t know what I was doing, ok?–but it’s still really tasty.

I used:
A box of couscous
1.6ish oz sundried tomatoes (you can go more or less–I was using leftovers)
12 kalamata olives
4 oz feta
1 tbs garlic
1 lemon’s worth of juice
Around 4 tbs olive oil
2/3 oz mint (the size of the package from the store)
2 oz parsley

Cook the couscous as per the instructions (boil water, stir in couscous, turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes).

And while that’s going, get all your cutting/chopping done. Though it may be prettier, it tastes better if the mint and parsley are chopped finely. I left them kind of chunky and every once in a while there’s an explosion of parsley that overpowers everything else.

Then toss everything in and stir. It tastes really good chilled, so while it’s chilling, you can make the pita bread and hummus.

I used my handy dandy super awesome bread machine to mix the dough and I got the recipe from an awesome book my mom uses and my grandma recently gave to me.

It’s very similar to your basic bread recipe and it’s easy to find recipes online. (I didn’t want to mess up anybody’s copyrights.)

It bakes in a super hot oven which, I guess, helps it poof and rise so much that it forms a pocket. I baked mine on the pizza stone my aunt gave me and it came out so fluffy and pockety that we finished it almost before I got to take pictures.

But the dough does take a long time to make, so feel free to do other things. If you don’t have a bread machine, it’s not impossible to make dough. Just mix/knead all the ingredients together then cover it and let it sit somewhere humid for about an hour. This helps to activate the yeast and distributes it evenly throughout the dough. If you’re low on humidity, cover the dough with a wet paper towel then with a cloth towel and if you can, take a shower and let it sit in the steam.

And to top it off, we made hummus. The process is very similar to making pesto: it’s all on taste.

Here’s what I used:
1 can of garbanzo beans (aka chick peas)
Tahini (about 2 tbs)
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Cumin
Garlic (optional but delicious)

Just blend it together, taste it, then add whatever you need until it’s done.

Mixing the three is really tasty and feels feasty. It’s definitely a social food.

Gummy cats (the easy way)

I happened to have a little cat cookie cutter, that’s why I went with cats, but any shape would work. And I say “the easy way” because one day I’m not going to use the Jello shortcut.

Gummy candies are surprisingly easy to make, and you only need three ingredients:
1/3 cup Water
One 3 oz package of Jello (or whatever brand you like)
Two .25 oz packets of Gelatin

First you need to bloom the gelatins, like I did when we made Rose Marshmallows. All you do is combine the three ingredients in a sauce pan, stir, and let it sit for 10 minutes.

It’s going to look a little funny at the end of the 10 minutes, but don’t worry.

Now it’s time to heat it. (That’s why it’s in a pan instead of a bowl!) Put it on the stove at a medium heat for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until all the gelatin is dissolved.

When it’s ready, pour it into the pan and let cool.

If you have molds, you can use that instead of a cookie cutter, but I only have madeline molds. They’re not very expensive, but I wanted to try out my kitty cookie cutter. (And one thing that’s really cool is that you don’t have to prep the pan, because it doesn’t stick. One thing you do have to look out for is to make sure you’re not using anything porous, like stone bake ware.)

Now put it in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to solidify them. If you used a mold, you can just peel them out and eat, but if you didn’t use a mold, it’s a little more involved. (But only a little.)

Just use your cookie cutter (or even a knife if you don’t care about fancy shapes) to cut out what you want.

And just make sure you don’t eat them as you go.

And if you’re worried about them sticking together, you can coat them with a little corn starch, but from my experience they don’t last long enough for that to be an issue.

This whole process is very passive and rewarding. It also doesn’t take a lot of time, which means you can make more as soon as you’re done!

English Toffee

This is something new and festive my sister, mom and I tried over the holidays and it came out great. Plus it was a lot easier than it seemed.

We got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s website.

You start by buttering a baking pan. We didn’t have the same size that the site recommends, so we divided it up into three smaller pans.

The point of putting it into a big pan is so that it’s not thick, so multiple smaller pans work too. And also, don’t worry about the parchment paper–wax paper works just fine.

You will need a candy thermometer for this, but they don’t run too expensive. And considering how easy it is to make this stuff, you’ll probably use it often, so don’t worry about wasting your money.

Next, you need to melt the butter in a nonstick sauce pan. Simple enough. Then once it’s melted, remove from heat and add sugar, corn syrup, and water.

That’s how it looks at first, but as you cook it, it’s texture and color will change.

Soon it will become bubbly/foamy. You’ll need to make sure to stir it here because the bottom will be a lot denser than the top.

And at around 250 degrees, it will suddenly get darker. That part scared us because we weren’t expecting it, but it was fine.

We cooked it on a medium heat but turned it up part way through because it seemed to stop getting warmer during the last bit.

Once it’s reached 300 degrees, stir in the almonds and pour it into the prepared pans and let it sit. Once it’s cool enough to touch and still slightly malleable, put it onto the wax or parchment paper. While it’s finishing it’s cool-off, melt the chocolate.

