Monday, March 17, 2008

Mushroom Week

How were your respective weeks, readers? Mine was pretty good, but then how could it not be on the week that I willingly introduced consuming fungus into my life. Really mushrooms are pretty unobtrusive, but I found that it takes some skill to avoid a less than savory, at times termed "slimy," texture.

I will say I enjoy weeks that allow me to experiment with different types (yet another reason to reminisce about squash week), and so I began mushroom week with the purchasing of three different mushroom sorts: Shitake, Cremini (young Portabellas), and the typical white kind that they sell in those blue foam tubs. With such a fine diversity of mushrooms (and at such a diversity of prices), I thought that surely there would be a great difference in taste. Unfortunately, as it turns out, my palette is not yet refined enough in the world of mushrooms to detect that difference.

I started with the Shitakes, though because they cost $8 a pound I only had a small amount. I made a Shitake-crusted chicken, and eagerly awaited the delicious subtlety of flavor that would no doubt accompany high-end fungi. But in the end the taste was just a little too subtle; to me it just tasted like chicken, and my attempts to feature the 'shrooms were mostly wasted. As a plus, I really don't think it would be that difficult to pass off something as "Shitake-crusted" and then just use the regular cheap mushrooms, depending, of course, on your ethical standards and willingness to lie to dinner guests.

I had some mushroom crepes in a restaurant, but, and I realize this goes against what I said during squash week about restaurant veggies being superior--I found they were rather slimy. The crepes were still good, and the mushrooms edible, but the texture was not my favorite. The best way to eat mushrooms then is to disguise the sliminess by surrounding it with a more appealing sliminess, such as cheese. To that end, the mushroom pizza I made later that day was definitely a step up.

For the Creminis, I wanted to do something a bit special. My friend, a seasoned mushroom connoisseur, and I stuffed some mushroom caps with pesto and put them in the oven with a dash of Parmesan. They came out quite well, though I will admit to refusing seconds. I would definitely try one at a party though. Perhaps I'd even make them for a party! "What's a party without mushrooms!" is such a common phrase these days, after all.

Yesterday, I had some cream of mushroom soup, which was as good as any soup. I'm begining to see that soups are the best ways to deal with vegetables (particularly those that suffer from issues of texture). On the one hand, this is an easy solution; on the other hand, while I like soup, I do also really like chewing things. I'll keep working on it.

Here's a picture of some mushrooms I didn't try:Isn't bio-diversity great?

I think for next week I'll go back to basics with some greens, as I believe I now have the assemblages of a pretty decent salad. Anyone have any exotic salad recipes to share? Speaking of reader participation: does anyone have thoughts on a vegetable for next week? I'm getting bored of thinking of them, and I don't think I'm ready to resort to asparagus just yet. Anyway, your continued readership and feedback is appreciated.

Next week: lettuce!


Cody said...

My mom made a nice dish for me this weekend:

She made a bed of Romaine lettuce and spinach leaves. Then she covered it with a chicken salad, to which she added sliced celery and diced red grapes and which worked out surprisingly well. Mayonnaise is unfortunately required, unless you prefer your chicken salad brittle.

Anonymous said...

Think of lettuce as the backdrop on which to arrange your culinary still life. It's really more of a filler. Throw all the things you've tried on top and toss with the right salad dressing. I'm a big Newman's fan. However, you might also try just a bit of olive oil and balsemic vinagar (or lemon juice.)

Two classic salads you must try: caesar. Every restarant has a different version. At home, Cardini's dressing is a must.

Also salade Nicoise. Of course this includes potatoes and black olives, but you could leave them out.

Make that three salads! Greek! It also includes some unbefriended items. Actually, since lettuce is so undemanding, you might just have to include those tiny black Greek (or Nicoise) olives this week. You surely wouldn't want a whole olive week.

Susan Thompson said...

Regarding next week's vegetable, I was hoping you would do cabbage soon so I could extol the wonders of sauerkraut on a Reuben sandwich.

And regarding lettuce, I love crunchy things on a salad like sunflower seeds. (Once or twice I have come across sunflower seeds with a slightly rancid taste, so watch out for that.) And don't forget to add lettuce to other things: shredded lettuce to tacos, big crunchy pieces of lettuce to sandwiches, etc.


Melody said...

Mixed greens over iceberg lettuce. Iceberg is sooooooooooooo boring.

Cody said...

I'm with Susan Thompson on the rueben thing. You should do cabbage next week.

Also, pine nuts work well on a salad. They're like bigger, tastier sunflower seeds.

Susan Thompson said...

Pine nuts are like bigger, tastier, MORE EXPENSIVE sunflower seeds. But they are delicious.

Anonymous said...

I agree, pine nuts are the best thing ever, especially toasted. I used to be ethically opposed to mixing fruits and nuts in salad but recently i've decided it was really wrong. Adding some mango slices, pear, or apple bits really adds something. My current favorite salad involves nuts, dried cranberries, mixed greens, and an oil/vinegar dressing, some people who can eat that sort of thing add blue cheese I think. And with salads I say the more random stuff you throw in the better. I think you should do a week for avocado, it's the best vegetable in my opinion.


Susan Thompson said...

Avocados are fruits, but let's all do a week of avocados anyways. I have a great guacamole recipe.


Rachel said...

It sounds like you were really adventurous with the mushrooms. Good job!

For salads, I would agree that cranberries and something crunchy like pine nuts are really good.

Personally my favorite salad is spinach, diced almonds, and mandarin oranges. You could add some lettuce to this concoction and it would be amazing.

Love ya!