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wild rice & mushroom soup

January 18th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

I did not grow up loving mushrooms. I didn’t even like them, not one little bit. But I surely can’t blame myself, for my only exposure to them as a child of the ’70′s was from a can. And I can’t imagine anything more disgusting than canned mushrooms to a kid. No wonder I was never a fan of the fungus.

As I got older, I allowed a bit of mushroom to pass my lips; I loved them sauteed on a burger, or with a grilled steak. Provided I could have something in my mouth with them, they became only slightly more palatable to me, but I still struggled with texture, and that rich, loamy earthiness to them. Cover them with good red wine, and sauté them in copious amounts of butter and it was ok. Just ok though. Still, they weren’t on my favorites list by any means.

Then I had an epiphany, last summer. A major turning point in my culinary taste occurred at one of the wonderful events I attended last year with the Minnesota Food Bloggers group. It was at Cafe Levain in Minneapolis, and Chef Adam Vickerman created grilled portabella mushrooms, richly glazed in balsamic vinegar. I took a few tentative bites of them and my eyes were opened. I was re-born, re-newed and suddenly, all-out crazy for mushrooms. And to Adam’s credit, I’ve been slightly obsessed, and eating them weekly, ever since.

Mushrooms fit well into a healthy eating plan, and that makes them far more desirable given my all-enveloping obsession. Mushrooms have been revered in Eastern culture for thousands of years for their nutritional properties. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including minerals like selenium, potassium, copper, and vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin (the all important B vitamins) and vitamin D. And then there’s beta-glucans- something I’d never heard of before, and according to Mushroom Info:

“Beta-glucans, found in numerous mushroom species, have shown marked immunity-stimulating effects, contribute to resistance against allergies and may also participate in physiological processes related to the metabolism of fats and sugars in the human body. The beta-glucans contained in oyster, shiitake and split gill mushrooms are considered to be the most effective.” 

So I can feel good about the amount of mushrooms passing my lips, and I like that. I can incorporate mushrooms in to just about any dish, but I hadn’t really done much with them in a soup so it was fun to come across this amazing Wild Rice & Mushroom soup recipe on The Kitchn, even better that I stumbled upon it as the coldest air of the month landed on Minnesota, making for a perfect backdrop to a steaming bowl of this thick and hearty soup.

If you love a good wild rice soup with chicken, or turkey, you’ll love this lush recipe, which deeply browns mushrooms to develop their rich flavor. A bath of white wine and some good vegetable broth helps round out the simple but complex flavors. Wild rice was another food item I had to learn how to love, but thankfully, this wasn’t that difficult, and we’ve been enjoying wild rice soups for years. This one, with it deep earthy flavors and thick broth will be on repeat now. We all loved it, and soup is such a good leftover item to have on hand.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

1 c. wild rice, washed
1 large onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced (I love the flavor of the leaves and used a lot of those)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of mushrooms, rough chopped (I used baby portabella, but adding some porcini or oyster would be delicious)
1 t. fresh thyme
3 T. AP flour
1 c. white wine (I use pinot grigio in cooking. DO NOT use cooking wine from the grocer. Ugh)
1 Bay leaf
1-2 cheese rinds, optional
2 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 c. whole milk or heavy cream (I used a lot less, but adjust according to your taste)
1 T. cider vinegar
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the rice with 1 teaspoon of salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 40-50 minutes, or until the rice has burst open and is soft. You can leave it a bit underdone if you  wish, and cook it to taste with the final soup. Drain the rice, reserving the cooking water to use in the soup if you wish. (I did this. Wow. What a flavor)

Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery with a pinch of salt and cook until softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and start to brown; this should take anywhere from 20-40 minutes depending on the size of your stock pot. I cooked them to a really deep brown. Don’t skip this step as this is where a lot of the flavor of your soup will come from.

Once they are nicely browned, add the garlic and thyme and cook for about a minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. Stir the flour until the mixture becomes sticky, and no visible dry flour remains. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan, simmering until the wine has reduced and thickened.

Add the bay leaf, cheese rinds (if using) and stock or the cooking water from the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the rosemary, milk or cream and the wild rice, cooking for another 10-15 minutes, or until the soup has thickened to your liking. Stir in the cider vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Original recipe from The Kitchn, by Emma Christenson.

***This soup will thicken as it stands, and the rice absorbs more of the liquid. I’ve found that when re-heating it the next day, it tastes best to scoop out a serving and add water to loosen it up.

Linking up to Soupapalooza 2012!!

Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dishsponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset

pizza like you’ve never seen before

July 20th, 2011 | 6 Comments »

I do realize that’s a pretty strong statement, given the evolution of pizza from your basic tomato pie with sausage or pepperoni to the amazing creations available at any number of fancy wood and coal-fired joints around town. Pizza is one of those food items that’s tireless in it’s ability to transform itself, often gravitating out to an entire new plain before charging back to it’s humble beginnings once more. What’s old is new again, right? Pizza. Hand held food, and a very personal statement if ever one existed. Everyone has their own ideas about what makes good pizza; what kind of sauce tastes best, what toppings make for the most flavor, the amount of cheese, thin crust or thick, crunchy or soft.

My personal favorite was always sausage, green pepper and black olive. Something about that combination made perfect sense to my mouth. I could handle pepperoni, plain with no additions but given a choice, sausage ruled. The cheese had to be ample, enough to stretch happily out from the crust as I bit in to it, and it always, always needed several shakes of grated parmesan cheese on top. I can still put away a few slices of this perennial favorite, but my tummy wouldn’t be too happy with me. These days, I’m far more content to cover my pizza crust (thin, but not crispy) with a number of vegetables and a much less substantial amount of cheese. I’ve been known to eschew pizza sauce in favor or pesto, or no sauce at all. I’ve rubbed crushed roasted garlic over the crust before placing the toppings on it and I’ve tried lots of variations on the pizza theme, including dessert pizza. I may grow and evolve with my tastes, but I still love pizza. And often I think that I’ve tried most ways possible to eat the ultimate hand-held meal.

Then I made this pizza:

And wow, did I realize how wrong I was.

Because all the pizza I’d made involved creating a pie with toppings that baked in the oven. A scatter of diced red peppers, chunks of portabella mushrooms, spinach leaves etc etc…. you place them on the crust and let the oven do it’s work.

This pizza, however, required a bit of foresight. The tomatoes must be roasted ahead of time, and the mushrooms need a nice dousing of good balsamic vinegar and a turn on a superbly hot grill before they can be placed on your pizza crust, covered with a bit of cheese and given a quick dash in to a scorching 500° oven. But the prep is worth it; this pizza has more incredible flavor than what might normally be rendered from placing regular cherry tomatoes and portabella mushrooms on pizza crust.

Recently, I attended a dinner at Levain in Minneapolis, and one of the courses was served with roasted balsamic oyster and shiitake mushrooms. I’m learning to enjoy mushrooms in many forms, having been one of those foods that I simply could not eat for a very long time. But given that I grew up with canned mushrooms in my meals, really, can you blame me? I am a recent convert to balsamic grilled portabella mushrooms at home, loving how flavorful they are, and these mushrooms at Levain delighted me to no end. In fact, many of the other attendees to this dinner stated that these deliciously flavored mushrooms turned them around from their dislike of the fungi and made them happy fanatics. I was in heaven, savoring each tender, savory bite and in the days since, dreamed of those mushrooms gracing my dinner plate.

Then along came this pizza. With tomatoes slowly roasted in the oven until they sizzled and popped. But it needed something else, a rich deep something to balance that tender sweet flavor and these mushrooms, liberally doused in balsamic and olive oil, then cooked lickety-split on a searing hot grill made for a heavenly companion.

The cherry tomatoes themselves are created with enough flavor to please all on their own; a quick toss with crushed garlic, thinly sliced shallot and a generous handful of panko breadcrumbs, they are then dressed in a bit of olive oil and some fresh thyme and set under the broiler. The heat renders the cherry tomatoes sweeter than you could imagine, with a nice crumb mixture, bits of crunchy shallot and garlic, and here’s where I think the pizza reaches new heights because that browned, seasoned bread crumb on top of your pizza crust makes for a flavor  you just can’t get from bread alone.

It all just requires a bit more thought. And every bite is worth it too. Even a few days later as I pulled the last slice from the fridge and ate it cold. It was all worth it.

What’s your absolute favorite way to eat pizza?

Pizza with Charred Cherry Tomato & Balsamic Mushrooms

2 pints cherry tomatoes, washed.
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
4 cloves garlic, smashed and crushed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1-2 t. fresh thyme
1 pkg Portabella mushrooms slices
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. good quality balsamic vinegar

Pizza dough and cheese topping of choice

Preheat your broiler. In a bowl, combine the cherry tomato, panko, garlic, shallot and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle the mixture with about 2-3 tablespoon of olive oil. Toss gently to coat. Spread mixture on a large cookie sheet and place under the broiler, watching carefully, until the tomatoes begin to sizzle, and brown in spots. It should take maybe 10 minutes or so, being careful not to allow the panko to burn. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Whisk 1/4 c. oil and the balsamic together until emulsified. Pour over the mushrooms in a bowl, and gently toss with a rubber spatula until all the emulsion is absorbed. Do not add more oil or vinegar. The mushrooms can be grilled, or they can also be broiled until they are richly browned and tender.