Before you pour on the chocolate, make sure to wipe off the excess butter. The leftover butter on top will stop the chocolate from sticking.

Once the chocolate’s on, top with almonds. Martha Stewart’s recipe doesn’t say this, but we melted half the chocolate at a time. That way we could coat one side, let it dry while melting the rest of the chocolate, then flip and coat the other side with chocolate.

But to let it set all the way, leave it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Once it’s hard, break it into pieces and enjoy!

Tofu

I’ve eaten tofu before and it was pretty good. Actually, the first day I happened to eat tofu, circumstances led it to be in every meal, so I got to try a couple of kinds prepared in different ways.

I really enjoyed it, but I have no idea how to cook with it, so if you know what to do, or can show me any websites you love, please let me know!

French fries

So I had a healthy post, now I have to have something fried. I am from Louisiana after all. Albert, though, is the one that needs to get the credit for this one. He just came over with a big bowl of cut up, blanched potatoes.

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The process of blanching the potatoes makes the end result more crunchy–so it’s completely optional. Basically what you do is cut up your potatoes and fill their bowl with water. You change the water every 30 minutes or so. It gets rid of something that makes the fries soggy.

As for the oil, we used a mix of olive oil and canola oil.

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You definitely want more canola oil than olive oil; olive oil has a low smoking point, which means it starts smoking up at a lower temperature, and that’s not good. In the second batch we made, we used only canola oil, but I think it tastes better with a little olive oil.

It’s hard to tell when the oil is hot enough, so throw in a test fry!

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Albert ended up being happy with the one-ish-dot-past-medium temperature for the frying, but he had it on high to warm up the oil. That’s something you’ll have to experiment with a little bit. But there probably won’t be much variation. When the oil is really hot, the outside will cook very fast, whereas the inside will not cook. And if it’s too cold, it’ll just get really oil and unpleasant.

It took about 9 minutes for a batch of fries to be done. But you definitely want to keep your eyes on it–at least for the first few batches so you can get a feel for how things are going. They should be stiff to the touch when ready. As for utensils, don’t use plastic. Metal is handy, but if the handle is metal too, it might get really hot. What I used had a metal head and a wooden handle–perfect. Chopsticks work ok too, but if you’re only mediocre with them, don’t bother–dropping stuff in hot oil is a terrible idea.

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I didn’t get many pictures of the end result because we kept eating them as soon as they came out. They’re so good with a little kosher salt or Season All. Be creative with this part.

Cucumbers!

This is a snack that’s been around me forever. Unfortunately,for a long time I didn’t like cucumbers. But I find it’s a great snack–you can make it pretty quickly, it’s very customizable, and I don’t feel bad about eating it after work, late into the night.

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The prep work is minimal–wash and cut a cucumber. If you really want, you can peel it, but I don’t see the point. Plus it looks a lot nicer when you don’t. Next, put it in a bowl and add your “salad dressing.” I mixed up olive oil, vinegar (any kind, I vary between red and white), garlic powder, salt and pepper. You can also add other veggies based on the flavor you want. My favorites are feta and kalamata olives, but I bet cherry tomatoes would be good too. Add everything to taste–you’re making it for you, so make sure you enjoy it!

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My bowl was actually a little bit too small for the required stirring, so make sure you use a bigger one. Also, one thing that might make it easier and make the flavor a little more consistent would be to mix up the “dressing” ingredients in a separate container before putting it on the cucumbers. Also, thinly sliced cucumbers take the flavor better than big chunks. The cucumbers don’t actually absorb any of the flavor, it just sits on them. So when they’re thinly sliced, the cucumbers are mostly surface area. Delicious surface area that can hold the sauce for you.

Airhead Roses

This idea came from something we do in the bakery almost everyday–put icing flowers on cakes. One day while on break, munching on some airheads, I started playing with my food and made my first ever candy rose. They’re cute and tasty, you just have to make sure that you’re not working in the heat, because then they start to lose their shape.

So here’s what I started with:

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After unwrapping, there is a little prep work–they need to be split in half, longways. You have two options, you can either rip them in half or cut them. Cutting them is neater, but it really doesn’t matter since either way you’ll be using the outside edge to make the visible part of the flower petals.

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The cherry one at the top center was the one I ripped up, but I cut up the other ones. I slightly prefer cutting over ripping because it helps balance the amount of airhead in each half, it is also less compromising to the strips of airheads. (When they separate or break, it’s hard to put them back together nicely.)

After this, you need to form a center. For this, break off three pieces of whatever color(s) you wish, each one being about an inch long.

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You always want to have something in the center; it shouldn’t just be a bowl. But don’t worry about it much, it can be as simple as a twist. From here, prepare another 5 or so “petals” to put around the center. One thing you want to avoid is double layering the petals–each new petal’s center should be at the meeting point of two petals from the previous layer. And after this, keep adding layers until it’s big enough.

Here’s what I ended up with:

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And don’t worry if it seems hard. Every step is undoable and even first attempts come out great. Plus, whoever you show it to will be amazed, because chances are, they’ve never seen this before. Good luck! And if you send in pics, I’ll post them.