Ever since I wrote about Meatless Mondays for the Environmental Defense Fund, I've been much more aware of how much animal protein I eat. Cutting back radically has meant I'm now cooking much more quinoa, which I happen to enjoy, but, like tofu, it has a subtle, some might say bland, taste. So I've been chopping and stirring things into it. Well, as I've mentioned constantly, there is nothing like a big city for finding gorgeous, fresh, organic produce; at the farmer's market on Broadway and 112th Street recently I spotted a stand of mushrooms. They are grown, organically, and in protected houses, by Dan at Madura Farms. Just looking at the mushrooms made me smile and think of cool, damp woods on a hot summer day. Even if you aren't cooking, a stroll through a farmer's market is a great way to fall in slow love.

The most gorgeous display of mushrooms I have ever seen was at the enormous farmer's market in Nice, France. There, a woman had set up a large table, and arranged a hilly tableau, complete with moss, small logs, little branches of pine and fir, and rocks. Dotted throughout were clutches of mushrooms (but not "clutches" probably, what would they be called?) Anyway, I was enchanted, and like a small child, reached my hand out to touch it, thinking I would buy a few mushrooms. I was zapped out of my reverie by a sharp sting of a slap on the back of my hand. "Mais non, Madame, ne touchez pas." Well. No surprise there, really.

The Broadway mushrooms' colors are beautiful, too; I'd love to paint walls with that golden glow, but maybe I'd need a confection of Venetian plaster to capture the sense of dappled sunlight on the pale surfaces. I bought a small bag of yellow oysters, maitakes, and pioppinis. One of the things I love about the Internet is the endless supply of help in the kitchen. And of course, I quickly found ideas for what to do with mushrooms, including this one from the charming artichoke heart, for a pizza, which looks tempting (but I would need company or I'd eat it all myself.) I'm going to order Deborah Madison's vegetarian cookbook; my cooking friends tell me it is one of the best. I am also loving Lucinda Quinn's Feeding Men and Boys; I feel entitled to cook that way for myself, as everyone knows I have the appetite of a horse.

I'm finding that squashes, onions, and apples roast up nicely together, and when served, make a tidy nest for dollops of quinoa. I've cut my meat consumption way back, to the point that I'm thinking I may develop a new flexetarian rule: I only eat things smaller than myself--the idea being that if I were in the wild, I could have trapped or killed a bird, but not a bore. Er, boar. Sorry. I don't seem to be able to kill bores even at cocktail parties, much less in the woods.


Cristina said...

...not even french women are the same anymore: to slap an unknown lady's hand. ça, alors!
joking apart, mushrooms do have all my praise (and if you happen to "meet" PORCINI, you must have them!)

lostpastremembered said...

I have been thinking the same thing... made chawan-mushi yesterday for the blog ... a japanese custard with mushrooms... so delicious!

Your mushroom photos are spectacular... and I agree with your friends... Deborah Madison has done great vegetarian cookbooks. Happy shrooming!

Elizabeth said...

Here in gray London we have been staving off winter gloom by eating quinoa plus: red onions, root veggies, capers. The very best recipes I've found - plus a fabulous mushroom ragout - are in the Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, Plenty. Do you know it? Well organized into groups of ingredients (brassicas, pulses, mushrooms, etc), terrific photos, easy to follow, and delicious.

karensandburg said...

i wanted to reach into the screen and touch those plump mushrooms. of course you can't resist!

i adore quinoa -- not only is it light but it contains so many goodies. it's a complete protein (for us non meat eaters), contains iron, calcium, magnesium and more. you may want to spritz some Bragg's Amino Acids(found near soy sauce at whole foods) on your roasted veggies. i even spritz some directly in my mouth it's so delicious and HEALTHY too. when i serve quinoa and roasted veggies, my daughter alex asks me if i put the "yummy stuff" on it and then spritzes more on her vegetables. Braggs is also a complete protein (all 9 essential amino acids) and along with quinoa much more digestable than meat.

you've got me on my soapbox here, dominique, sorry! i just love healthy food and without meat its always a challenge to prepare interesting meals. my husband and i eat fish, but my daughter has rejected "anything with a face" from her diet, making it harder on poor mum to be inventive at meal time...

and about those bores, yes they don't seem to pick up on cues like benign empty smiles, attached to glazed empty eyes...

Bruce Barone said...

We eat Quinoa all the time. I toast it first. SOmetimes I add onions or peppers or cranberries. Sometimes I add it to Salmon Cakes!

I made Mushroom Lasagna on Monday night!


Karena said...

