Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wild Mushroom Bruschetta

A mushroom walks into a bar.
"Hey, you can't come into this bar!" says the bouncer. "You're a mushroom!"
"Oh come on," replies the mushroom. "I'm a fun-gi!"

The defensive mushroom makes a fair point. Save the button and crimini, the more exotic mushroom varieties—petal-esque, gill-like, tentaclish— are often disregarded by the commonplace shopper, perceived as unapproachable lest a cloak of mystery and abstruseness.
"White button variety is the biggest seller, because people are used to it," says third-generation mushroom farmer Joseph Bulich. And the consequent fate of the chanterelle, oyster, hen of the wood, and morel? Blame the shadowy dwellings, poisonous potential, or obscure shapes of these sphinxlike spores—plus their elitist illusion—and most home-cooks are content leaving their preparation to the professionals.
But, as the mushroom asserted himself, these little woody-fragranced, meaty-fleshed guys are FUN! From the occasional cook to the professional chef, the salubrious spores can be enjoyed by all. And while the season for wild mushrooms technically ends in late autumn, New Yorkers are in luck—Bulich Mushroom Farm organically cultivates mushrooms in temperature-controlled barns year-round, waking up at 3:15am every Saturday morning (eek!) to deliver white buttons, criminis, oysters, and shiitakes fresh to the Union Square Greenmarket from their home in the Catskills. Vegivores and locavores alike, rejoice!
At Bulich Farms, mushrooms are picked the day before market, yielding a crop with such expansive flavors, textures and culinary artifice that their biggest commonality is probably freshness. Shiitakes are grown off of oak logs to produce a woodsy, “chickeny” flavor, while the oyster mushroom is more seafood nuanced, like a scallop. The baby portabellas, or crimini's, shine in soups and omelets. The first two flourish in flavor post-cooking, while the latter is delightful eaten raw too.

The varied chemical make-up of each mushroom kind makes preparation important. With fat-soluble flavor compounds, the more delicate mushrooms like chantarelles, oysters, and shiitakes are optimal for sautéing in butter, oil, or cream. Their sponge-like affection also lends them well to cooking alcohol such as wine or sherry. For a special treat, whole-roast your oysters: Bulich Farm cultivates theirs in wholesome, beautiful bunches; this method preserves their lovely natural shape.
Because your foraged specialties like chantarelle and oyster can be a bit pricey—$29.99 for a pound of the golden (in color and price) chantarelles, yikes! — I recommend mixing together a few types of mushrooms in your dish, as to avoid breaking the bank and to expose the full spectrum of flavors each has to offer. At the farmers market, Bulich Farm mushrooms range from $5 to $12 a pound.
While the wild mushroom's complex, rich earthiness can be beautifully showcased in many a dish, I invite you to share its palatable flavors with others in this Wild Mushroom Bruschetta holiday hors d'oeuvre. Piquant and savory in a sherry reduction seasoned with fresh parsley and thyme, the bruschetta boasts the heartiest of tastes, yielding quite the Epicurean experience—one, as seen by this recipe, that is best received with a clean, milky chèvre, crunchy crostini, and glass of full-bodied wine.

Shall we raise that glass and make a toast to your mushroom? Here’s to being a fun-gi. 

When shopping for produce, look for mushrooms with firm, smooth and dry caps, and avoid damp, pitted or dried-out ones. If not using right away, store (unwashed) in the refrigerator in a paper bag. Rather than rinsing before eating, pat with a damp towel. For more helpful facts on fungiculture, visit the Epicurious Visual Guide to Mushrooms.

Wild Mushroom Bruschetta (derived from The Culinate Kitchen Collection)
Yield: about 1 1/2 cup bruschetta; enough to top 30 crostini


1  Tbsp. butter, divided
1  Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1   shallot, minced
2   cups wild mushrooms, (such as chanterelle, oyster, porcini, and/or crimini)
1   garlic clove, minced
¼  cup white wine or sherry
2   Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2   Tsp. fresh thyme
     Salt and pepper, to taste
1   large French baguette, cut diagonally into ½-inch slices and toasted
5   oz. goat cheese

1. In a large saucepan, melt ½ tablespoon butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, just until it begins to soften, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add the mushrooms, stirring often, until the mushrooms are wilted, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, then the wine or sherry and cook over low heat for several minutes, until liquid is reduced and syrupy. Stir in remaining butter (optional) and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

2. Spread the goat cheese over the toasted bread slices, and then top with warm mushrooms. Serve immediately, and preferably with a glass of wine.

