The Stuff of Fairy Tales

While working in the garden early this morning, I noticed a patch of toad stools growing beneath my lamb’s ears and thought that it looked like something about which a storyteller could spin an amusing children’s yarn.  (By the way, in case you were worried, I wouldn’t try eating these. I have no idea what they are; but they are fun to see.)

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2LC: Mushrooms

After a short hiatus, Two Little Chefettes have returned with their monthly cooking challenge. The ingredient for November is mushrooms. Thank you Ridha and Bebe!

I tend to have rather strong opinions about mushrooms. I think that most people cook them on too low a heat, for too long a time, with too much fat and without enough seasoning – the result being a rubbery, unappealing ingredient. I always cook mushrooms on a high heat, with just a little fat, with plenty of salt and pepper, and almost always with some sherry. That is how the Portobellos are prepared for this recipe. They are then stirred into the soup at the last minute. The result is a silky soup with slightly caramelized mushrooms.

Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup

4 T. unsalted butter, divided

2 T. potato starch

2 c. flavorful vegetable broth (mine is a golden-orange because it has lots of carrots and some tomatoes)

2 c. whole milk*

1/2 c. chopped yellow onion

4 c. very thinly sliced fresh Portobello mushrooms

splash of dry pale sherry

salt and fresh ground pepper

1/4 t. ground paprika

1. Melt 2 T. of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in the potato starch. Once the mixture is completely smooth, slowly whisk in the vegetable stock. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until perfectly smooth and slightly thickened. Whisk in the milk; and again, continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until perfectly smooth and slightly thickened.

2. Using about 1/2 T. of the remaining butter, saute onions in another pan until starting to turn translucent and lightly golden, but still slightly crisp. Stir into the soup base. The soup base will continue to thicken and will need to be whisked every few minutes.

3. Melt the remaining butter in the pan from the onions, stir in the mushrooms, and saute until almost cooked. Add the sherry and then salt and pepper the mushrooms. The sherry should be absorbed fairly quickly at which time the mushrooms should be done cooking. Stir mushrooms into soup base.

4. Stir in paprika and then adjust seasonings. Serve right away. Enjoy!

* Once time when I made this soup, I substituted soy milk. I thought that the soup turned out too sweet. So I would recommend sticking to regular milk.

I’ve Been Inspired by …. Fennel

A few days ago, I was reading a recipe for Fennel & Basil Chickpea Salad on Becca’s Green Kitchen – a wonderful blog for vegetarian cooking – and I was surprised to see that it called for sauteing the fennel. I have only used raw fennel in salads. I have used cooked fennel in soups, but not in ages; and I actually had forgotten about doing so until I read Becca’s blog. When I commented on this, Becca encouraged me to give cooked fennel a new try. So this morning – as part of my Let The Inspiration In Challenge – our breakfast special was a Bacon, Mushroom and Fennel Omelette served with a side of fresh fruit and a strawberry buttermilk muffin. I hope that Becca isn’t cringing over my having used bacon, but for the group of guests that I had this morning, I thought that would be an appealing special. The guests who ordered the omelette gave it two thumbs up and  told me that they liked the texture and flavor of the fennel with the mushrooms and bacon. Having now tried cooked fennel for the first time in a long while, I have a greater appreciation for this vegetable’s versatility. Raw fennel is quite crunchy and has a strong licorice flavor which I enjoy. Cooked, it has a subtle herbaceous flavor and, I think, is not recognizable as the same vegetable. Becca said that she caramelizes hers so that it gets almost a charred flavor. To cook the fennel this morning, I sauteed it in olive oil until crisp-tender and seasoned it with sea salt and fresh ground green and pink peppercorns. (While it was cooking, I sauteed mushrooms and cooked bacon, then tossed them together for the omelette filling before topping the filling with cheese.) Having new found appreciation for fennel, I can imagine sauteing it for use in pasta dishes and risottos as well as in Becca’s chickpea salad – which I am definitely going to make, just not for breakfast. Thanks for the inspiration, Becca and forgive me for the bacon!