Oh it all makes me hungry! I love mushrooms of al kinds..such an assortment!

Art by Karena

mary said...

Thanks for the mushroom coaching. I prepared sauteed portobello mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and a little soy sauce last night--yum. As for meat--basically I'm drawn to (and eat) mainly wild caught fish and organic chicken--with a little bit of meat once or twice a month...it works for me. But I don't consume any soy that has not been fermented--it is not a healthy product.

Grace said...

Mmmmmmmushrooms! Love 'em, and your photos of them! If you like Japanese maki rolls, quinoa is a wonderful substitute for the sushi rice. Making them is a "slow love" process, but worth it. :)

About Me said...

Another fabulous vegetarian cookbook is How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Or, to combine your interests in meditation and cooking, try any of Edward Espe Brown's cookbooks (my favorite is Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings).


david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

What a fun posting (and equally fun reponses).

Some points:

ONE: Quick skoolmarm slaps on the hand are as nothing compared to what I got a couple of years ago in Barcelona (we go there every May, and I seem to have,at one point or another, grown overly "at-home"). I was in La Boqueria (the HUGE and justly famous, wonderful market off La Rambla) when I saw a particularly spectacular (even by Boqueira standards) seafood stand. I shifted my bags (I was obviously, or at least I THOUGHT so, a paying customer) to the floor and took out my camera. I'd taken one picture when the woman behind the seafood shouted out that I couldn't take pictures. I told her, in Spanish, that I was going to buy something, and I had bent down to take another picture when I got the hardest whack (and i mean "whack", not a slap) on my ass that I've had since 1968 or so.

There she was, having darted around to the front of the stall.... 60-something years old, about 5'4" tall, scowling at me and waving her arms, telling me (in her own quite-comprehensible English) "Go to Hell!". I kid you not.

We walked off, and Herve encouraged me to consider that old ladies who have, by 10 am, already been working for 6 hours are never in the best of moods....and to not ever take a photograph in which a Spanish woman might appear without asking her permission to do so.

So, I learned my lesson.

TWO: As for other lessons?....

"Bruce Barone" is right about Quinoa. I'd avoided it for the past few years, figuring that I'd already endured my fair-share of bad-Tofu forced upon me by ideology-ridden pals during the 80's,

Then, I came across quinoa in Stephane Reynaud's book "Terrines". He's also the author of the very fun and deservedly well-reviewed "Pork & Sons" (both books are published by Phaidon press and are a delight for even non-cooks. both are readily available on Amazon).

In any case, I was really interested in his recipe for a summer terrine of tomato confit, quinoa, green olives, and preserved-lemon. It's a lovely, simple, and awfully-good-for-you thing for a summer lunch...or you could make individual terrines in muffin pans if (as many folks do) you live alone. They refrigerate indefinitely.

I've since (in the last year) gone on to using Quinoa or spelt-grain in a lot of recipes that call for comparatively boring rice, etcetera. So, I'm glad to say that I was very wrong in assuming that Quinoa would be "hippie dull".

THREE: "Elizabeth" also has very good instincts (you DO attract smart readers). I got the "Ottolenghi Cook book" about a year ago. It's the most invigorating, innovative cookbook I've read in several years; I can see why those guys (and their restaurant/catering company/etc) have become so beloved in London. I find myself regularly turning to that book when I realize that, among the 6-8 folks coming to dinner tonight, I've got one who's belligerently lactose-intolerant, two who are vegetarians, and at least one who is on the Atkins diet. For various and good reasons, "The Ottolenghi Cookbook" has been providing me with solutions/recipes that "work" for all the guests.

FOUR: Regarding mushrooms? It is, actually, true, that almost all of the French (except for those who are utterly caged in the city) go ga-ga in the Fall, when the mushrooms appear (at least in Perigord and Provence). I'd assumed, until a few years ago, that this Gallic feeding-frenzy was some sort of cute, literary-fancy cooked up and productively exaggerated by the Peter Mayles and Georgeanne Brennans (et al) of the Foodie-publishing-world. Turns out it's quite real. The only similar, mass-hysteria phenomenon I've witnessed is among folks in Charlotte or Birmingham when the seasons for NASCAR racing and/or Crimson Tide football (!!!) roll around....

thanks for the fun posting,

David Terry

linda said...