Persson O. (1997). The Chanterelle Book. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press.
"Chantarelle and Oyster Mushroom Recipes." Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Iced Whiskey Ginger Cookies

In the holiday spirit, I signed up for the 2012 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. The decision was a no-brainer: the registration proceeds go to Cookies For Kids' Cancer, and I got to receive three batches of delicious, homemade cookies from other likeminded bloggers around the country! (Special thanks to The Novice Chef's lovely chai snickerdoodles, The Forgotten Teaspoon's decadent Kahlua fudge bites, and Burnt Apple's melt-in-your-mouth butterscotch cookies.) Those of you who know me well know that I can always be enticed with a cookie.
Although eager to begin, I was faced with a seriously difficult decision: what cookie to bake for my three recipients? I combed through dozens of recipes, looking for the perfect cookie to meet my criteria: holiday-themed, unique, and tried-and-true. Finally, I found the winner: Iced Whiskey Ginger Cookies.
Ginger cookies are a holiday staple, and this recipe delivers quite the gingery bite with its mix of both freshly grated and ground ginger. Crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside, a hearty dose of molasses delivers a richly spiced burst of flavor in every bite. They may be small in size, but these cookies are not subtle in taste.
While the ginger is certainly the supporting actor in this play, it is the whiskey that steals the show; used in three different ways to elevate these cookies way above and beyond your average gingersnap. Soaked up in the cherries (which deliver a lovely sweet contrast to your spicy cookie), mixed in the batter, and drizzled in the frosting, the whiskey delivers a silky warmth that enhances the ginger flavors without overpowering. People often make fun of my grandfatherly love of McCallan on the rocks, but even if you aren't a big whiskey fan, I promise the spirit's presence won't turn you off to this cookie. Similar to using white wine when roasting chicken, the heated whiskey brings depth to its surrounding flavors and softens the saccharine sweetness, rather than delivering an alcoholic punch.
If you choose not to ice your cookies, make sure to dip each dollop of batter into raw or white sugar before baking—they are designed to be frosted with sugar, and thus are not as sweet as a regular cookie on their own.
Iced Whiskey Ginger Cookies, packaged and ready to go!

Iced Whiskey Ginger Cookies (adapted from Half Baked, created by Batch from Scratch)
Yield: 2 dozen cookies


1/2 stick Butter
1/4 cup Brown Sugar 
1 T White Sugar 
1 cup Flour
1 Egg
1 T Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
1/8 tsp Grated Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 T Fresh Ginger
1 1/2 T Molasses
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 T Whiskey (heated)
1/4 cup Whiskey Soaked Cherries

Whiskey Icing: Confectioner’s Sugar, add Whiskey until desired consistency (about ¾ cup sugar for 1 T whiskey)

1. In a large bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in a mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, grated nutmeg & salt.
2. Add the fresh ginger and egg to the butter/sugar mixture, and beat until fully incorporated. Add molasses to butter/sugar, mixing thoroughly.
3. Dissolve baking soda in hot whiskey.
4. Mix half of the dry ingredients into butter/sugar. Beat in baking soda/whiskey mixture, and then add remaining dry ingredients. Stir in whiskey soaked cherries.
5. Refrigerate for 2 hours, then scoop batter in heaping 1-teaspoon portions onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Because the batter is extremely sticky, I recommend coating your fingers lightly in powdered sugar to make the cookie-molding process easier. Space cookies about 2 inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with a spatula. Bake @ 325 for 12 minutes.
6. When cookies have cooled, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and whiskey in a small cup, and ice using a piping bag or clipped plastic bag. 