Heat your oven to 500° and if you have a pizza stone, heat it in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Roll out your pizza dough to desired size and thickness on parchment paper. Scoop some of the cherry tomato mixture on to the crust, then scatter the mushrooms. Add your cheese and place parchment on heated pizza stone. Bake the pizza until crust is golden and topping sizzle. It shouldn’t take long at all.

Original recipe from Food & Wine, with heavy modifications.

Kate says: I used a pizza dough recipe from Cooks Illustrated. Wish I could give it to you but they don’t like it when bloggers share their recipes, the meanies. Any scratch pizza dough you like will work.

the Engine 2 challenge

May 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

May is looking a bit different around the kitchen. It’s a lot more green. And red. And purple. Don’t forget orange and yellow.

I was invited by Whole Foods to take part in a 28-day challenge of consuming a plant-based diet, based on the best-selling book The Engine 2 Diet, written by firefighter Rip Esselstyn, who designed the plan to help his fellow firefighters lose weight and combat health issues such as high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. Whole Foods will be introducing this challenge to it’s customers in June, and four local bloggers will be chronicling their 28 days for the Whole Foods clientele to read about as they move forward with their own 28 day plan.

Rip’s book outlines all the benefits of a plant-based diet, and includes great testimony from people who have successfully used the plan to lose weight, lower their cholesterol and reverse the devastating effects of diabetes and heart problems. The premise of it goes like this; no processed or packaged foods, no added salts, no animal products, and no fats at all, including all oils. What you eat is a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. The book comes with an extensive recipe collection, all simple and straight forward. There’s no need for any special cooking skills, or equipment or tools or anything. Just cut out the junk, and ramp up the intake of the good stuff.

I was intrigued by the idea of it, and enjoyed reading Rip’s book, sent to me free by Whole Foods. He’s got a lot of really bare bones information about the state of our health in the United States, and I don’t need to tell you that it’s really not a pretty picture. And I’m not going to get into any details. We all know how bad it is, even if we make like we don’t notice. My family eats really healthy foods, and I’m pretty diligent about purchasing items that I am comfortable with giving to my guys, but I’m always willing to do more and this challenge is giving me an opportunity to step up our game. As I see it, with what we do already, we’re about halfway there anyway, so taking it to another level won’t be that difficult. I don’t need to lose much weight at all, but we both have a strong desire to be as healthy as we can possibly be, and Mike has had issues with high cholesterol.

One of the nice things about Rip’s approach is that it’s really a very open-minded explanation, and it leaves a lot for each individual to interpret on their own. His suggestion, obviously, is to jump right in and start on the challenge, but he readily acknowledges that it’s often a tough step to take, and offers readers several options for easing in to it, and really, the best advice he gives is that it’s really something you can custom tailor to your own needs. And that’s what I did for us. Mike and I easily can give up almost all of our meat consumption, and so that’s where I’m taking our challenge. With the exception of a few social events for me where I’ve eaten meat, our home meals have all been meat free. With the gift card that Whole Foods provided, I stocked up on grains, brown and wild rice, lots of colorful vegetables and fruits and we’ve been enjoying some pretty amazing meals with our bounty. I’m not on board with Rip’s assessment of cutting out fat consumption, as I am firm in my belief and understanding that good fats are a necessity in good body function, for your brain and your autonomic nervous system. We need fat, and although there are many ways to get good fat through plant-based eating, I’ve kept the olive oil, but cut out the butter. I’m already missing my weekly popcorn fix.

But it’s a good thing though; we can all stand to do something better for our health. This is giving us motivation, and incentive to push to another level. We love vegetables, thank goodness, and it’s coming to the best time of year for vegetable love in Minnesota, as the Farmers Markets open and the bounty starts pouring in. And I made an agreement with my meat-loving son; I won’t mind if he wants to fix himself a piece of chicken, or a small steak if he’s willing to really try some of the new foods that come out of the kitchen. He didn’t even hesitate before he said ‘Yes’.

The first time Griffin tried quinoa he enjoyed it enough, even though he said the texture was ‘a little weird’. This time, when I loaded it with all sorts of grilled vegetables like baby bok choy, portabella mushrooms, red peppers and asparagus, he heaped his bowl full and really got into it. Upon finishing it, he sighed deeply and said to me “You know, that’s surprisingly filling.”

I don’t really have a ‘recipe’ for this. I made a simple balsamic vinaigrette that I brushed on the vegetables, then I grilled them, chopped them up and mixed them with cooked quinoa, salt and pepper. It was really delicious, and yes, it was surprisingly filling. Quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes and it goes with everything. If you haven’t tried this super little grain, I can’t recommend it enough.

Stay tuned for more posts about the E2 challenge!

 

Disclaimer:
Whole Foods provided the book and a gift card free of charge to me for agreeing to participate in the Engine 2 Challenge.
All opinions expressed here are mine.