Dominique, a voice from the past.
Taking a lazy Saturday afternoon old magazine fest on the sofa, I glanced upon an article which caught my eye in a November Good Housekeeping: Where are my keys?! and then I saw your name. Flashback to New York 1979. You lived in an exquisite little brownstone on the upper west side, first floor, with an Egyptian kitchen (enter sideways with stomach sucked in), there was an upright piano and my boyfriend, the aspiring writer, and I , the aspiring model, were your guests while we tried to set up housekeeping in New York. Worlds away...I have been in Italy for the past 30 years and I still religiously buy all my favorite American magazines (I used to see your name in House Beaufiful???)
By the way, I love your articles. Linda (Jay's ex)

Katrina Kenison said...

If you are looking for ONE book to rock your world (and to read on the long flight to India), I recommend John Robbins's The Food Revolution. It is a page turner, oddly enough. And beautifully written. And full of facts, nutritional information, solid research into the food industry and the environmental impact of our diets. But it is also rich in compassion, inspiration, and gentle wisdom. It simply, quietly, changed me -- and the way I eat -- forever. And then, for fun and to feel like a kid again, try Kris Carr's hot new book, Crazy, Sexy Diet. She is the pin-up girl for sprouts and green juice.

Bradley said...

I've been to that lovely market!
Years ago, on an archaelogical dig at Aigue Morte in St. Laurenze d'Gouze.
But I was struck by the mounds of anchious-- so tasty and salty, so inexpensive!
I'm now, years later, in my kippered- snacks phase.
Dried, salted, restored fish.
Doesn't get any better!

Grace G said...

Mushrooms as an organism have fascinated me since reading a mind-boggling interview with mycologist Paul Stamets in The Sun http://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/386/going_underground

I used one of his kits to grow them at home, a fun experiment. Their potential to heal the world is truly untapped. Fungi are our friends...

david terry said...

Dear "Grace G"....

I never knew what a "Mycologist" was until I found myself sleeping with one in my mid-twenties (for better or worse, "Mycologist" just wasn't cited, as a very general rule, among the list of "Desirable Men You should Date & Marry" when I was pubescing in east tennessee during the 1970's).

His doctorate was from Columbia, and his trust-fund had paid for the 26 acre farm he'd bought WAY out in the country. It was a LONG drive.

In 1986 or so, Shitake mushrooms just weren't available in stores, since no one had yet figured out an efficient way of producing them on a commercial scale in something other than an actual cave or in Japan.

I recall nights when the alarm clock would go off, and we'd go out to the three airplane-hanger-sized, metal buildings in which the experimental "mushroom factory" was being developed...like, every half-hour?... to check temperatures, humidity, etcetera?....

I was fascinated by it all, back then, and thought myself very lucky to have not only found a "Mycologist", but to also be involved in his "Research".

Shitakes are, of course, as common as pig-tracks, these days.
Still? I'm old enough to recall the magic (!) of those early, headily experimental days....

sighingly, heavingly, and sentimentally yours as ever,

David Terry

Amy said...

How timely your post about mushrooms. Yesterday, at our sheep and cattle ranch in Río Verde, Chile, I went mushrooming and came back with the biggest haul of 'em ever! At least a couple kilos of them. There's really only one type found here, a basic white one that can be quite small or as large as a salad plate. But being grown in our rich black soils give them a rich earthiness that's out of this world!

Having found so many, we clean and chop them, then cook them with a bit of onion and white wine, and then put them in two cup portions in zipper bags for freezing.Then I drop these portions into stews, sauces, risottos, and soups. Yes, cooking does blacken them. Does anyone know of a solution for that?

kathi said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog for several months, your subjects and viewpoints are always unique and informative. Thanks very much!

david terry said...

Dear "Amy"
You could, after preparing (but before cooking the mushrooms) pour some boiling water over them and into this drop a little vinegar or lemon juice. No Brainer, basically...just as you would do with many things. Then drain them in a colander. Thusly?...you can prevent, to a great extent, their darkening.... but always at the expense of their flavor. At which juncture, there wouldn't be much point in the entire business...particularly when you've harvested these things by your lonesome.

Basically? Cooked mushrooms are (essentially and until-The-End-of-Days) brown. Their pigment is water soluble, so anything made with them will be brown. This seems to be the way that God Made Them.

It's best not to struggle against the Way of Things.

Sadly, but truely,

David terry

Heather said...

Love cooking with mushrooms! Funny to see my two boys come sniffing into the kitchen when I've got a healthy bunch sauteing with garlic, butter and a splash of sherry. Sometimes they've eaten up the lot on pieces of french bread before I can even get it to the table.

A new activity we've just discovered is growing our own mushrooms via a kit. The WSJ just did a piece about them last week. We had good luck with the oyster mushroom kit from Back to the Roots, www.bttrventures.com

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