On the prowl for a sweet holiday gift, or looking to start a cookie swap of your own? Print out this recipe card below and attach it to your treat, so your lucky recipients can share it too!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Root Vegetable Latkes with Apple Pear Mash

Rich in tradition, memories and taste, the beloved potato latke is certainly a cherished foodstuff, its widespread adulation paramount as Hanukkah nears. This year, I challenge you to dig a bit deeper and explore the vibrant underworld of the potato's fellow subterranean dweller: the root vegetable.

And what a colorful world you'll find. Gnarly, bumpy, round, smooth, and sticklike reign amongst the sub-terrestrial taproot, where dull brown is merely marginal. Royal purple and creamy white carrots mingle alongside their greater-known orange relatives, and rich amethyst turnips fade smoothly into winter white—or pop out in a startling shade of magenta. Varied in color, texture and taste, the potato pales in comparison to these flamboyant roots.
The taproots maintain the pure, earthy taste signature to a complex carbohydrate; yet have the luxury of being sans starch. Trimmed in carbs and cals, this means that you can eat more quantity for fewer calories compared to the potato—a.k.a., more latkes! Your taste buds will delight in the unique flavors of each variety: a sugary sweetness from the parsnip, or peppery bite from the daikon radish. It is these very flavor subtleties that will clue you in to which spices and bulbs to incorporate to complete your perfect latke.
The fun of the recipe lies in its creativity; feel more than free to use your imagination! No matter what combination you try, the taproots are so mild in taste that fried with eggs and flour, they are bound to be tasty.  I dare you to take the most grotesque looking root vegetable you can find (think celeriac, wasabi root) and turn it into a lovable latke. I have no doubt you will succeed.
How about pairing sweet parsnip with buttery leeks and a dash of nutmeg? Maybe scallions along with the daikon radish, to keep in Japanese theme. Add garam-masala to turnip and onion for a nod to Indian cuisine. Or whisk together carrot, dill and cumin to deliver a refreshing burst of herbs--plus an aesthetically startling color rainbow.
You know the drill: top with applesauce, sour cream or ketchup. Or try a simple apple pear mash for a seasonal twist on the much-loved accompaniment. So go ahead, experiment! I'd love to know: what's your favorite kind of latke?

Root Vegetable Latkes with Apple Pear Mash
Yield: 16 latkes

 4 cups grated parsnip, turnip, carrot, daikon radish or other root vegetable
1 cup bulb (onion, scallions, leeks, or shallot)
3-4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
dash of salt & pepper
2 tsp desired spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, garam-masala, cumin, coriander, etc.)
4 tbsp herbs (dill, parsley, cilantro, jalapeno, etc.)
Canola or olive oil


1. Transfer grated vegetables into a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Strain, and then squeeze out excess moisture by wrapping tightly in a paper towel or dish cloth.
2. If making multiple types of latkes, combine 3 eggs, flour, salt & pepper in a small bowl. Combine each type of grated vegetable, bulb, spice & herb in its own bowl. Distribute egg/flour mixture evenly amongst all types. If making 1 type of latke, combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. If batter is not binding or looks too dry, add the remaining egg. Mix thoroughly.

To fry:
Over medium or medium-high heat, heat enough oil so it covers the entire bottom of large saucepan, about 1/4 inch thick. Drop batter by 1/4-cupful into sizzling pan. Press down lightly with spatula. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until latkes are nicely browned.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray or olive oil spritzer. Drop batter by 1/4-cupfuls onto cookie sheet. Flatten with spatula. Bake for 25 minutes; flip and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until latkes are browned and crispy.

Apple Pear Mash (derived from Whole Foods)
  • 2 red apples, cored and cut into eighths
  • 2 ripe Bartlett pears, cored and cut into eighths
  • 1 thick slice lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or dash of cinnamon spice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 cup water

1. Place apples, pears, lemon, cinnamon, ginger and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer, stirring often, until apples are completely tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Remove the lemon and cinnamon. Let sauce cool slightly, and transfer to a blender. Puree until smooth. Serve with warm latkes.